Nothing is 'off the rack' at Just Lookin'

July 30, 1997


Staff Writer

Eileen Berger's goals for the Just Lookin' Gallery are the same now as they were when it opened in 1995.

"We want to educate people in art and framing in a relaxed atmosphere. Art is not to be rushed through - not like a clothing store where you pick one off the rack," she said.

The gallery at 40 Summit Ave. has turned into Berger's outlet for creativity.

Berger, 44, uses her background in photography, design and art consulting to help clients match frames with pictures.

The gallery's selection of 3,000 frames is among the largest in Western Maryland, she said.

"For every period in history, we have a frame," Berger said.

Just Lookin' Gallery co-owner Bob Burkhammer, 46, is a framing specialist.

Berger lectures on art, artists, women and cultural diversity topics at area high schools and colleges.


She said teaching has built-in rewards. The story of Madame Walker, who became a black millionaire in spite of restrictions on blacks and women, "makes black girls sit up a little straighter in their chairs," she said.

Berger also brings nationally recognized African-American artists to Hagerstown about every three months.

The gallery sponsors art exhibits such as "Sisters of the South," scheduled for early August, featuring works by Southern women Olivia Gatewood, Grace Kisa, Katherine Kisa, Joann Martin and Deborah Shedrick.

The art in Just Lookin' Gallery "already has the richness of culture built into it. So much of the soul of the person who created the piece is in it," Berger said.

African-American and Native-American art make up the bulk of the collection.

"What makes America great is cultural diversity. Art is a way to explore other cultures," she said. "Ethnic art in general has gone mainstream - there's been an explosion in the number of collectors and purchasers in the last five years."

In addition to art deco, pastels, etchings, original oils, acrylics and fiber art, there are pictures made of hand-painted cast paper - white paper shaped and hardened in a mold, then handpainted and framed.

There are pictures made entirely of strands of colorful embroidery thread and art using materials like hair, beads and fabric.

"People say you're not supposed to touch art, but I think art is a textural experience," Berger said.

The gallery has carried works from artists from 23 states and from two islands, and Berger said she's like to have more local artists.

Berger, a Washington, D.C., native, moved to Hagerstown 12 years ago and lives on West Side Avenue.

She said she first experienced African-American art at Howard University's art show in 1968.

"It was in the '60s, a time of cultural awakening. It's been a 30-year love affair," she said.

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