“What is a candle in a room full of light? If you put it in a darker place, it has more meaning,” said artist and co-owner of Sloane Square Gallery, Jamie Sloane.

For nearly two years, Sloane and co-owner Jimmy Hobbs have promoted the expansion of the newly blossoming art scene in Huntington’s West End. The pair is devoted to making fine art accessible to Huntingtonians and all who enter the doors of the Sloane Square Gallery on West 14th Street.

West 14th Street is significant in the hearts of Sloane and Hobbs. When the two began searching for a space to house their collection, Hobbs said the West End instantly connected with their shared vision for the gallery and the city.

“I shopped with my mom on this street as a 10-year-old child, and we were offered buildings downtown in Huntington, but the day we stood in front of this building, I knew this was the one,” Hobbs said. “Since we moved here, all other businesses on this street have welcomed us.”

The pairs’ beautification efforts extend outside of the gallery. “It is a lovely place, and within a year’s time, you can see all the pots on the street match. It is all coming together – a new store is opening beside us!” Hobbs exclaimed.

Jimmy Hobbs is the man behind the friendly face adorned with colorful glasses and a welcoming smile who greets everyone who enters the Sloane Square Gallery. “He curates everything in the building, even the art itself,” Sloane said, gesturing towards his original paintings decorating most of the wall space in the large room.

Hobbs describes the philosophy driving his curation decisions: creating an environment that intentionally complements the art Sloane makes. “We look at all the paintings as the beautiful woman, and I believe the furniture and the lamps, the accessories and the glassware, are sort of the earrings, purse and shoes,” he said.

Hobbs curates and carefully places each unique piece of furniture sold in the gallery.

The entire sensory experience inside the Sloane Square Gallery is just that – intentional. Visually, the room is a mishmash of exquisite, one-of-a-kind art produced by Sloane, accompanied by furniture carefully chosen to complement it with nearly every style of art and interior design imaginable present. However, Hobbs takes exceptional care to appeal to the other four senses.

“We want you to feel good,” he said. “We try to make sure the gallery smells good and looks good, but we also keep candy on the table and music playing so it tastes good and sounds good,”

Sloane noted that the pair practices mindfulness towards their audience, and the experience at the gallery extends to the type of candy served and which songs they play from their carefully curated playlist.

“Even the music – there is a playlist that we have, but there is one song on that playlist that is very silly, so we try to fast forward through it because it will totally knock the vibe off,” Sloane said. “We always keep our ears, smell, and even taste regarding the chocolate and its association with certain feelings and the psychology behind all that in mind.”

Sloane said he enjoys thinking of art as more than something tangible, but a lifestyle. “You can live with art, and you can live artistically,” he said. “You sit and have some tea at home, and you can sit in a beautiful chair. The way it makes you feel and the way it looks and how the eye travels in your home [is relevant], and it is about keeping you elevated all the time.”

Hobbs is committed to ensuring that the gallery truly offers something for everyone.

“I try to keep something wonderful for every person that walks in,” Hobbs said. “If you have a very limited budget, I try to make sure every woman and man that walks in the door – whether they have meager means or not – can buy something beautiful.”

Sloane also aims to please and frequently experiments with his approach to painting.

“That is why I do many different styles,” Sloane said. “Not everyone is going to like cubism; some people like impressionism, and some people like modern or abstract.”

Jamie Sloane with ‘Javelin’ (2020), oil on panel.

The gallery’s wide variety of art, furniture and decorative pieces constantly evolves. As a patron frequenting the gallery, I can attest to how quickly things come and go. This is part of the novelty of Sloane Square Gallery! With each visit, one can find an entirely new collection.

“You know the phrase ‘Here today, gone tomorrow?” Hobbs asked. “I have a very dear friend that sometimes comes to help me move things in, out, and around the gallery, and he says, ‘Here at Sloane Square Gallery, it is here today and gone today.’ We have been so blessed.”

The gallery’s success is not without the support and encouragement of others. Hobbs shared that Sloane had never sold a painting when the two met fourteen years ago. “Within a year, he was painting professionally and has been painting ever since,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs credits Mark Bailey, a former business owner on 14th street who was captivated by a self-portrait Sloane had painted across two canvasses that Hobbs had shown him one day on a Blackberry, as someone pivotal to the direction of their lives, leading them to open the gallery. Hobbs said that Bailey invested in Sloane early, gifting him a large stack of art books and encouraging him to paint more after seeing the portrait. “He loved it. He had the best eye of any human I have ever known.”

“When we walked out that day, Mark Bailey, who I had known for many years, looked at me and said, ‘You don’t know this, Jimmy, but I am going to change your, and Jamie’s lives,’” Hobbs said. A year later, Bailey approached Hobbs at the annual Pilot Club Antiques Show and introduced him to an art patron who he believed would enjoy Sloane’s work that Hobb had previously shown him at his shop.

“Twelve hours later, he was in Jamie’s home in Gallipolis, Ohio, and bought every painting in Jamie’s house,” Hobbs said. With an estimated 40 paintings sold, and all his sketchbooks, Sloane had the freedom, space, and means to create more.

“It was strange,” Sloane said with a reminiscent laugh. “It was like someone suddenly coming in and taking your kids, and then you are left feeling like, ‘well, I guess I have got to make more kids.’ At the same time, now that everything was gone, I felt like I could create new things.”

Bailey’s prediction came true. Sloane remembers this collector buying his work as a critical moment in his career and artistic growth. “That moment taught me to stay in the position of creating new things all the time and the vulnerability in that,” he said. “As I create them, they leave, so I have learned to be comfortable letting things go. They were like pages of my diary.”

At the time, Sloane was a Huntington-born tow truck driver who attended Huntington East High School before studying vocal performance and composition at Marshall University.

“I always painted because it was the same language,” Sloane said. “It is music for the eyes as opposed to the ears. I was able to take elements of that such as rhythm, harmony, and composition and translate that over into the visual spectrum and accomplish the same things.”

Hobbs (left) and Sloane (right) adjust Sloane’s painting, ‘Mingle,’ oil on canvas.

Sloane Square Gallery also carries a revolutionary product that was created in Huntington, WV, called Serucell.

“It’s a medical-grade serum that signals your skin to start growing youth cells,” Hobbs said. “They were in the Oscar bags this year, the Grammy bags, and they were on The Talk three weeks ago! We actually just shot a commercial for them in the gallery.”

In addition to exhibiting and selling art, furniture and trailblazing skincare products, Sloane and Hobbs intend to create a welcoming environment that appeals to all community members and visitors – especially those who may have never been inside an art gallery.

“It is intimidating sometimes to go into an art gallery, and people can feel uncomfortable. We know that because we have been in that position ourselves going into galleries,” Hobbs said. “We have always said that if we ever had our own gallery, we would try to alleviate that factor for others.

Sloane Square Gallery is a space aligning with the vision of its co-owners whose raison d’être is not only to expose their community to the fine art Jamie Sloane creates and Jimmy Hobbs curates but also to heal it.

“Solving heavy feelings of the past is our objective, and even [feelings] of the present,” Sloane said. “[To rectify] the way you may feel about something – if you can solve that and get that to a better place and feel better about it – we have actually manifested that into becoming [a principle] of our business and this space.”

Complementary to the mission of neighboring establishments on 14th Street, such as Cicada Books, the Sloane Square Gallery also encourages guests to adopt their galley as a ‘third space.’

“A woman once came in here and told us that our gallery made her feel like she was at Disneyland, and I wondered what that could mean. Later that day, [Hobbs and I] watched something where someone said they go to Disney every year just because it makes them feel good,” Sloane said. “So, making people feel good, even if they only come in here for that feeling, is accomplishing something, and we are glad to bring that to Huntington.”

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