Meet Bernice King, Chair of the Pennswood Art Gallery Committee
Ten years ago, the Pennswood Art Gallery was in trouble. When the world of art gallery curation shifted online, the committee of residents managing Pennswood Village’s main gallery experienced challenges in sourcing artists to exhibit there. As artists’ portfolios went digital, the committee could no longer travel to meet with local artists at their studios. This left the Pennswood Art Gallery on the brink of closure.
Enter Bernice King.
“I’ve been surrounded by art my whole life,” Bernice said. “My father had a printing press in our basement and I could set type by hand by the time I was 10. My husband was a freelance illustrator, my son taught at the University of the Arts for 27 years, and I worked as an advertising production manager and then as a freelance layout designer.”
When Bernice moved to Pennswood, her talents were quickly apparent, and she was asked to chair the Pennswood Art Gallery Committee. She used her combined management and art industry experience to guide the gallery into the present, an effort that was boosted by the gallery’s prominent location in the remodeled Community Building.
All art styles from all over
Pennswood includes two other galleries that highlight art created by residents; however, the Pennswood Art Gallery is the only gallery featuring exhibits by artists from outside the community. Artists who exhibit in the Pennswood Art Gallery range from all around the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Delaware tristate area.
“We try highlighting a variety of work, both abstraction and representation,” Bernice explained. “Our purpose is bringing art here, so Pennswood residents know what’s going on in the world of art.”
For example, the gallery has featured more abstract art recently, because artists in the area tend to be trending toward that style. One of the most popular recent exhibits was by an abstract photographer, who layered photographs on transparent surfaces and spun neon onto them, creating vibrant bursts of color.
A full schedule
Bernice and her team handle all the artist outreach electronically and do all the necessary research online to stay current in the art world. This research helps in deciding to whom exhibition opportunities will be offered.
“Once we come across an artist’s digital portfolio that we like, we reach out to them about the exhibition opportunity,” Bernice shared. “Artists with good reputations tend to contract two years out, so we do a lot of planning for the future. Ideally, we host six artists per year, for two months at a time.”
Mutual appreciation for art and the artist
“An hour before a new exhibit opens, the artist will give a talk in Pennswood’s Penn Hall to explain the exhibit and their journey as an artist,” Bernice said. “It really sets the context for the exhibit and gives the residents a chance to meet the artist and ask any questions. The artist talks really let our community learn about and appreciate the art.” The artist talks and exhibitions are free and open to the public.
The residents at Pennswood aren’t the only ones who benefit from the gallery experience. Bernice mentioned that the exhibiting artists also enjoy sharing their work and selling their work during their exhibitions. She explained that because many galleries are closing and it’s tough to make it as a fine artist, the Pennswood Gallery has helped artists’ careers. As Bernice explained it, “When they get the email from us asking them to exhibit, suddenly they’re validated by people who understand their story.”
Ten years since taking charge, Bernice says that she still loves her role and enabling the satisfaction that residents and artists alike gain from the gallery.
The Pennswood Art Gallery is right across from our welcome desk, and it’s featured as one of the first things our visitors see. We’d love to host you for a tour and show you the rest of what makes our community special. To coordinate your personalized tour, simply click here or call 215-504-1118!