A memorable experience at a young age sometimes can lead to a changed career path later in life. Dreya Moore, the new owner of The Artist Studio and Gallery @ Annex 24 in Lancaster, recounted her earliest memory.
“When I was about 5 years old, my mom opened her first art gallery in the world-famous Italian Market in South Philly,” she said. “I remember standing on a milk crate and ringing up sales at the register. I used to build forts and dollhouses for my dolls out of stacks of art prints and framing supplies.”
Moore and her co-owner, Jackie Moore-Ballard, who also happens to be her mother, reopened The Artist Studio and Gallery @ Annex 24 early last year. Before taking over this adventure as gallery owners, they had exhibited in the space. Moore is a mixed media artist who specializes in found objects, up-cycling and recycling.
“Since I’m a tactile person, each piece ‘tells’ me what it wants to become,” she said. “I describe it as a collaborative relationship between me and the piece. I’ve created small-scale wire sculpture as well as a 6-foot-tall mixed-media piece using only vintage jewelry, recycled paper and plaster.”
The previous owners, Ken and Vanessa Reisig, approached the mother/daughter team with the idea of selling the business. It turned out that Moore was ready for a change. She had enjoyed her decade-long job as a chemist, but her life changed two years ago when her daughter was born.
“I had been with the company for a number of years and had advanced to the management level, so more responsibility meant less time for home,” she said.
When she returned to work after three months of maternity leave, she realized how much it bothered her to be away from her daughter.
“She rolled over, crawled and said her first words while I was in a meeting with some client,” she said. “It was heartbreaking and not worth it to me. So, I quit with zero plan, except that I was going to be a good mom.”
Immediately after that, her mother came to her with a business proposal—it seemed like kismet.
“Women are a force to be reckoned with,” Moore said. “Women business owners are just as capable as men, but I personally believe women are a bit more empathetic in their practices, which gives them a boost.”
What advice would she give to other women starting their own business?
“For the love of all things—do it,” she said.
Moore’s goal for the first year at The Artist Studio was to honor the original message of Annex 24, which was to give all artists a voice and a chance.
“I wish I was cool enough, talented enough to call myself an outsider artist, but I’m good with just being the chick who respects outsiders and is willing to take a chance on good, interesting, evolving, emerging, proven, developed, kick-ass art,” Moore said.
The Artist Studio uses theme exhibits, which are curated by Moore with help from her mother. For instance, one exhibit last year was themed “#BlackGirlMagic” and featured works by African-American female artists.
“I love being able to take a self-guided tour, so I tried to implement this type-A personality quirk into my exhibition planning, hence having themes,” she said. “A theme creates an experience for the viewer, either by telling a story or invoking a feeling.”
For this year, some of the themes include cityscapes/countryscapes, pop culture and “LatinX,” which will focus on Latin and Hispanic artists. In July, an exhibit will open entitled “Hex,” which, Moore said, will be a “love letter to Lancaster.” This exhibit will focus on area folk art with works from Amish artists, fiber arts, wood creations and a new spin on Lancaster County hex signs.
As artists themselves and community advocates, Moore and Moore-Ballard want to offer art classes to underprivileged residents. Many hardworking locals raising a family couldn’t afford things like art classes, Moore said. So, The Artist Studio decided to offer free paint classes, as well as other classes at varying price points, to accommodate everyone. Proceeds from raffles and silent auctions and donations of supplies help offset the costs of free classes, she said. Many artists also volunteer to help out.
From that small girl helping her mom at her first art gallery, Moore has come full circle. And Moore-Ballard, who had to leave her first gallery to focus on her young family, has returned home.
The Artist Studio and Gallery @ Annex 24 is located at 24 W. Walnut St., Lancaster. For more information, visit www.annex24gallery.com.