A World of Wonder in the Heart of Martinsburg
By: Audrey Knapp Photos
By: Josh Triggs
Strolling down Queen Street is a cold feat this time of year and can cause us to rush past the storefront windows without wondering much about what’s behind them. Try to forget the cold for a moment and take a chance; step inside the warm, beautiful Queen Street Gallery owned and operated by Greg and Janie Henry. Here you’ll find a little something for everybody.
Art collectors Greg and Janie Henry decided to share their passion with the community by securing a large building in the historic downtown area and opening their gallery. Born and raised in Berkeley Springs, Greg was very comfortable with the idea of opening a business here.
“This is the best place for us,” Greg states confidently. “We really like it here.”
Initially, launching the business and moving the framing services to a storefront location served as an ideal opportunity to relieve Janie of the long, dreadful commute which came with her traditional employment. Previously, they had run a framing business from home while both worked regular full-time jobs. A few years after opening the Gallery, Greg was able to join his wife and work in the business full-time.
Although the shop opened its doors at 213 Queen street in June of 1997, it’s still a hidden treasure yet to be discovered by many locals. Enter this quiet world of wonders and prepare to be intrigued and surprised! Upon crossing the threshold, you’ll be greeted by rows of posters, prints, and old maps. All of the posters offered by Queen Street Gallery are both original and out-of-print, meaning you can’t buy them from a catalogue, and most are so rare they’d be difficult to find anywhere else.
In the aisles and on the walls of the first room await a wealth of old maps, vintage art, and original civil war prints. If you’re lucky, you might just get your hands on some local historical prints or maps! Ask Greg or Janie if you’d like something as particular as that – they may have it, or they may know where you can find it.
In the center of the shop you’ll find vintage and high-end costume jewelry (generally from the 1930’s and 1940’s), and many small, fragile antiques such as traditional lacquered Russian boxes. Delicate and beautiful, these boxes have a background steeped in rich culture and tradition.
The farthest room hosts original art and high-end, mid-twentieth century furniture which is all available for purchase. Greg and Janie only display and offer items in great condition, so if you’re looking for a special piece of furniture or art to truly set your decor apart, you’ll want to search this section.
Another area of the Gallery is home to an exceptional collection of Shona art, which is a style of stone sculpture originating from the Shona tribe of Zimbabwe. You won’t find a larger collection nearer than New York City. Even Washington, D.C. lacks a collection of Shona art of this size. “We have one of the larger collections in the U.S.,” Greg explains. He receives his hand-picked sculptures directly from personal contacts in Zimbabwe.
Shona art originated in Zimbabwe in the 1950’s and has since spread to other countries such as Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and various countries along the Ivory Coast. According to Shona lore, everything has a spirit – even the stones – and what is carved from the stone is not what is derived from the mind of the artist. Rather, the sculpture is a direct reflection of the will of the spirit within the stone.
Picasso was exposed to Shona art in the 1960’s and it is believed that his signature style was actually influenced by the Shona. If you take a walk into the sculptures room at the Queen Street Gallery, you’ll immediately recognize the resemblance.
While in this room, be sure to ask Greg or Janie about the Tikari pot, a museum-grade piece. It has an incredible lore and a mysterious history that’s sure to pique the imaginations of all who gaze at its intricate, cast bronze details. On the other side of the gallery, you’ll find more art, artifacts, and pieces from Africa including Tribal wood and woven art, wood and metal ceremonial objects, and a variety of items made and previously used by African tribe members. One of the most interesting aspects of this display is the fact that nearly all of the items were at one time actually used by a tribe’s men and women, or by tribal shamans.
There’s an ornate funeral bed (carved from a single, solid tree trunk), funeral drums, a beautiful wedding bench, a hut door from the Dan Tribe, and large festival masks used in parades for tourists. More of the unique tribal treasures include beaded items from the tribes of Cameroon, Kuba Cloths woven (as is tradition) from grass by the pregnant women of the Kuba tribe, and even an antique Chief’s throne from the Congo. Nearly all of the items in this room were at one time used by a tribe’s people.
Most of these items are from West Africa or the Congo. Also on display in this area are scale weights (once used to measure gold from various gold mines), an ornate metal fishing spear, and even tribal urns that once held ancestral remains. If you’d like something simple to give as a gift or to take home there are also some tribal-made items specifically intended by the tribes for export to international markets, such as bowls and other trinkets.
The first thing that usually catches the eye though, is the extensive number and variety of wooden masks. Each wall is filled with masks of every shape and style from various peoples across the African continent. “We carry masks from probably 200 different tribes,” Greg states.
Also among the wood and metal ceremonial items are various metal objects. Greg readily explains that many metal objects are simply used as currency because metal can be used by tribal and rural people to make items such as tools and weapons.
Although the collection is already extensive, Greg and Janie plan to extend the floor plan and have the new section ready for viewing in midto late-spring. This extension will help them to display more antiques and allow them to accept pieces for consignment.
Along with offering unique treasures, the Henrys provide framing services of unrivaled price and quality at the Queen Street Gallery. All of their framing materials are kept on site, and they make each frame at the shop.
“We beat that price every time,” Greg says in regards to the big box stores’ prices. “Everything is made here, which is not normal for a frame shop. We can turn your piece around overnight. You can’t get that anywhere else within fifty miles.” Get out of the house but take a break from the cold,and step into the bright, diverse world of the Queen Street Gallery for a taste of the international art, culture, history, and the best help to elegantly frame your own.