The cheerful cottage of Maye River Gallery at 37 Calhoun Street might be a bit of a disguise. Comfortable and welcoming as it is, the colorful little house barely contains the soul of three-dozen artists and the heart of an impresario.
In fact, this vigorous spirit spills out the back door, where a sun-dappled yard presents paradoxically a sculpture garden and certified wildlife sanctuary. Eclectic works and indigenous plants breathe the same soft air out back.
Carrying on the cooperative tradition of artists in Bluffton, fifteen founders organized Maye River Gallery just three years ago. Now they exhibit the work of nearly three times their own number, and they change the whole show every 60 days. So you can visit again and again and never see the same exhibit twice.
The variety of media is astonishing, too. Yes, here are oils, watercolors, pastels and monoprints, yet also ceramics, glass, jewelry, fiber and hand-loomed textiles. Some of the media almost defy description, as when Donna Ireton weaves pine straw in dreamlike shapes around found artifacts. And even though some of the objects can fit in a display case, there is never any doubt: this is art, not merchandise.
Styles and visions abound. Familiar Lowcountry landscapes by Bobsy Simes, brushstrokes shaving thin the borders of realism by Judy Saylor McElynn, abstract acrylics bonding with papers and mixed textures from Jo Dye – you can’t go wrong here. Whatever tastes or preferences you bring in will grow as your visit goes on. The collection has an uncanny way of building unexpectedly on what you thought you liked going in.
Anytime’s a good time to peruse Calhoun Street, but still . . . note Maye River Gallery’s hours, 10 a.m. – 5 .m. seven days a week, when you plan your own stroll down gallery row.