Life in our Foothills October 2022 – Wood Berry Gallery : Saluda’s newest gallery showcases the art of the Foothills

Published 1:02 pm Thursday, October 27, 2022

A walk through downtown Saluda will surely lead one to Wood Berry Gallery at 66 E. Main Street. A recent addition to the town, the Wood Berry was founded in April by Rhonda Woodbery and Mark Holland to highlight local contemporary artists and craftspeople. Holland describes it as “a peaceful community-oriented place where people can come enjoy emerging and established artists.” 

 

Mark came to Polk County in 2019 after spending 15 years in Asheville, and is originally from Indiana. He received his art education at Bob Jones University and spent several years teaching art both in the Greenville County School system and in Mexico at Tijuana Christian Evangelical. From there, he would go to Santa Fe, where he would meet Rhonda, and the two would become fast friends and eventually neighbors. Rhonda, an accountant by trade, is the definition of a renaissance woman. A partner in the accounting firm Worley, Woodbery, & Associates, she also spends a great deal of time working in the community. 

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Rhonda donates her time and knowledge to help nonprofits and small businesses in the Foothills area, and even created a program to support more young people interested in plumbing, electrical, and carpentry work. However, it is her love of art and art collecting that would be the main impetus for the Wood Berry Gallery, with the name of the gallery slightly changed from her own.

The two artists reunited in Western North Carolina, and soon after, Mark decided to take a break from being a full-time artist after years of supplying works for the Grand Bohemian hotel chain’s galleries. They would embark on the journey together of opening a community-centered gallery in the heart of Saluda. The fact their space exists in an old garage, in many ways, fits the grassroots theme of the gallery. 

Where cars were once worked on now sit the works of local artists. Colorful oil paintings of nature at its finest hang beside the work of Bernard Edwards, well known in the area for perfectly sculpted wood-carvings of animals, with both serving as reminders of the beauty of nature in the Foothills. 

There is truly something for everyone at the Wood Berry Gallery, from the familiar in the form of Anne Harkness’s work depicting Main Street Saluda, “From across the tracks,” to the sentiment echoed by the warm landscapes of Asheville artist David Skinner portraying the beauty of the Western North Carolina countryside. 

Rhonda and Mark have made a genuine effort to highlight local artists while including a variety of styles and skills. A perfect example can be seen in the combined works of husband and wife Tom and Janet Leazenby from Hendersonville, combining Tom’s old-school woodworking and Janet’s intricate clay rabbits and pottery. 

Saluda is well represented by Cathey Cassady Stoney’s oil and cold wax paintings and Allison Hull’s linoleum and woodcut prints. 

Ceramics artist Trish Salmon’s handbuilt figurative sculptures add to the pleasing aesthetic. Her work is joined by fellow residents of Asheville’s River Arts District, including BlueFire MacMahan’s energetic abstract clay sculptures, Jacqui Fehl’s charming mixed-media metal prints, and Michelle Hamilton’s mesmerizing mixed-media animal paintings. 

The exotic wire sculptures by Sally Prangley of Seattle, WA, dot the gallery alongside the primal glasswork of Ben Greene-Collonese and the intricate ceramics of Tryon resident Anne Gleason that look as if they belong on the pages of a storybook. Likewise, the ceramics work of Lisa Hager of Lake Lure, whose art holds both intricacy and functionality, is both picturesque and unique. 

Abstract expressionist Wan Marsh’s paintings built from elaborate acrylics deliver dreamlike images that captivate the viewer. Libby Skamfer’s mixed media work speaks to the gallery’s visitors, conveying something different for each viewer. Sandra Bottinelli’s colorful cloudscapes created with oils would undoubtedly brighten any room. And recent addition, Katherine Jost’s glasswork and wearable pieces, while smaller, still make a significant impact upon any art lover who visits the gallery. 

An excellent reason to visit Wood Berry Gallery is the Bon Vivant events held every third Thursday of the month. The Wood Berry opens the night with a featured artist, such as photographer Melanie Foster for September. The artist speaks about their work while the gallery serves hors d’oeuvres and wine before attendees head next door to the Azalea Bistro. Chef Garrett Tallent dishes out a specially curated three-course meal. And to top it off, the night ends with a raffle where a lucky patron might walk away with a masterpiece for their wall. 

While it is one of the newer galleries in the area, one would be hard-pressed to find one that better represents the local area. Rhonda and Mark are off to an impressive start and will be mainstays on Main Street for some time. 

The Wood Berry Gallery, featuring contemporary art and fine craft Of Western North Carolina, Carolina’s Foothills, the Upstate, and beyond is open Tuesday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit woodberrygallery.net.