Anne Coates

by Dana Kester-McCabe

Meet the owner of Bishop Stock Gallery in Snow Hill which has become one of the most prestigious art galleries on Delmarva.

Anne Coates is known to have eye for talent and a good working relationship with the artists she represents. Equipped with a degree in political science and just a handful of college art history classes she found herself in this business somewhat unintentionally.

Anne Coates:
"We acquired this building. The idea was to renovate it and to bring a new storefront to the streetscape. No one wanted to rent it and I said to my husband: Maybe we should do something here."

Anne saw that there were no other high caliber galleries in southern Worcester County and had the good timing to open hers just as a trend was beginning to foster small town arts districts.

Anne Coates:
"We opened in November of 2003 with just a call for artists. We were very lucky people kind of came out of the woodwork. And we started showing new work every month, which is kind of a crazy thing to do. But it does get people here. And, we've given 131 shows. So that's a lot of work but it's a lot of work that rotates. We have certain artists that we have a show for them every year: Lynn Lockhart and Kirk McBride. And then ether are others that we have every other year. And then there are other people we kind of fit in with our schedule so when we haven't had enough abstracts and when we haven't had enough of one thing or another, or I meet somebody who has new work like Kathy Daywalt who has really wonderful water media. And, we'll fit them in. So we have just been doing it. You know, it's kind of a mistake or maybe a good mistake. It's a lot of work but it's something that pays off."

Bishop's Stock shows more than what is typically expected of a gallery in a rural community, including an annual abstract show every February. Anne says that she already represents a number of talented representational artists, landscape painters, etc. and so she is always on the lookout for someone creating works that are different from the artists she already shows particularly if they are from this region.

She suggests that artists who are interested in approaching her about showing their work, should email her with a digital portfolio first. She looks for consistency of technique as well as evidence of the artist's experimentation with a variety of subjects.

Anne Coates:
"Well, usually it's someone who technically has some talent. You can see how well they compose, how well they execute, how they mange subject matter. And it's exciting. You know I see a lot of work around that I would prefer not to show. It's not against the artist. It's just that they're not 'there' yet. So I look for artists that have established themselves with a particular type of portfolio that they keep on developing and giving."

"I like to look for things that are not quite so traditional, because we have shows that will not sell a single piece. But that's ok for me. I fee apologetic for the artist. But it's more about introducing new ideas to people."

"I like to see diversity. I like to see where someone's skill sets run. Have some consistency but show how diverse you can be. Their voice really has to come through their talent and application."

"We have an artist that we're showing in September, Fred Sprock. We've shown his work before in smaller shows. He moved here from Charlotte (Virginia). And he actually is a serious painter and this is where he wants to be at this time in his life. He puts himself into his paintings so much. It shows. And that is so rewarding to see an artist at this point in his life who is still evolving a little further. And, I like seeing that. He might be doing a landscape but you get a whole different feel than just seeing a field or a bridge. You get a feel for how he is viewing it. And it's not just plein aire (which he does too.) But you can really feel it. "

Anne also suggests that new artists begin by participating in shows held by local arts organizations to get a feel for where their work will fit. For more established artists Anne looks at not only their portfolio but the places where they have been shown before.

Anne Coates:
"I represent artists who are talented and whose work would enhance the way you live: if it's in your home, if it's in your office. I feel that our artists are really for individual, or people's enjoyment. They like the feeling. They like what the eye sees. They like the way it works in their lifestyle."

Ann says that she has sold artwork to clients who only wanted to match a certain d├ęcor or color scheme Bu she believes original artwork provides much more.

Anne Coates:
"Now, people who want to buy a painting that matches their sofa, I have sold paintings on those premises. But I really say to them: 'Like the painting and it will surprise you how it will go wherever you put it."

"I had one woman who bought a huge Kirk McBride seascape, a long horizontal seascape that she put in her bedroom. It was a big painting. She said "I want to wake up in the morning and see the ocean." She said her bedroom was not that big and she did not have beach style furniture. She just wanted to see the ocean. She had grown up here. That's what you want somebody to say: "I really like seeing that painting."

"So I really hope people will buy art for the appeal it has to their eye."

Since the opening of Bishop's Stock Snow Hill's downtown has been designated an arts and entertainment district with tax incentives for arts related businesses, with Anne Coates at the forefront of that effort. What began as a few businesses staying open late on Friday nights has developed into the town's First Friday art stroll. Economic ups and downs led Anne to find ways to diversify her inventory. Bishop's Stock not only sells art but it is now a fine wine gallery as well. They have a wine club. They host tastings. And this fall they have organized a wine lover's trip to Italy which is fully booked.

In September artists Christie Taylor and Fred Sprock will be featured at Bishop's Stock Gallery with an opening reception on Friday September 4th. Find out more at