Well-Spring, A Life Plan Community in Greensboro, NC, is proud to offer modern facilities and a wide range of options and conveniences. Learn more about our state-of-the-art amenities and the people who helped make them a reality.
Among many amenities, art gallery is a tucked-away jewel steered by two well-known and respected art experts
By Ann Davis-Rowe
Well-Spring, A Life Plan Community, offers a wealth of amenities to its residents, such as the Aquatic & Fitness Center and Woodworking & Hobby Shop. But there also are spaces and programming open to the public, including events in The Virginia Somerville Sutton Theatre. And when residents and guests attend events in the theatre, they can’t help but see the Jo Safrit & Cathy Ennis Gallery, adjacent to the theatre lobby. This small but prominent space begged for something special as it was being designed, and planners quickly realized it would be ideal as an art gallery.
Gallery exhibitions are curated by two of the area’s most renowned art experts, Nancy Doll and Cheryl Cullom Stewart.
Nancy’s extensive art career began before she even went to school. Her father taught history, and as early as the age of 4 she was copying drawings in his textbooks – things such as an inside cover copy of a U.S. map. In high school, she took art classes instead of home ec or typing. Following an undergraduate degree in art, Nancy studied art history in grad school. Eventually, “I had to decide if I was going to be an artist or a curator,” she says, as the demands of each were too much to do both. Nancy ended up serving as the director of UNCG’s Weatherspoon Art Museum for over 20 years, after previously curating for such venues as the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum and Museum of Art, as well as university art galleries in New Hampshire and Boston.
Cheryl’s personal art history was almost identical. Her undergraduate studies began in painting, but she also really loved her humanities classes. “I always think if I had gone to UNCG, I would have been an artist,” she says, but her school encouraged less creative, more practical applications. She did go on to receive her master’s in art history, just like Nancy. And her public art career, combining both her artistic eye and business know-how, has taken her from Miami-Dade County in Florida to the Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York City. She recalls how her first job had her driving artists from the airport, and she could say, “I just wrote a paper on you!”
Nancy and Cheryl were familiar with each other through their work in the area, such as with GreenHill Center for North Carolina Art, as early as 2001.
“We were just hanging out in the art world,” Nancy says. Cheryl joined the Weatherspoon’s board a few years later, and the pair soon realized how Chery’s public art background and Nancy’s fine art curatorial experience could work together for the greatest good.
Cheryl served on the Weatherspoon board for a decade and began working for The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro’s (CFGG) Public Art Endowment during that time. So, over the years, Cheryl and Nancy helped the Endowment interview artists and place pieces around the city. Sometimes they were looking for temporary pieces to briefly enhance specific locations.
“We didn’t always have much money for permanent solutions,” Cheryl says. These short-term exhibits helped build interest in local public art and build the endowment at CFGG.
Cheryl points out that while they run in the same circles, she and Nancy have very different backgrounds and contacts. For instance, Nancy knows all the local art afficionados and private collectors, while Cheryl has worked with a plethora of artists who work in the public sphere. Nancy has served on various art commissions, primarily focusing on studio artists, galleries and collections. Cheryl is much more familiar with the business end of things, like contracts and engineering design spaces and platforms. However, they still have the same goal: to connect artists with viewers.
When it comes to the Safrit-Ennis Gallery, Nancy and Cheryl love combining their very special skills. Specifically for their first exhibit, one that was comprised of works from the private collections of Well-Spring residents, Nancy was already very familiar with many of these collectors. “I had a lot of fun going around to various homes and visiting with friends who had moved to Well-Spring,” she says.
The pair have great plans in mind for future exhibits in this small space.
The Virginia Somerville Sutton Theatre, just behind the gallery, is ideal for hosting artists to speak about their work in the Safrit-Ennis Gallery, providing residents with not just visual art, but also history and a greater appreciation for the works. Cheryl adds that she has a particular interest in exploring the collections of location universities, focusing on small, very specific aspects of the works they have on hand. Nancy says she wants to look at artists with whom residents may be familiar, but who have a secondary style that is lesser known – such as a sculptor who also makes incredible line drawings.
Dr. Jo Safrit, the Well-Spring resident whose generous gift made the gallery a reality, is quite pleased with how the space is progressing under Nancy and Cheryl’s direction, calling it a “wonderful approach.”
“It’s not a simple thing to do, and it’s very nice to have people who are so knowledgeable — and agreeable when dealing with suggestions I make on behalf of the residents,” Dr. Safrit says.
Many of her fellow residents have positively expressed their pleasure with the gallery directly to Dr. Safrit, which she is happy to pass on.
“I’d just like to thank Nancy and Cheryl for the wonderful work they’re doing with the curation,” she says. “Well•Spring is very fortunate to have them, and people know it. We are very lucky.”