DEKALB COUNTY – A Smithville gallery that’s been a signature showcase for artists, both near and far, is closing its doors at the end of December – ending a more than 11-year run in DeKalb County.
Louie Colombarini, who owns Stella Luna Art Gallery with his wife Christine, said the decision was based on a combination of factors, namely location and the economy. He made the call to close earlier this month; any artwork currently on display is on sale – and the 412 S. College St. building is currently listed as well.
“Art in general has not been doing very well across the board for the last several years,” Colombarini said. “I’ve always kind of held on here by the skin of my teeth. But hanging in there for almost 11 years is a long stretch. We opened originally to help us get off the road (in terms of art shows), but I realized it just wasn’t going to work. It’s with a heavy heart that I made the decision; it’s kind of bittersweet.”
The Colombarinis, ceramic artists themselves, opened Stella Luna Art Gallery in 2004, the culmination of a “lifelong dream,” Louie told the UCBJ in 2006. It took Colombarini 18 months to fix up the building, located just off Highway 70 in Smithville, a former duplex, prior to its unveiling. The gallery’s unique moniker was based off its logo of moon and stars.
Investing in the actual building took up a lot of the Colombarinis funds, so they started asking friends to consign work to the gallery, which became their basis for business. According to its website, Stella Luna represented more than 125 American artists and craftsmen in a wide range of mediums, including ceramics, wood, glass, painting, sculpture, metal, photography, among others.
But these days, the Colombarinis are in the midst of a major sale to clear out inventory, offering discounts on the art itself as well as an array of display cases, bins and materials. The building has been for sale for two years. Colombarini says it could work as either a commercial or residential space. He plans to return to the studio to “maybe put together some of the best artwork I’ve done to date.”
“This will give me the opportunity to focus on some new things,” he added.
Stella Luna’s closing makes it at least the second UC art gallery to shutter this year. Cookeville’s ART a la carte called it quits in March. Colombarini says he’s unsure the region can support such businesses, despite the sheer number and talent in the local community.
He hopes his gallery, meanwhile, will be remembered as a “diamond in the rough.”
“That’s pretty much what I’ve heard it called more than once over the years,” he said. “It brought a little bit of class and culture to a rural, depressed area of Tennessee. I thought maybe if I built it, they would come. But obviously not enough.”