Outside and In 

12 South gallery mixes work of trained and untrained artists

12 South gallery mixes work of trained and untrained artists

The Attic Gallery

2302 12th Ave. S.

Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Wed.-Sat.

For information, call 298-2803

Being on the road is a way of life for musician Jerry Dale McFadden—and so is collecting art. As pianist/keyboardist for Sixpence None the Richer and a former member of The Mavericks, McFadden has spent much of the past 10 years touring the U.S. and Europe. He’s also spent much of the past decade searching out folk and outsider artists and purchasing their work for his own art collection. “Art has become an obsession,” he admits with a laugh. “I get to a town with the band and then do whatever I can to find the art there. Being a musician has become a real asset to my hobby of art collecting.”

This past spring, McFadden and his wife Julie took the musician’s hobby to the next level by opening The Attic Gallery in the revitalized 12 South district. The tiny gallery is located in the renovated attic of a 1920s home on 12th Avenue South that has been converted to retail space; it’s near several other commercial concerns, including Trim hair salon and Mirror restaurant. The Emporium, an antiques and collectibles shop, occupies the lower level of The Attic Gallery building. “We know Barbara Rhodes, who owns The Emporium, and she knew we were interested in opening a gallery,” says Julie McFadden. “She had a back room available and also the unfinished attic space.”

The McFaddens began displaying art in the downstairs room during the summer and then moved upstairs to the attic in November. The couple did most of the renovation work themselves and chose to retain the look and feel of an attic space, with sloping walls, an open stairwell, and rough-hewn wood floors. “I like that the floors are kind of funky, yet the walls are all new and painted white,” Jerry Dale says. “I’ve always dreamed of dealing in art, and having this space is a way of getting my feet wet without too much [financial] risk.”

McFadden started collecting art through a cousin in Waxahachie, Texas, who is also an art dealer. “When I first began buying art, I was drawn to outsider art,” he says of the loosely defined genre of untrained artists working in a naive style using unconventional media. “What I love about it is that outsider art is affordable art, so it is an easy way to start collecting. People will spend money on framed prints thinking that there’s no way they can afford real art, but there’s really a lot of affordable original art out there, and I think it brings more joy [than prints].”

Julie McFadden also has a long-standing love for original art, though her background includes a degree in studio art from the University of California at Davis, about 90 minutes north of San Francisco. “Jerry Dale and I come at art from two different directions,” she says. “I do photography and also have my own public relations company, but we were looking for something creative we could do together.”

Julie handles the publicity for the gallery, and she and Jerry Dale work together in selecting artists for shows that change every six weeks. The current show features paintings by established outsider artist Bruce Webb, who lives in Waxahachie, Texas, and a Nashville painter who calls himself Mr. Hooper. Webb paints portraits of historical subjects, such as Sam Houston, on corrugated tin using enamel and acrylic house paints, tube oils, and paint sticks. Hooper also paints portraits, working in oils on wood panels and often including text in the style of one of his idols, folk art superstar Howard Finster. “Mr. Hooper found us,” Julie says of the 30-year-old East Nashville artist. “He came to the gallery, and we just hit it off with him and his art. We showed two of his pieces in June and they sold quickly, so we decided to do a larger show of his works.”

Both Webb and Hooper are untrained artists, but the gallery also shows artists with formal art backgrounds. Past shows have included works by a group of professional San Francisco-area photographers, as well as by Steve Keene, a trained artist who mass-produces paintings that sell for as little as $5 each. The gallery’s January show will feature works by Jeremy Schulz, a New Orleans-based artist who trained at the Art Institute of Chicago and has a background in graffiti and street art. Kevin Bradley, a printmaker who has a show at the gallery coming up in February, once worked at Hatch Show Prints. The March show will feature outsider art by European artists.

“The beauty of having our own gallery is that we can show whatever interests us, whether it’s by trained or untrained artists,” says Jerry Dale, who studied music at Belmont University. “As a musician, I appreciate both the classically trained musician and those who play by ear. It’s no different for me in the art world—although I have to admit I’m more drawn to people who make art without knowing what ‘Art’ is.”

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