Hannah Berry has loved art as far back as she can remember. The artist, 27, always saw herself having a career in art, except for a very brief time when she tried something else. “But then I was like, ‘What are you doing? You hate this,’” she said. So back to the literal drawing board it was. Now the Kendall College of Art and Design alumna has a gallery of her own, Lions & Rabbits, which is much more complex than just a place for people to hang their pieces. She also recently tied for first place in the Visual Artist category of our 2017 Best of the West Readers Poll. This is her story.
How did Lions & Rabbits start?
The guy who owned the building was a regular at the Winchester, where I worked for a long time. He asked me if I wanted to use it as a studio space and I was like, “No, not really” for a couple of years. Then, once I was finished with college, my degree is in art education, and I didn’t want to teach in a school setting so I was formulating ideas of how I could use that space.
How did it turn into what it is now?
I kind of just kept letting it evolve. At first it was like, ‘Oh, we’re just going to sell local art and teach kids,’ and then it was like, ‘Let’s teach adults,’ and ‘Let’s teach yoga,’ and ‘Let’s let people rent it out for lessons and create an art awareness.’ There are so many different kinds of artists here that don’t have storefronts, so it’s a cool opportunity for me to be able to have people come in and say, ‘Hey, how do you feel about doing like a Fashion Week or this or that?’
What do you like about Creston?
Everyone thinks it’s not as cool as it is. Everyone says it’s up-and-coming, and it is up-and-coming, but … the community is exactly how Eastown was six years ago. So it’s a bunch of young families with kids that are allowed to go ride their bikes without their parents. It reminds me of my childhood.
What would you say is your philosophy when it comes to how the space is run?
My whole goal is to get a bunch of artists to be able to show work, create an outer awareness for the community, and kind of have the resources that they don’t have, but then on the weekend do weddings where people are booking up the space, (which) will take care of the overhead.
What does the future look like for Lions & Rabbits?
It looks good! We just purchased the building. We just got a bunch of different lights and things for banquet facilities so we can do the weddings and stuff. We have an in-house florist that works with us, so he and I have been doing collaborations on some murals around town, floral and art murals. That’s kind of where my personal direction is headed, large-scale. For the gallery, I would love for people to do more classes and let artists that can teach those classes teach them affordably. That’s probably the biggest thing: classes.
What drew you to painting?
I’m very, very into color theory, so probably the fact that you can get those vibrant colors and the textures — the smoothness of painting — and the ability to thin paint out and make paint thicker, and use different mediums in the painting. You can kind of do whatever you want.
A lot of your pieces are on wood. Why use that over a traditional canvas?
Canvas is awesome and it works really well when you are painting, but I also think that the texture of wood, the colors of wood, the resources of the state we live in are endless. My parents actually live out in the country and my dad was cutting a bunch of logs once. I asked him to make some discs so I could paint on them. I just fell in love with using it. So it wasn’t even like, ‘OK, I’m going to switch from canvas to wood,’ it was like, ‘Wood is all I’m going to paint on now.’
Would you say there are any common themes to your work?
Bright colors, lots of geometric shapes, circles. I do a lot of painting and then with my paintings, lots of charcoal drawings. It’s very black and white and very colorful in the same piece.
What would you say inspires you, both in life and in art?
I would say people inspire me. Just in general, I think that everybody has a lot of good qualities and getting inside people’s brains is awesome. Nature inspires me. Just the fall, being able to see the leaves change color, (and) going out to the water and seeing all the different kinds of blues.
Photo by Leigh Ann Cobb.