A new gallery and studio space seeks to boost Bolivar’s art scene.

Anne Rule-Thompson and her husband bought and renovated the oldest commercial building in Bolivar, which began its life as a feed store back in the 19th century, because she wanted to grow something in the small Eastern Panhandle town.

Rule-Thompson opened Rivers Studio & Gallery in the space in 2017. The gallery currently showcases the work of three regional clay artists: Joy Bridy, Lisa Kovatch, and Rose Mendez. Rule-Thompson also stages special exhibitions like The Soul-Full Cup, which features 113 cups from 45 artists around the country. The exhibition’s opening drew a huge crowd and it remains on display until March 25. “I love doing a group show, connecting with other artists,” she says. “Rivers is an event-driven gallery.”

Rivers also features Thompson’s own work. Fascinated by texture, she is a painter turned sculptor. She earned a degree in painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia and, after several years of teaching, developed an interest in ceramics and began taking classes.

Her ceramic tiles now cover the walls of her gallery. They’re filled with shades of blue and brown, inspired by the nearby Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, and covered in textures that suggests rock, water, and wood. Some tiles are singular works of art, but she also creates larger works, the tiles forming images of trees and landscapes.

After being without a studio for five years, Rule-Thompson says having her own space has made her more productive as an artist. And, just as she’d hoped, Rivers is planting seeds of change in Bolivar. She uses her studio space to conduct occasional workshops, and she runs a small summer camp for young artists. And since she opened her gallery last year, another art studio has started just a block away.

Can’t make the drive to Bolivar? Rivers also has an online store, where customers can purchase the work by Thompson and other exhibiting artists.

1346 West Washington Street, 703.727.2532, riversstudioandgallery.com


written by Jeanne Mozier