Living with Art

Gallery owner Howard Cooperman sells artwork in a home-like atmosphere. He’s hosting an art swap in his New Hope, Pa., gallery Jan. 14.

By: Megan Sullivan
   Don’t put away the wrapping paper just yet. If there’s a piece of artwork hanging on your wall you just can’t stand anymore (or maybe it’s hiding in the closet), now’s the time to gift-wrap it and kiss it goodbye.
   New Hope, Pa.’s latest addition, Howard Gallery, will host a White Elephant Art Exchange Jan. 14 to help art owners find a new treasure. The event coincides with New Hope’s first Second Saturday, an evening of art and culture.
   "People will either be tired of looking at their piece of artwork, they hate the person’s guts who gave it to them now, or it doesn’t match the room," says gallery owner Howard Cooperman. "For whatever the reason is, they don’t like the artwork anymore and they want an opportunity to get rid of it, but don’t want to throw it away."

Saturday Night Fever
   Gallery owners in New Hope, Pa., are starting a little fire and hoping it will spread. Beginning Jan. 14, New Hope will ignite Second Saturday, a town celebration of the arts.

   Brian K. Hanck, owner of ARTisZEN ARTS, says that while New Hope is well-known nationally and internationally as an arts destination, locals sometimes forget. Second Saturday will provide the opportunity to rediscover New Hope, its history and artistic diversity.

   "It’s starting up because it’s kind of overdue," Mr. Hanck says. "People can have fun with art and learn something about New Hope again, rather than sit at home and watch TV."

   About 20 galleries are taking part in the first Second Saturday, some by hosting special exhibitions, artist receptions or entertainment with food and beverages. Mr. Hanck, who is coordinating the event with gallery-neighbors Lonn Braender (BOI’s of New Hope) and Joel E. Roberts (Mechanic Street Mugs), expects five to 10 more galleries to hop on board next month. He’d also like to see Lambertville join the festivities some time down the road.

   The next item on Mr. Hanck’s list is to get bed and breakfasts involved, perhaps by offering discounts to visitors in hopes that they’ll stay overnight after enjoying a Second Saturday. "New Hope is an all-day kind of town," he says.

   Highlights of the first event include: a visit by modern pop "cerealism" artist Michael Albert at ARTisZEN ARTS; a reception featuring works by French Expressionist painter Michel Kouliche at BOI’s of New Hope; and a gallery talk by Chrisa Craig and Chuck Kumnick at New Hope Arts Center.

   Some may say that New Hope’s reputation as an art town has died down a little — but these galleries are bonding together to get representation going again locally and re-ignite that spark.

Second Saturday begins Jan. 14 in New Hope, Pa., 5-9 p.m. Participating locations include: ARTisZEN ARTS, 12 W. Mechanic St.,, (215) 862-4171; BOI’s of New Hope, 9 W. Mechanic St.,, (215) 862-8292; E.M. Adams Gallery, 19 N. Main St.,, (215) 862-5667; Howard Gallery of Fine Art, 77 W. Bridge St.,, (215) 862-5272; Mechanic Street Mugs, 10 W. Mechanic St., (215) 862-8030; New Hope Arts Center, 2 Stockton Ave.,, (215) 862-3396; New Hope Sidetracks Art Gallery,, (215) 862-4586; Towpath Gallery, 17 W. Mechanic St., (215) 862-3394. Call each individual business for information on specific activities.

   All paintings must be valued at $250 to $500 and be in good condition. Since everything is wrapped, there’s an element of surprise in this popular holiday game. And stealing other players’ presents is part of the fun. "If you really can’t live with what you get, we’ll take it back in exchange for $100 toward anything in the gallery," Mr. Cooperman says.
   Howard Gallery, which opened last October, is located in a space on West Bridge Street formerly occupied by Pink House Antiques. Upon entering the gallery, large 15-panel windows open up the room where striking paintings by living regional artists decorate the walls. Sculptures grace the center of the "grand room," which flows into a side gallery and a mini showroom filled with more art.
   The space is attached to a house, circa 1798, located on Ferry Street (also know as Antiques Row). Initially, Mr. Cooperman and his wife intended to rent out the house to offset the mortgage, but the property sellers suggested hanging artwork inside would earn them more money. "They said, ‘Why don’t you hang art in the living room and dining room, buy some furniture, put a dining room set in, some chairs and a table,’ " Mr. Cooperman recalls. "Two days later, we went out buying furniture."
   The home setting allows customers to sit down and actually see how a painting might look hanging above the living room fireplace or on a dining room wall. Mr. Cooperman makes the gallery even homier by cooking his meals in the kitchen. "People have walked in while I’m making an omelet in the morning for myself, and if they want a bite to eat, sit down," he says, rapping upon the dining room table. "Sometimes I even cook dinner here and take it with me. By the time I get home, my wife doesn’t have to do a thing, dinner is ready." The upstairs is even equipped with a washer and dryer. "I’m doing a load right now," he says.
   The gallery displays about 14 artists’ work, and Mr. Cooperman plans to have about eight solo shows per year. The artists include Dot Bunn, a realist known for her local scenes and garden landscapes; Berc Ketchian, an Istanbul native and modern/contemporary artist known for his use of bright colors and light; and Merle Citron, well-known for her figurative work painted from her own photographs. Small paintings start at about $650, while sculptures and larger paintings can go up to $20,000. The average price range is $4,000 to $5,000.
   While the gallery is new, Mr. Cooperman isn’t new to the art scene. This is his fifth shop — his last one operated in Doylestown, Pa., for about 10 years. Originally, he worked for a camera chain and managed three stores from 1970 to 1980 in the Philadelphia area. The third was located in Center City, but he grew tired of the violence he saw. "When I watched somebody get stabbed in the eye as I was coming up from lunch, I called the boss and said, ‘You know what, I gotta get out of here. I can’t stand this anymore.’"
   When a space opened at Roosevelt Mall in Northeast Philadelphia, Mr. Cooperman opened his first gallery. "You couldn’t move in there without bumping into something, it was so small," he says of the 10-by-18-foot space. "It’s probably one of the better things I did in my life, though, be in business for myself."
   And ever since leaving his "real job," he’s never looked back. Originally, he focused on wholesale and retail custom framing, and selling posters and low-end artwork. He later moved on to limited-edition artwork, and finally started dealing with original paintings as he currently does. (He still maintains a Web site selling posters and limited editions, however, since he gets business from all over the country and internationally.)
   Looking back, he’s come a long way from renting gallery space in a shopping center with a Kmart and a Super Fresh, to owning a gallery in a popular arts destination.
   "It’s been a fantastic run so far," he says, "and we’re really looking forward to the warmer months when New Hope really starts to pick up."
The White Elephant Art Exchange will be held at Howard Gallery, 77 W. Bridge St., New Hope, Pa., Jan. 14, 5-9 p.m. Bring an original framed painting valued at $250-$500, free of damage. Food and beverages will be served. Please call to register and receive details. Gallery hours: Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. For information or to register, call (215) 862-5272. Howard Gallery on the Web: