Sometimes, you discover art in the most unlikely of places
For instance, above a shoe store.
That’s where you’ll find Hertrich Fine Art, on the second floor of a rather modest commercial building in Midtown Harrisburg. In August, Michael Hertrich and husband Paul Cannon moved their gallery from Pittsburgh to the heart of Midtown, just a few doors down from the Susquehanna Art Museum.
On the day I visited, classical music played in the background as Hertrich set up the main gallery for a meeting of the local group, the Almost Uptown Poetry Cartel. The walls are covered in pieces representing a variety of mediums and featuring varied artists, such as Harrisburg local Kevyn Knox, whose self-taught quirky and colorful abstract faces Hertrich speaks highly of.
On a quick tour of the rest of the space, Hertrich pointed out his framing workshop, interior design studio and the Adam and Eve-inspired pieces he is currently working on by painting over canvas collages. The diversity of his talent and interests seems effortlessly cohesive as we toured each room.
Hertrich described himself as a right brain/left brain person.
He began his academic career at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania with the intention of becoming a math teacher, eventually realizing he was compelled to pursue a career rooted in the arts. He initially moved into architecture and served as the student museum board member, assisting with the opening of the IUP museum.
It was during this time that Hertrich began to learn conservation, matting and framing, all skills he has continued to use over the last 30 years. He eventually moved into fine arts, graduating with a BFA, and managed several art galleries before opening his own on the south side of Pittsburgh in 1989.
So, what inspires him?
“I don’t have a favorite artist,” he said. “I like whatever catches my eye.”
He went on to to describe his particular fondness for the “color field” style of painting, a movement led by Mark Rothko, whose work reminds Hertrich of his own. He and his husband are also deeply passionate about photography, traveling as far as Paris to view exhibitions.
The name Pablo Picasso then came up.
“If an artist wants to study how to become well known in their field, they should pick up a book about Picasso,” he said. “His energy, drive and work ethic are unbelievable. Look at people who are household names to us, not even just in art. Warhol never stopped, Madonna never stopped, even Martha Stewart, she never stopped.”
Hertrich never stops either, but has shifted his focus since moving to Harrisburg.
While the decision to move was contingent on Cannon’s career, Hertrich welcomed the change as they quickly adopted Midtown as their home. The move went smoothly despite the task of transporting more than 20,000 pieces of their personal collection. His Pittsburgh gallery pieces were initially placed in storage as he had considered retiring to paint, but that didn’t last long once he started looking at properties and came across the second-floor space on 3rd Street.
Hertrich Fine Art is a smaller operation than the Pittsburgh gallery, an intentional decision to scale back. Inhabiting the upper floor allows him to be more selective about hours of operation. At this point in his career, he is invested in mentoring and giving back to the art community. Describing himself as an old-school gallery owner, he takes pride in developing a few artists, rather than flipping the art work on the walls every few months.
Promoting the arts has remained the most important component to Hertrich’s work. He is passionate about the opportunity to do so in a city that he believes has a wealth of art for its size, touching not just on the visual arts but poetry, theater and music. Another bonus is the city’s proximity to major East Coast art destinations such as New York.
“I don’t think Harrisburgers even realize the gem they have,” he said. “People here have a tendency to say they’re in the middle of nowhere. And I say, no, you’re in the middle of everywhere.”
Hertrich Fine Art is located at 1421 N. 3rd St, second floor, Harrisburg. More information, visit www.mhartframe.com.