Less than two years old, the Williamsburg Art Gallery is already garnering national attention. The board behind the American Art Awards, which votes each year to declare the country's premiere showrooms, voted the Williamsburg establishment among the 25 best art galleries in the country and the best in Virginia for 2017.
"We're thrilled with it," said gallery owner Gulay Berryman. "They usually consider many established art venues across the nation and we were delighted to be amongst those."
The board chooses one gallery or museum per state each year, highlighting different states every year. Board members review gallery websites and weigh factors like industry reputation, location and the caliber of the artists featured.
"It's one of the most prestigious awards in the nation," Berryman said. "It's very well-received and recognized by most of the galleries and museums."
Berryman said many of the artists featured in her gallery are nationally recognized. Leonard Mizerek is known for his vibrant seascape oil paintings, Dawn Whitelaw paints vivid landscapes and serves as vice chair of the Portrait Society of America; and Iranian painter Andre Buchero was featured on the cover of Plein Air Magazine in 2016.
"Primarily, the artwork has to tell a story," Berryman said. "The color harmony, balance and the subject matter are also important factors."
There's also another, more instinctual criterion.
"I ask myself whether I would like to have this painting in my own home," she said. "I think our gallery stood out because of the quality artwork that we have here."
The awards board also considers the events hosted by galleries. The gallery works with Opera in Williamsburg for receptions commemorating performance debuts, with the next one planned for October. The gallery opens its doors for wedding receptions; last year, a couple held their ceremony inside, celebrating their love surrounded by art. Berryman also hopes to foster the next generation of artists with a show featuring the works of Hampton Roads Academy students the week of Sept. 17.
Berryman praised other area galleries, including the Williamsburg Contemporary Art Center and the Colonial Folk Art Studio and Gallery. But she thinks there's room for more, and the community could stand to benefit from newcomers.
"This is such a rich region from a historic point of view and I think it would be nice to have more galleries here in our city," she said. "I believe art might perhaps be able to play a greater role in enhancing the appeal of Williamsburg."
Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.
Want to go?
The Williamsburg Art Gallery is at 440A W. Duke of Gloucester St. in Merchants Square. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday.
Ongoing exhibits include artwork focused on motorsports and the Civil War as well as works by northern Italian artists and others from the Moscow School of Russian Realism.
For more information, call 565-9680 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.