Surviving in any business venture for more than a third of a century is a tremendous accomplishment, but especially when your company fulfills a want and not a need. Over the decades, Cheryl Newby Gallery in Pawleys Island has not only survived catastrophes like Hurricane Hugo, 9/11 and the Great Recession, it has thrived and expanded its offerings.
In October, the gallery, which deals in antique prints and maps as well as contemporary paintings, sculpture and ceramics, will celebrate its 35th anniversary. So to what does owner Cheryl Newby attribute the gallery’s longevity?
“I’ve always strived to create an atmosphere of welcome,” says Newby. “We’re not a stuffy gallery.” At the same time, the gallery tries to be well informed, so it can pass on knowledge and enhance its customers’ experience.
“People who come here are well educated and enjoy learning,” she adds. “The more you teach your clientele about the artists and techniques, the more interested they become. And then they become collectors.”
The gallery’s origins date to 1981. Although Newby’s husband, Fred, is an attorney, his undergraduate degree was in history. Over the years, he developed a love of antique maps, particularly those from the Revolutionary War period. Like any treasure hunter, he relished seeking out antique maps when the couple traveled abroad to places like London or Amsterdam. While her husband explored the world of cartography, Newby began to collect antique nature prints (of flowers, birds, etc.). Eventually, her passion would launch a career.
When they returned from their trips people would ask: “Where do you find your beautiful maps and prints?” That’s when the Newbys realized there was an untapped market in Myrtle Beach for the types of art they loved to collect.
In 1983, Newby started selling original prints and engravings out of their home, but she soon moved the operation, opening an upstairs gallery in a building in Myrtle Beach. Later she moved her gallery to Rainbow Harbor and finally, in 2000, to Pawleys Island.
Newby credits one of her mentors, renowned impressionist painter Ray Ellis of Martha’s Vineyard, with helping her expand into contemporary art.
She was introduced to Ellis in 1987 and decided to represent him at the gallery; he was the only living artist she represented. “Ellis helped me source other top-notch artists,” says Newby. “I learned a tremendous amount from him.”
Today, the gallery retains its dual focus on natural history and contemporary art, with print and etchings from John James Audubon, Mark Catesby and John Gould, among others.
The 2,000-square-foot space represents 17 nationally and regionally recognized artists from the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania and New York. The list includes painters, sculptors and one ceramic artist.
“This makes our gallery unique,” notes Newby. “You see antique maps and prints on one side and contemporary art on the other.”
Newby feels that the key to her success is her artists’ range of styles and subjects—from the light-sculpted, meticulous still lifes of classically trained artist Ellen Buselli to the vibrant landscapes in pastel and oil of Lisa Gleim to Amy Kann’s quiet, elemental bas-relief sculptures.
“We choose our artists very carefully,” says Newby. She says that exhibiting established artists with a variety of styles allows the gallery to cater to the wide-ranging tastes of its customer base. “That’s really important to me. Not every customer likes the same thing.”
Her gallery’s long-running success is even more impressive when you consider that the Spartanburg native graduated with a degree in political science from the University of South Carolina. “I did not study art,” says Newby. “I’m a collector who became a dealer. I completely immersed myself in antique prints and maps.”
Having an ideal location such as Pawleys Island helps, too. “It’s an upscale market,” states Newby. Many customers, she says, own second homes there, attracted by the beach community’s rich history, natural beauty and resort lifestyle.
These days—late spring— Newby says she’s so busy she hasn’t had a minute to plan her October anniversary celebration. But rest assured, it will be special.
Colin McCandless is a freelance writer and editor based in Charleston.