Anna Politan has opened a new kind of business, one that's a bit hard to describe. But, then so is Anna Politan.
Anna isn't really there, she's sort of everywhere, or at least that's what the 50 members of Anna Politan's Gallerie and Salon will say.
The newest member of Annapolis' downtown hardly fits the stereotype of an art gallery -- quiet, pristine and very often sterile. Located at 109 Main St., and opened just since Saturday, the gallery uses the mysterious Anna Politan as its figurehead.
"She'll always be around, but you'll never find her," said Christine Jamison, one of the members of the co-op that runs the gallery. "She will always have just left. But look for the red shoes and you'll know she's here."
The red shoes are attached to a pair of long, shapely legs painted on one of the pictures that greet customers as they enter the gallery. It is there visitors get a first glimpse of the image of Anna Politan, and of the art gallery.
About a year ago, Ms. Jamison said she began thinking about opening a small place where artists could get together and show their work. She put an advertisement in a local newspaper asking for artists to share gallery space. Ms. Jamison said she received 80 telephone inquiries in one day.
Eventually, 50 artists joined the gallery co-op and began renovating the 1,200-square-foot vacant building, which several years ago was a hair salon. Seven months later, it has become a chic spot for art lovers.
"We started this because a lot of people wanted a place to show their work, and they couldn't always get showings in the mainstream art galleries," Ms. Jamison said. "And, there was a real longing for some form of networking, someplace where we could all get together."
The gallery brings together a variety of work, from still lifes to sculptures to wildlife scenes to oil paintings. But it also serves as a resource center and gathering place for artists and a business exchange for traveling exhibits.
Artists even have a special place to do their gathering -- The Salon -- just off the main gallery. The Salon provides artists a place to sip cappuccino and watch foreign films. But with Led Zepplin records for background music, The Salon is hardly pretentious.
"We did not want this to be the kind of gallery where you walk in and it's so quiet and you don't ask any questions because you're so intimidated," Ms. Jamison said. "We want people to ask questions. We want people to talk to the artists."
And of course the co-op members want people to purchase their art work. "Since we don't charge a commission, the prices you see on the pieces is the price the artist wants," Ms. Jamison said.
Artists pay a $60 fee to join the co-op, and they avoid paying an art gallery's commissions, which can run as high as 50 percent, she explained.
The artists whose work is displayed in the gallery said the camaraderie of other artists is another important benefit of belonging to the co-op.
"We didn't know one another when we got together a year ago," said abstract artist Joyce Kolb of Arnold. "But it's amazing to see how far we've come. There were times when I wondered if we were ever going to get off the ground."
"It took a great deal of trust on all of our parts," said Kris Dillard-Woody, who uses buttons to create her pictures. "Everyone put a lot into this."