For fifty years, The Little Art Gallery and Craft Collection has been a landmark for fine arts and crafts in Raleigh, not to mention one of the first woman-owned and family-owned galleries in North Carolina. That saga comes to an end on Wednesday, January 16, its last day of business before its owner retires.
Raleigh native Ruth Green had long wanted to open a gallery. After her husband died prematurely, she realized her dream and started Little Art Gallery in the old North Hills Mall in 1968, one of its first tenants. About twenty years ago, the gallery relocated to Cameron Village, a warmly lit oasis with colorful paintings and frames covering almost every inch of its white walls. Although Ruth, who died in 2016, participated in the gallery’s workings for as long as she was able, her daughter, Roseanne Green Minick, took over ownership and operational responsibilities for much of its time in Cameron Village.
During this time, the gallery grew, adding hundreds of local, regional, and national artists with contemporary, abstract, and traditional talents as well as craftspeople specializing in pottery, jewelry, glass-making, woodworks, and more. As a consignment gallery in a place that had little competition for many years, Little Art Gallery had no trouble finding clients. Its location and word-of-mouth reputation, and Roseanne’s annual trips to national arts-and-crafts trade shows to search out new talent, all played a part in its longevity.
Ruth and Roseanne believed that buying art should be fun and approachable, not intimidating; thus their open-door policy was born. They got used to the idea in their original indoor location in North Hills and continued it in Cameron Village, propping open the door rain or shine—no need to knock or make an appointment, just walk right in.
This year, the gallery’s lease was up for renewal, and Roseanne had to make a decision.
“I thought about it for a long time and recalled that in the sixties, when my mother started the gallery, life in business was easier,” she says. “The demands of a full-time retail business and all the responsibility the job entailed had pushed aside my personal time, hobbies, family, and ultimately, my freedom. With no full-time employees, the gallery was totally dependent on me.”
For Roseanne, retirement was a tough decision, but she thinks of it as a time to do things that she has neglected, such as knitting, potting, sailing with her retired husband, and spending time with her three young grandchildren.
“To love what you do and what you are selling in a retail environment makes everything worthwhile,” she says. “I enjoyed my days with my artists and customers. I learned that the way you spend your days is the way you spend your life, and you don’t get time back. Even though I will miss the gallery greatly, I know I’ve made the right decision. I am at peace.”
The Little Art Gallery has come to an end, but its history will endure. Those of us left behind—the friends, artists, and customers—are lucky to have had something worth missing. So we reluctantly say goodbye to Roseanne and the Little Art Gallery. You will be missed. We thought you would be here forever. We were wrong.
“My mom opened the gallery when I was just eleven years old, so I have grown up with it,” Roseanne says. “I hope I have been true to her philosophy of art and operating a retail business. She wanted the arts to be affordable and accessible to everyone in a non-threatening way, regardless of one’s level of appreciation. I love the gallery, and I value the friendships I have made over the years with my artists and customers. I will miss you all.”