Capitalizing on her love for art

Business: A gallery owner combines her creative vision and business savvy to help take artistic expression to the public.


June 08, 2000|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Surviving in a challenging business for 20 years is an accomplishment, and thriving as an art gallery in the competitive tourist mecca of downtown Annapolis is doubly reM-0markable.

McBride Gallery is the second-oldest commercial gallery in Annapolis after the Marine Art Gallery, which Cynthia McBride also launched earlier with a partner in 1978.

`A great town for art'

Now celebrating the 20th anniversary of her gallery on Main Street, McBride sees Annapolis as "a great town for art."

And, she says she doesn't consider the 20 other galleries within a four-block radius as competition but as adding variety and support for the artists.

McBride, 53, views her career as "serving the artist and the customer." She says the sale of a painting is more than a monetary achievement.

She says it is "confirming praise that can energize an artist's career to paint to another skill level."

She also says she enjoys the satisfaction of sharing the excitement of collectors "when they fall in love with a painting," convincing McBride that "we win twice by sharing both the artist's and collector's joy."

Growing roster

McBride Gallery opened on Main Street in June 1980 with 15 artists. It now has 60.

From the beginning, McBride searched for the "perfect mix of artists" and says she was "determined to work hard for those artists willing to trust me with their life's work."

Some of those artists were at the reception held last weekend to launch the anniversary exhibition of five artists who have been with the gallery for the entire 20 years.

Displaying current work along with at least one piece created 20 years ago, the exhibit features wildlife artist Edward Bierly, impressionist Gerald Hennesy, Amish-inspired Pat Buckley Moss, landscape artist Linda Roberts and still-life painter William Storck.

This exhibit is open daily through June 25.

It might seem quite a leap from a childhood spent on a Minnesota farm, but that's where McBride's love of art and business began.

She admired the watercolor work her mother, Frances Karlsson, did as a painter and the business skill her father, Einar Karlsson, displayed in running his dairy farm.

In 1972, McBride, then 25, signed a lease for a tiny 10-foot square space and opened her first gallery in Hull, Mass., after obtaining a $2000 bank loan.

She worked 12-hour days, seven days a week and did custom framing after hours. She sold the gallery when she moved to Sewickley, Pa., where she opened her second gallery; she sold that when the family moved to Annapolis in 1976.

Two years after she arrived, McBride started the Marine Art Gallery. She sold that to open another with more varied subject matter in 1980 -- the McBride Gallery. In 1984, she opened a gallery in Severna Park -- Benfield Frame Art Gallery.

She has been married for 32 years to Gardner McBride, vice president of a telecommunications company. They have two daughters -- Elizabeth 27, a technology teacher; and Abigail, 25, a portrait and landscape artist.

An impact on art

An avid supporter of the arts, McBride has served on a number of boards in the county, including the Cultural Arts Foundation. Foundation head Carol Treiber says McBride has always been supportive and credits her with "elevating tremendously the quality of the exhibits at the Annapolis Waterfront Arts Festival."

McBride says she most admires representational art. As a result, McBride Gallery showcases impressionist landscapes, finely detailed still lifes, bronze sculptures, folk art, marine scenes and photographs.

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