Tucked at the bottom of one of Vicksburg's steep hills, at the intersection of Washington and China and just a few blocks from the Mississippi River, is a right perfect spot for art lovers. The walls of the Attic Gallery, the stairwells and every flat surface are replete with vivid, colorful, thought-provoking art of all dimensions from the trained and the untrained, those compelled to create. Like an oasis in the desert for the past 34 years, the Attic Gallery has provided refuge, relief and pleasant contrast for all who enter. Lesley Silver and Daniel Boone literally own the gallery, but in truth, it belongs to all who show art there and all who come to experience that art. Silver sat down to talk about the gallery.
Over the years you've probably met thousands of interesting people, artists and patrons alike. Tell about some who've shopped here for years.
Local lawyer Kelly Loyacano started coming in, oh, back in 1972 or 1973, at the other place. He knows what he likes and started buying art. He still has a great eye, and he's still buying art—we're closer to his place now. I remember people who, when they first came in, were conservative, staid. The more people who come to the gallery, the more whose vision will expand—they don't even know it's happening. I love kids coming here. I'll tell them, 'If you don't like something, ask yourself why.' You'll end up learning about yourself.
What sort of artists did you display at first?
The first year or two it was totally local. Jean Blue was an art teacher. We started with her and other local artists like Hall Whittaker and Beth Pajerski. I guess it was a first; there wasn't a gallery here. We were the only avenue to display for local artists. When I started it was with one-person shows. Art was new to Vicksburg, and the artists didn't know how response would be to it. I didn't know either. I branched out to Port Gibson, to Keith Alford who taught art at Alcorn.
The gallery started out above a gift shop a few blocks away. Tell me about the move to this location.
We moved on summer solstice, June 21, 1997. Daniel sent out invitations to come help move the spirit of the gallery. We had a three-blocks long parade of items, about 50 friends who each picked up items and moved the spirit of the gallery. David Christian, an Episcopal minister, blessed this gallery. That was on Saturday and on Sunday a dozen or so showed up with their trucks and moved the rest of the gallery. We opened here on Monday. Some didn't want us to move; it had been very nurturing at the other place. People would come and sit around the table in the center there; I wasn't doing any business at first, it was mainly place for people to come together, to share at that table. We had to take the table apart to get it up the stairs here.
What sort of changes have you witnessed in the lives of the artists you represent?
A good example is Kennith Humphrey. Once he was homeless. He was working for the military park here in maintenance. We sold so much of his work that it gave him the freedom to quit his job and work with art, for four years now, just in his art. He works very hard as an artist.
What do you see for the future of the Attic Gallery?
I think of it as a place to nurture the patrons, the artists. It's always open to looking at new artists. What I find is that some will call and say, 'Are you not accepting new artists?' I'll never do that. When we find someone that fits us like a glove, it works. I will say that I have no interest in expanding, only in bringing art and people together. There's nothing structured or focused. I'm not structured or focused—what can I say?
What do you want your patrons to take away from a visit to the gallery?
I want them, of course, to be able to open up to learn about the artists, their lives, their sensibilities. Being in the South, I think art is about stories. The gallery shares the stories of the art with the people who come. I want them to see more about the art and the artists, to open themselves to the way others see and compare it with the way they see.
What are the tiniest, most complicated pieces you've had in the gallery?
There's an artist in New Mexico, Goldie Garcia. She makes icons in bottle caps and makes them into pins. I like to watch people try to identify them; it tells the age of the person who is looking because Goldie uses older images—some younger people can't identify them but they like them anyway.
Did you take any business or accounting courses?
Heck, no. Thank heavens Daniel did.
Has the framing part of the business always been here?
Jimmy Dupuy always wanted to go into framing—he's an engineer. He only came to the gallery on Saturdays. I got a Keeton cutter from Bill Keeton in Jackson. I was so naïve that I thought when he said the price was 395, I thought it was $3.95, but it was more expensive. Eventually Jim didn't have the time, so I bought him out. I got someone to frame on Saturdays; this went on for years and the business grew. Daniel is good with his hands and his mind—he's been doing it for easily 20 years. Now a woman with 11 years experience comes in. For a while, I thought about not having it any more, but people were asking, 'Where will I go? You've always had framing.'
What sort of celebrities have been in? Is what they collect any different from us ordinary people?
Debbie Allen bought three Kennith Humphreys. Hilary Swank and her husband, Chad Lowe, bought smaller, funkier things. Joel Schumacher bought shrines, Elvis ones by Elaine Goodman. They're not that different from what ordinary people collect. The art seems to resonate because maybe we try to be reasonably priced so it's reasonable for people. I believe in having the art affordable because I believe it should be in people's lives.
What sort of changes has the Internet meant in your business?
Daniel has a Web site for the gallery; it's incredible. He loves to be challenged that way, and he changes it frequently. The artist we get the most feedback from is Kennith Humphrey and a sprinkling of the others. We've made sales. It amazes me that people will buy art over the Internet. Daniel doesn't like to make the sale until they talk to me, talk to the gallery. The voice makes a difference; we both find out something about ourselves.
The Attic Gallery, 1101 Washington St., Vicksburg, Miss., 39183. 601-638-9221.
oh! lesley and daniel may very well be the two best persons alive. they're so sweet and both so talented on their own -- the interview doesnt mention it, but some of the best art at the attic is created by the two of them
i absolutly love the attic. as lynette knows (or should know) it is what first inspired me to do folk art.i hope i can get over there soon and see about selling some of my art there.
i agree with casey,they are two of the nicest people around.
- Holly Perkins
And, Holly, your folk art is wonderful! Please participate in our next art auction again!
ha. thanks. just send me an e-mail if you want me to participate. [email]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email] : )
- Holly Perkins