Artists’ House under new management

Tony Morinelli, the new owner of the gallery, carries on in the same direction.

Having had his art on display before at Artists’ House Gallery, Tony Morinelli knew he couldn’t forget about the space.

That is why he chose to become the new owner and director of the art gallery. With former owner Lorraine Riesenbach’s retirement from directing the gallery, Morinelli showed interest in taking over and Riesenbach agreed.

The Artists’ House is located at 57 N. 2nd St. and had its grand opening under new ownership on Oct. 4. Since Morinelli had never directed a gallery before, Riesenbach was there to help on the first day.

Riesenbach said there is another reason as to why she started the gallery in 1991 than just to make a profit.

“The Artists’ House was created 22 years ago for the purpose of helping young artists get started,” Riesenbach said. “It’s really hard for artists to get into the art world because there are so many good art schools in Philadelphia, and there are good artists coming out every day.”

For new artists, Riesenbach said she would advise them to keep their prices low so that potential buyers would be more encouraged to buy their pieces.

“It would help the collectors and it would help the artists,” Riesenbach said. “It would create a particular niche in the art market.”

With someone new taking over, there may have been some worry as to what Artists’ House may become. To Riesenbach’s pleasure, Morinelli said he has no intention of changing anything.

“If I can continue this gallery as it has been, I would be very happy,” Morinelli said. “Not in the bad sense of being conservative, but of maintaining quality.”

For Morinelli, art has always been a part of his life. He studied painting in Paris and Florence, Italy and is teaching an art class at The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Pa. He now teaches only part-time because of his new responsibility at Artists’ House.

Morinelli’s doctorate is in medieval French literature from Bryn Mawr College, which contributes to his other main interest, writing. He has written a number of plays that have been translated and performed in places like Egypt, Germany and Ireland.

Kathy Hayden, one of the artists who had work displayed in the opening exhibition, said she appreciated Morinelli’s dedication to Artists’ House.

“He seems to be very enthusiastic and wanting to keep it like it was, which is nice,” Hayden said.

Morinelli said he understands the impact the gallery has for the art community.

To have artwork shown at Artists’ House, artists simply have to submit a piece to Morinelli for evaluation.

“If I like it, I invite them to come and bring the actual work and we can look at it together, and then we decide,”  Morinelli said.

For collectors, Morinelli said the gallery aims for affordable prices, especially considering that all of the artworks are original.

It’s clear that Morinelli wishes to continue much of what the Artists’ House’s mission was back in 1991.

“That’s what Artists’ House was all about – having something that could be reasonably priced and affordable but of good quality,” Morinelli said.

Albert Hong can be reached at

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