Elder Gallery’s New Owners Share Their Vision for the Gallery

October 29, 2017 10:55 am

When Sonya Pfeiffer and her husband David met friends for dinner at O-Ku Sushi earlier this year, they didn’t expect to take over an art gallery. Over dinner, their friends Larry and Janice Elder told them Janice would be retiring and Larry would be selling his South End art gallery to focus on a new venture.  

“We looked at each other and in the span of less than a second we had a full conversation, which was ‘We’re buying the gallery, we’re keeping it a gallery, it’s going to be the best gallery in Charlotte,’” says Pfeiffer. 

Sonya and her husband met the Elders after moving to Charlotte and renovating a home in Dilworth that was later featured on the Dilworth Home Tour. Larry and Janice Elder hosted a get-together for everyone involved in the tours and became friends with Pfeiffer and her husband who turned into supporters of the Elder Gallery of Art and the welcoming space it provided.  

“You could have zero art IQ and walk in there and not be intimidated,” says Pfeiffer. 

Larry Elder opened Elder Gallery on South Boulevard in Charlotte in 2001. He moved to a larger location on South Tryon and West Summit in 2012 to provide more space for works from artist Carl Plansky. Earlier this year, Larry decided to focus solely on the Plansky collection and sell the gallery. 

“The building is extraordinary, the artwork he offers has been great and I didn’t want to see that go away from Charlotte,” says Pfeiffer. 

As the new owner of Elder Gallery, Pfeiffer intends to keep many of the same artists previously featured at the gallery but also has big plans to expand into providing high-quality glass. 

“There is no place in Charlotte that you can buy museum-quality glass,” says Pfeiffer. “You can go to The Mint (Museum of Art) or Foundation For The Carolinas and see it, but you can’t purchase it.” 

When the gallery reopens in late October as the Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art, it will feature work from Jon Kuhn, Marlene Rose and David Patchen–three very different glass artists that Pfeiffer and Gallery Director Cassandra Richardson are looking forward to introducing to the Charlotte art scene. 

“Edler Gallery is bringing in these three titans from the glass realm and really making it accessible with video installations and mixed materials to explain the processes,” says Richardson. 

Richardson, who previously worked with the Institute of Unpopular Culture and the Octavia’s Haze Gallery in San Francisco, as an art adviser on luxury cruise ships and private yachts, and as the art galleries program director of Central Piedmont Community College, brings both gallery director experience and glass expertise. 

Through installations, speakers and panels, Pfeiffer and Richardson hope to take the mystery out of glass and teach people more about the art form.  

“Glass is not just this beautiful vessel. It is a really hard medium to work with because if you mess up, it is going to show,” says Pfeiffer, who explains glass making in a relatable way by comparing the process to everyday items like sushi rolls and deflated footballs.

Education has always been a key component of Elder Gallery’s mission with Larry Elder hosting the Charlotte Millennial Art Program meetings each month. Pfeiffer and Richardson intend to continue hosting the gatherings starting in November with a theme of “What Makes Art Good?” 

“We have thirty minutes to just kind of hang out and then always provide twenty-five to thirty minutes of educational programming,” says Richardson. 

Pfeiffer also has plans to expand the education at Elder Gallery and turn it into a space for community engagement and dialogue.  

“We are going to welcome people to learn about art but to also learn about Charlotte,” says Pfeiffer. “I would love to be able to be responsive to things that happen in Charlotte and in the world around us.” As an example of inspiration, Pfeiffer cites the K(no)w Justice K(no)w Peace exhibit that Levine Museum of the New South created after the death of Keith Lamont Scott and the protests that followed. 

Along with bringing high-quality glass art to Charlotte and expanding educational opportunities and panels, Elder Gallery is undergoing a few physical changes as well including new floors and a more open mezzanine level. The one thing that won’t change: the space being a welcoming place for people to gather and learn about art. 

“Anyone and everyone is welcome to the gallery, whether this is the first time you’ve ever set foot in an art gallery (or you’re) an emerging collector or someone with particularly sophisticated tastes, Sonya and I really look to continue that attitude and that really warm, welcoming philosophy,” says Richardson. 

Edler Gallery is now open Tuesday through Friday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm, Saturday 11:00 am to 5:00 pm and will be open for the Friday, November 3rd South End Gallery Crawl. 

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