A Face In The Crowd 

Sherri Alper has been a Realtor, a legal researcher, a consultant and an antique dealer. Nashville’s fanciful art collectors can only hope her latest career isn’t fleeting. These days, she collects and sells regional folk art out of her packed shop, The Artful Dog, in the Berry Hill shopping district. While not all of the original art is dog- or animal-related, much of it is, which helps account for a loyal clientele dedicated to the four-legged theme. She has two full-time, unpaid helpers—Rascal and Rugby—Jack Russells who are the inspiration for a few of the pieces in the casual, 1,800-square-foot emporium of rustic, playful pieces. Alper, no-nonsense with little patience for frou-frou sensibilities, doesn’t carry mass-produced, catalog fare and doesn’t use smelly candles and mystical-sounding CDs to entertain browsers. She comes more from the pack-rat school of retail. “When people drive up, they either love it or they hate it,” she says of her shop. It arguably works to the buyer’s advantage, as there’s much more to choose from than there would be in a gallery-style or more sparsely kept space. Her interests are unusual finds by local part-time artists or regional folk artists like John and Danette Sperry from Georgia. Unlike galleries that may occasionally have shows featuring curious pieces, Alper has them all the time. “You need a store to find and promote artists who don’t know how to promote themselves,” she says. Shoppers get their art with a dose of real-world chatter (as in, “Rascal, get out of the trash can!”), which beats pretension any day, if you ask me. The Artful Dog is closed Thursday and Friday of this week (Oct. 9 and 10), as Alper goes on a buying trip, but reopens Saturday with new stuff.

—By Liz Murray Garrigan

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