History & HeART in Genuine Smithfield
Although he always wanted to run his own business, Wayne Stallings insists he was never interested in selling art, and he still isn’t. Which is surprising considering he’s the owner of Imagine Art Studios in downtown Smithfield. Wayne explains that he’s in the business of helping his customers find that perfect art piece that brings them joy, and Wayne does a very great job matching his customers with new-found treasures.
“Because of the nature of what I sell, I get a glimpse into who my customers are by what type of art they’re drawn to, and why certain subject matter appeals to them. The conversations are always enjoyable.”
With over 5,000 square feet of gallery space, new customers are often surprised to discover that Imagine Art is much larger than it appears from the outside. Their next surprise is the number and diversity of the outstanding artists represented. As Wayne explains, “I’ve been blessed to handle artwork from some of the most talented artists, from Smithfield to California.” And of course, the cool, quiet atmosphere of the gallery’s many rooms makes perusing this beautiful space relaxing and well – a joy.
Room after room offers one-of-a-kind pieces from a variety of artists working in diverse mediums. From sculptures, wooden bowls and turned pieces, original paintings and prints, to reproductions of the town’s Lundeen bronzes, the one constant is the superb quality of the art itself. This is first class, one-of-a-kind work by artists Wayne has come to know personally.
For many years the “Valentine Couple”, one of the town’s beloved Lundeen bronze statues, graced the storefront of Imagine Art Studios. Today, the town’s newest bronze of George Washington has taken that prime spot, and the Valentine Couple has moved a few doors down to the Ice Cream Parlor.
But perhaps the George Washington statue is more appropriate given how Imagine Art came to be.
The gallery combines two of Wayne’s passions – history and art. As Wayne describes it, Imagine Art began when he met the artist, by Robert Bissell in 1991. Wayne was so impressed with Teter’s work that he bought his print “Reflections,” depicting a veteran leaning against the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. “I showed the print and a few other works I had purchased from Teter to my friends. They were very impressed and wanted copies themselves. Lee sold the prints to me wholesale, and that was the start of Imagine Art Gallery.”
Customer favorites are the exquisite historic art of Pamela Patrick White, Robert Bissell’s “bears, bunnies and butterflies,” and, of course, Lee Teters’ work. Wayne often hosts several of the artists he represents for special programs throughout the year.
Back in 1991, Wayne considered many locations for the gallery. “There were other towns which might have offered us a larger number of clients, but we lived in Smithfield. We love the small community and have enjoyed raising our children here. And we have no regrets. Smithfield is a place where you are much more than a business owner. Your customers are your friends and neighbors.”
In addition to the original art, pottery, woodturnings, prints, glassware, bronzes and gift items, Imagine Art offers a full-service frame shop. The gallery also hosts a website (www. imaart.com), featuring detailed images of the artwork featured in the gallery. Artwork can be purchased online and shipped. In fact, Wayne has shipped pieces for customers as far away as England and Spain.
Wayne was born in Cumberland, Maryland and has been married for 38 years to his “loving and supportive wife, Patty.” They raised two daughters, both married, one living in Newport News and the other in Richmond. Wayne is very involved with his church where he enjoys working with youth and young adults. Wayne enjoys spending his down-time with his family, but his idea of real relaxation is “a quiet spot, a great cup of coffee and a good book.”
Though he would love to travel the country with Patty “with no time restrictions,” most days you will find Wayne at the gallery. But that’s what he thinks is so special about Smithfield. “I think it is wonderful when you’re shopping to know that the owner of that shop is normally there and can answer questions or concerns you may have.”
Customer service, a beautiful gallery, maybe even a history lesson along the way - for this art dealer, a piece’s value is measured in the joy it brings his customer. So stop by Imagine Art Studios one day when you’re a bit frazzled. Who knows? Maybe you’ll take some of that joy home with you.
Imagine Art Studios
131 Main Street in downtown Smithfield
Monday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Sundays by Appointment
Facebook: Imagine Art