Toni Andrews, long-time owner of American Gallery.
Painting by Mr. Atomic titled ‘The One That Got Away.’
Lana Pendleton Hall, known for her ability to catch a moment of sky, isn’t alone in wondering what to do now that American Gallery will close.
“I’m up in the air. I don’t know where I’m going to sell my work,” says Ms. Hall, an oil painter. “Almost everything I have ever painted has been sold by Toni.”
That would be Toni Andrews, who has handled the work of hundreds of artists for 31 years — 19 of those as owner of the Sylvania gallery in which she aimed to showcase American art and craft.
“It’s such a comfort to know that whatever I create, I can take it to Toni and she loves it and wants to sell it,” says Ms. Hall, of Montpelier, Ohio.
Adds David Herzig, whose exquisite floral watercolors are also at four other galleries, “I always told people a huge percent of my work, maybe 80 percent, was sold at American Gallery. She has a knack.”
It is with heavy heart Mrs. Andrews will shutter the shop that brims with an array of items and even spills outside with sculptures and prickly pear cactus. The recession of 2008 hit Toledo hard and its artists, she said, perhaps even harder.
“You have to know when to stop,” says Mrs. Andrews, 77. She hopes a buyer will emerge but if not, she won’t renew the lease that ends June 30.
Until then, the mutual-admiration society between she and the local and regional folks whose work she sells, will continue.
Tom Marino, who won the prestigious best of show out of more than 200 artists at 2013’s Crosby Festival of the Arts, has worked with Mrs. Andrews for more than two decades. He figures she’s sold nearly half the decorative ceramics he’s produced, and has probably sold more for area artists than anyone else.
“She’s been a passionate and dedicated supporter of local and regional artists,” says Mr. Marino.
One of her habits -- an ideal blend of the sincere and the savvy -- is picking the brains of artists about their creations: what kind of grass is in the painting’s foreground, how did you capture the light, where precisely is this landscape? To customers who pause to peruse a piece, she will enthusiastically recount those tales, perhaps igniting their interest.
“She has hundreds of stories about the artists and the way they did the work,” says Ann Tubbs, a ceramicist from Ottawa Lake, Mich. She’s worked with Mrs. Andrews for 25 years. “She has an open and friendly way and a real variety of art.”
Another of Mrs. Andrews’ passions is nature, and the theme of the gallery’s final show is Ode to Oak Openings, continuing through May 31. A public reception for the 20-some artists and their 60 paintings and sculptures will be 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday in the store at 6600 W. Sylvania Ave.
Every gallery owner has their own vision. Mrs. Andrews’ was to make a space that was comfortable for everyone. She loved being next door to a children’s bookstore, Reading Railroad, for several years; when families came in, she’d make sure they left knowing a bit more about art.
“My real passion was for children,” she says, “to have a gallery where you can pick everything up, and things you can use everyday, such as ceramics.”
Toni (Antonia) grew up in Nashville, where her father was a landscape architect, her mother a clay sculptor, and two sisters attended art schools for painting. She studied art history. When her husband, Joe Andrews’ work brought them and the youngest of their three children to Toledo, she volunteered at Toledo Botanical Garden.
“They had just put a gift shop together and they were looking for someone to run it,” she says. After a dozen years of operating the Garden Gallery, which sold the work of local artists, she opened American Gallery in late 1995. She puts in 8- to 10-hour days, six days a week with the help of two part-time employees, one of whom is her daughter, Katie Cappellini.
How does she decide what art to accept?
“Paint 800 paintings and the first 100 don’t count,” is what she tells fledgling artists. “I have to like it. You can’t sell things you don’t like.”
Gallery owners are gatekeepers into the world of art sales, and they’re often reluctant to represent unknowns, notes Mr. Herzig, of Monclova. He owned the Ottawa Gallery for eight years, but even then, Mrs. Andrews was selling more of his paintings than he did.
“I’ve seen so many people evolve,” because of her, he says, adding that she’s knowledgeable and has a good eye. “It’s encouraging to artists to get that exposure, to see their work in a different light. … She really has made a lot of artists.”
Toni Andrews is closing her Sylvania art gallery.
The Andrews’ home on an acre in Sylvania is decorated with a mix of antiques from her parents and contemporary art.
“It’s hard to know when to stop, but you have to have the next generation come up,” she says.
In the first three weeks of June, she’ll sell the remaining inventory; what’s left will be returned to the artists. Then she’ll dig into some other pasttimes: reading, researching plants, and putting lots of Oak Opening native plants into their yard.
“And who knows what else?”
Contact Tahree Lane at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6075.