With a wide variety of art galleries and studios, Chagrin Falls offers something for almost everyone
By Alyssa Schmitt
Chagrin Falls’ scenic cascades and picturesque downtown are known to draw visitors to the village, but increasingly, so too are its art galleries and studios.
From the hands-on experiences offered at Valley Art Center and The Glass Asylum to the unique items available to view and buy at be.gallery and All Matters Gallery or the lifestyle-enhancing goods featured at SHED Boutique and Wellness, visitors can enjoy a multitude of experiences – something these businesses, which all offer something a little different, encourage so as to foster greater intrest in their community.
On top of that, all of these places are in a walkable downtown district that includes a diverse mix of retail and restaurants, making Chagrin Falls an inviting place to visit year round – including during the upcoming holiday shopping season.
Rebecca Gruss, owner of be.gallery, says her gallery is a place where inspiration and art come together through sculpture, photography, candle art, jewelry, paintings and ceramics. In fact, she includes a slip of handwritten encouragement, in the form of a positive quote, with each purchase.
“The vibe of the gallery and the goal is really about inspiration through art,” she says. “It’s all about positive energy and bringing joy, happiness — and in some cases hope — to art.”
Gruss has seen Chagrin Falls become more vibrant in recent years, something she says is a result of dedicated gallery owners and nonprofit leaders working together.
“The gallery (owners) meet on a regular basis,” she says. “We go to each other’s shops, we know what each other carries. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve referred customers to one of the other galleries because they have what (customers are) looking for.”
To combat what she suggests is a market over saturated with gifts mass-produced overseas, Gruss encourages customers to buy local for the holiday season.
“I think why people would want to choose to buy artisan-made gifts is because they’re choosing something that has meaning,” she says. “Something that’s been handmade has a certain energy to it that you can’t get from a manufactured item.”
All Matters Gallery was the missing puzzle piece Chagrin Falls didn’t know it needed. Husband-and-wife co-owners Rainer Hildenbrand and Cynthia Gale moved the gallery to its current location six years ago, and in the process, they created an energetic space that features crystals and gemstones rarely found in other stores.
The store is sometimes mistaken as “new age,” but Hildenbrand says it’s more than that – it’s about celebrating nature.
“We fill a niche that no one else has filled,” he says. “We’re more about education than we are about selling products. We are kind of a holistic center without carrying that label. We freely provide information people ask for and need.”
Gale provides spiritual consulting based on her exposure as a child to the Native American community of the Lumbee Tribe in North Carolina – but with a “common-sense approach,” says Hildenbrand, adding he hosts philosophy classes and a variety of community gatherings, like a monthly drum circle.
The products on the shelves, from prayer bowls to crystals and pendulums, represent the positive vibe Hildenbrand says the store emits. Other works the gallery carries are prints, paintings, ceramics and masks from selected artists.
Any item purchased also comes with the knowledge and meaning behind the gift, Hildenbrand says.
“There is a world of difference between purchasing items online and purchasing from gallery owners,” he says. “When visiting All Matters, you get to purchase exactly the item you choose from our extensive inventory. You also get information, advice and instructions by experienced, seasoned gallery owners who have been in the business for 26 years now.”
An arts hub
It’s unusual to have six nonprofits in one village, yet Chagrin Falls wouldn’t be the same without them – and Valley Art Center serves as the hub.
With more and more patrons visiting the village for its many art selections, VAC executive director Mary Ann Breisch says they’re bound to get interested about the process. They may even want to dirty their hands, too.
“We’re a community center, so people come here to hang and find a sense of community and talk about the process,” she says. “We have classes for beginners all the way to masters in every medium, from painting to drawing and printmaking to jewelry, sculpture and ceramics.”
Breisch explains that VAC keeps an eye on what people are interested in, like the ancient painting techniques of encaustic, which uses a mixture of pigments and hot beeswax, preserving colors for ages.
For those wanting to start a relative or friend on their artistic journey, VAC offers classes.
“Giving the gift to make something and understand what it is to be part of the process is very inspiring,” Breisch says. “After you’ve learned how things are made, it’s really a game changer.”
Vallery Art Center is also home to a gallery, which through five exhibitions per year, showcases the work of regional artists.
Hidden (glass) gem
Rita Antolick, manager at the Glass Asylum, says what makes her shop stand out is that visitors are welcome to wander to the back of the space to observe the process of molten glass turning into works of art – satisfying a curiosity that might arise the minute guests step through the garage door that serves as the glass-blowing studio’s front door.
The Glass Asylum, which is tucked away behind the patio of M Italian, a neighboring restaurant, also has a gallery where visitors can see the work of people who use the studio.
“(With) every piece here, you can really tell the hard work and effort that went into it,” she says. “It’s not just a manufactured piece, and I think that kind of adds a lot of special character.”
But glass isn’t the only thing visitors can purchase. They can go a step further by experiencing for themselves the delicate glass-blowing process through a range of classes the studio offers.
“I think it’s great; it’s opening somebody’s eyes creatively and teaching them a whole new art,” Antolick says. “The artists here love working with the public and teaching them a little bit about what they know.”
New to the neighborhood
Halle Bargar and Michelle Kalinyak-Adams, the minds behind SHED Boutique and Wellness, welcome their customers like guests entering their home. They’re the new kids on the block, having just opened in July. Their goal is to bring something unique and different while being a positive influence upon the world.
The boutique offers jewelry, accessories, home décor and wellness items, and many of their vendors specialize in fair trade products, use recycled materials or donate a percentage of their proceeds to various causes.
“A lot of our vendors (do) social good, so in some way when you make a purchase here at SHED, it gives back,” Kalinyak-Adams says.
During the relatively short time the boutique has been open, the duo has experienced the welcoming nature of Chagrin Falls store owners and residents alike.
“The stores that are near us have been so amazing,” Bargar says. “People will pop in and ask us how it’s going and if we need anything. The town, too, has been wonderful. We’re starting to have guests that come back over and over again. They’ve become friends, in a way.” CV
First Fridays by the Falls
Many galleries and studios in Chagrin Falls keep their doors open a little later the first Friday of every month so visitors have a chance to see each storefront in a day. The next First Friday: Dec. 1. Participating galleries include All Matters Gallery, 79 N Main St.; Alpaca Fiber Studio, 151 Bell St.; be.gallery, 14 Bell St.; The Glass Asylum, 22 W. Orange St.; The h’Art of Chagrin, 100 N. Main St.; and Imagery Fine Arts, 91 N. Main St.
All Matters Gallery
Organized by co-owner Rainer Hildenbrand, the drum circle “Drumming for Wholeness” will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 27.
On Nov. 25, be.gallery will host “Show Your Love for Local,” which will include specials – like discounts for the first 15 “local lovers” – as well as an opportunity to add to the gallery’s gratitude painting, which will take shape throughout the holiday season. On Dec. 1, be.gallery will host Cleveland skyline and icon photographer Jack Koch from 5 to 8 p.m. during First Friday by the Falls.
SHED Boutique and Wellness
On Dec. 6, Sip & Shop will feature local artist, designer and seamstress Virginia Gonzalez.
Valley Art Center
The 46th Annual Juried Art Exhibit remains on view through Dec. 13 at 155 Bell St., Chagrin Falls. In 2018, Valley Art Center begins a three-year series of exhibits exploring concepts of identity through three different themes: people, places and things. “Identity: PEOPLE” will be on view from Jan. 27 to March 7; an opening reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 26.
Lead image: Instructor Bud Deihl helps an oil painting student during one of the many classes offered at Valley Art Center. Photo by Valley Art Center / Michael Steinberg