Curt Nance remembers when S. Green River Road, where his parents’ photography studio and farmhouse was located, was lined with farm fields. Nance Galleries still stands on the original foundation of the former business, begun in 1947, but today’s visitors are beckoned in to the gallery, now owned by Nance, from the busy intersection (Bellemeade and Lincoln avenues) by the artfully arranged windows featuring colorful stained glass and other objects of beauty.
Nance, the middle child of three sons of the original owners, who focused on photography and even passport photos, renovated the original farmhouse in the 1980s, transforming it into a gallery. Nance remodeled the store again in 2009.
For Nance, who has lived in Evansville his entire life, attending Harrison High School, the store is all he’s ever known and jokes he didn’t have to go far to meet his wife Francia.
“It’s just odd that I have lived here my whole life in this one spot, and she’s lived in Bahrain, Germany, the Netherlands, all over the world, and we were two complete opposites,” says Curt. “She walked in the gallery. She was visiting from California someone in Princeton (Indiana) and she came in one day (in 2002). We’ve been together ever since.”
Their love for each other and what they do is evident in an afternoon spent at Nance Galleries. Laughter fills the art gallery as they assist customers browsing through their large selection of jewelry, art, pottery, glass, antique furniture, paintings, and more. Cheryl Gaddis, a longtime employee who has worked at Nance Galleries since the early 1970s, carefully cleans glass shelves and directs shoppers.
“We just enjoy what we do and that sustains us,” says Francia. “Business can go down and then go high, and go down and then go high, but we keep the door open because we are surrounded by the things we love which doesn’t make it seem like work.”
All of the items Nance Galleries sells are handmade. Curt makes a story card for every item — if there are 10,000 items, there are 10,000 story cards — which tells about the artist, where the piece was made, what it is made from, and more. The Nances find their artwork from all over the world at art fairs, markets, and through other artists.
“A little bit of knowledge about the gift you’re giving, it gives a little deeper relationship and meaning,” says Curt. “Everything has become so commoditized that it is anonymous. (What we sell is) not made in a factory 10,000 at a time … these pieces all are hand wrapped.”
For more information about Nance Galleries, call 812-476-6295 or visit nancegalleries.com.