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GreenStone Gallery exhibits work of local artists

July 10th, 2011 9:48 pm by Jan Hearne

For Paul Bishop, a self-professed workaholic, opening one business after retirement wasn’t enough; Bishop started three.
The most recent endeavor, GreenStone Gallery, opened in April to join GreenStone Art Printing and Bishop’s professional photography studio.
Bishop, who retired 10 years ago from a 30-year career in hospital administration at Wellmont, took up photography as an avocation about 40 years ago.
Not wanting to “retire to a rocker,” Bishop said he didn’t hesitate to keep working. He built his retirement endeavors upon his love for photography, expanding it to include other art forms and other artists. He exhibits his own work and the work of 10 others.
The gallery, located at 310 S. Roan St., takes up about 1,350 square feet of the 1907 King building in what used to be Liggett’s Drugstore.
Bishop, who obviously has a great affection for the building’s past, left the imprint of the soda fountain counter and stools intact.
“People come in the door and say, ‘I used to sit right there,’ ” he explained with a smile.
He took great care in planning the renovation, bringing in artist Diane Thompson to create faux terrazzo over wood and concrete to match the existing terrazzo floor.
Some brick walls are exposed to highlight the architecture, others are painted to display the art to its best advantage.
“It’s pretty and makes the gallery special because you’re using a 1907 building,” he said. “When you step inside, you have a very warm, welcoming, beautiful building.”
Despite the gallery’s early 20th-century origins, its overall feel is clean and modern, due in part to the 55-foot screen Bishop uses to display “hundreds and hundreds” of images stored on an iPad.
Using one of the artists, Ann Ropp, as an example, Bishop explained, “Rather than trying to have all of her work on the walls, I can put her work up (on the screen.) Originals are better than digital images, but this is a good representation.”
If a visitor is interested in one of the works, Ropp is available to bring the original to the gallery, Bishop said. The same is true of the other artists he exhibits, which is just one of the advantages of working with local artists.
Among them is Steve Cook, owner of Jonesborough Art Glass, whose work includes a neon electric guitar and a furniture piece that wears cowboy boots and operates as a kalimba, a rhythm instrument.
“Art isn’t necessarily stuffy, it can be fun,” Bishop said, pointing to a rather large sword on a stand that holds a small letter opener. It is, perhaps, the ultimate power desk accessory.
“I am going to have a few of these fun items here in the gallery. My favorite recent acquisition is the little pup.”
“Woof” is a single-slice toaster and camera fashioned by Gray artist Todd Peters to look like a dog.
Glass artist James Lang, who has a studio in downtown Johnson City, exhibits at the gallery. His “Glass Trumpet” works “not as a trumpet but as a bugle,” Bishop said. “(Lang) is probably as good as there is around at that kind of work, and ... a thoroughly delightful man.”
It is obvious Bishop chooses who he works with based not only on talent but also conviviality. He had high praise for Laura Bowman, a school-trained sculptor and fabric artist, whom he also considers a friend.
This feeling of camaraderie permeates all of Bishop’s endeavors. His photography studio is next door to the gallery, but GreenStone Art Printing is housed at Nelson Fine Art on Main Street.
Bishop and Dick Nelson have been friends and supporters of the arts and downtown Johnson City for years. Photographer Jerry Greer’s work is on exhibit at GreenStone Gallery and he is Bishop’s partner in GreenStone Art Printing.
Bishop also has a partnership with downtown Johnson City. He sees how far it has come and imagines what it can be.
“Downtown has what artists need: good spaces for galleries, good spaces for studios” and a first-rate art supply store, he said. “Artists are not working in isolation when they have a studio down here.”
He also points out the boost First Friday events and the Blue Plum and Umoja festivals have given to downtown businesses.
“More and more people from the region are discovering downtown Johnson City for its restaurants and its stores,” he said. “It’s nowhere near done, but it has huge potential, and a lot of people have their shoulders to the wheel.”
Though his retirement seems busy, Bishop keeps the pace to his liking.
The gallery is open by appointment seven days a week and most weekday afternoons and evenings.
“Very few people are up for art early in the morning, but if someone wants to make an appointment for 7 o’clock on a Sunday morning, I’ll be there,” he said.
Bishop’s work keeps him busy, but it isn’t critical.
“I can lock the door on a Tuesday,” he said. “It’s been what I hoped it would be — it’s fun.
“I’ve never had an art-purchasing emergency.”
For more information, visit GreenStone on Facebook or call 232-4700.

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