If you want to know just how up-and-coming the Cannonborough-Elliotborough neighborhood is, take a walk down Bogard Street, preferably between Rutledge and Ashe streets. Practically every other building is undergoing some sort of restoration or construction — there are small groups of house painters, restoration workers, landscapers, and construction workers everywhere you look. But since they're mostly working on historic homes, the noise is minimal. You'll hear the clunk of a hammer, the buzz of a drill, and maybe a crash or two when something gets chucked in a dumpster. Overall, the atmosphere is one of pleasant hustle-and-bustle. It's in stark opposition to the heavy machinery-construction zone feel of, say, upper Meeting Street with its hotels and condos.
This corner of Cannonborough-Elliotborough is where gallerist Anne Siegfried decided to open her new contemporary art gallery, the George Gallery. Housed in a historic home that's undergone major renovations, the space is modern, white, and tidy, with long glass windows and a decidedly cheery feel. Part of that comes from the bright yellow logo painted across the door, but the rest is due to Siegfried herself. She's friendly, open, and excited about her new venture and her new neighborhood. "I am falling in love with this neighborhood," she says. "It has such a great character and great vibe. The other business owners in the neighborhood are so encouraging and helpful — I'm in good company."
Siegfried started her art career on Martha's Vineyard at the Granary Gallery, an iconic local gallery that's been on the island for more than 35 years. After spending a few winters up North, she decided to give Charleston a try in 2002.
Over the 10 years she's been here, she's worked at several galleries in town, including serving as the director of Smith-Killian Fine Art. But she always thought of opening her own gallery. "I think everyone [who works in galleries] has this vision, you know, 'If I had my own gallery this is how I'd do it,'" she says.
For Siegfried, that's meant focusing on contemporary artists who aren't well-represented in town. She currently represents five artists: Alan Taylor Jeffries of Ohio ("But we don't hold that against him," Siegfried jokes), Amanda Norman of Nashville, Tenn., Gary Grier of Florida, Paul Yanko of Greenville, S.C., and local artist Evan Armstrong.
Of those artists, Grier is probably the best-known locally. He's originally from Charleston, and many of his works depict local neighborhoods or residents. Unlike the other George Gallery artists, Grier's work is mostly figurative, though he does veer into the abstract with some of his portraits. Jeffries, Armstrong, and Yanko are firmly in the abstract camp, while Norman's landscapes, florals, and animal paintings straddle the line between the two styles.
Siegfried hopes eventually to represent up to eight artists and is still on the lookout for her next three. "Currently, I'm hoping to find an amazing three-dimensional artist," she says.
Although the George Gallery is not the only art-focused space that's set up shop in Cannonborough-Elliotborough in the past several years, at the moment it's the only contemporary art gallery in the neighborhood. And Siegfried's fine with that. "This is more of a destination up here," she says. "Art collectors will go off the beaten path to find you — my gallery in Martha's Vineyard was in the middle of a cow field. Our clients will probably be more local, and I'm trying to bring them something new."