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Pop-up art gallery transforms vacant Hyattsville jewelry store

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Photo by Wanda Jackson. Every pop-up installation is a one-of-a-kind experience at the Jewel Box.

Photo by Wanda Jackson. Every pop-up installation is a one-of-a-kind experience at the Jewel Box.

Published on: Thursday, September 19, 2013

By Wanda Jackson

At first glance, the 2,300-square-foot empty storefront that was formerly Fleisher Jewelers in Hyattsville’s Shops at Queens Chillum shopping center might look ordinary.

For nearly a year, there has been a “For Lease” sign in its window. Bare, gray concrete floors and tall walls are all that remain of happier times in the ’80s and ’90s, busy holiday seasons, longtime customers, diamonds, gold and silver. Floor to ceiling windows provide unobstructed views to passersby of empty display areas that frame the entrance.

But, add high-class artwork and — and voilà! — you’ve transformed vacant real estate into a vibrant art space that promotes area artists and creates energy, excitement and additional foot traffic.

And, wouldn’t that be good for the artists, the property owner and the community?

That’s the idea behind “Jewel Box,” a temporary pop-up art gallery in Prince George’s County.

What a difference art makes. Just two weeks ago at its opening reception, the Jewel Box pop-up gallery was packed.

“It’s a way to put life into a space,” said John Paradiso, who with Tim McLoraine, designed and curated the pop-up exhibition.

Paradiso is the arts and community development officer at the Gateway Community Development Corporation and curator at the 39th Street Gallery in Hyattsville. McLoraine is an artist and independent curator based in the Gateway Arts District.

According to Paradiso, the Jewel Box advertises and promotes the exhibition and hosts a formal opening plus additional programming during the run of the show. Front window signage announces the pop-up gallery; a single “For Lease” sign hangs on an adjacent wall.

The pop-up exhibition continues through Sept. 28 and features works by 19 emerging and well-established artists from the Washington, D.C., area. Their diverse works showcase a variety of mediums and styles, including three-dimensional pottery and glass works.

The exhibition is the first time artist Courtnye Koivisto has exhibited her work in the area. Koivisto, a recent transplant from Harrisburg, Pa., uses watercolor to capture strikingly realistic wildlife and bird paintings.

A self-described “lover of nature,” Koivisto said she uses photographic references and takes trips to the zoo to create realistic images.

“I also create their heads from clay, so I can see them from different angles,” she said.

“Some works are more elaborate than others,” Koivisto said about her bird paintings, which include a California Condor and Southern Boobook (commonly known as the Tasmanian spotted owl).

Other artists featured in the exhibition are: Erin Antognoli, Alan Binstock, Jo Ann Block, Stephen Boocks, Matt Carl, Alexandra Chiou, Sarah Dale, Kathy Hart, Joe Hicks, Tom Hill, Emily Hoxworth, David Hubbard, J’Nell Jordan, Ani Kasten, Lisa Rosenstein, Casey Snyder, Jeffrey Trueblood and Laurie Tylec.

The exhibition is an opportunity to procure works by local artists for her business, according to Cheryl Fountain, who owns Frame Savvy, a custom frame and art services business on U.S. Route 1 in Hyattsville.

“People come into my shop looking for local art,” Fountain said. “Many of them are here on vacation” and want to take home something from the area. She said that she is drawn to “abstract works” and among her favorite pieces are mixed media, found objects by Kathy Hart.

“We love local artists and we want to support them,” Fountain said.

The Jewel Box pop-up gallery is located at 3104 Queens Chapel Road in Hyattsville, at the intersection where 34th Street in Mount Rainier becomes Chillum Road, in a strip mall with ample parking. The West Hyattsville Metro is a 15-minute walk to the mall.

For public viewing, the gallery is open from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

Mount Rainier, Art Lives Here and The Shops at Queens Chillum teamed up to launch “Jewel Box” and other innovative events that showcase the talents of Gateway Arts District artists in a multi-use shopping center located in Hyattsville and on the border of Mount Rainier. The Shops at Queens Chillum is funding these programs and events, which directly support local artists.

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