CARY — It all started 14 years ago with a vacation and a set of watercolor paints.
Gary Bradley, owner and art director of the Waverly Artists Group in Cary, was a late bloomer when it came art. He was 60 when he gave it a try, after a career working for a nonprofit.
“I would have never imagined that I would be teaching and selling art, or that anyone would even want to buy my art for that matter,” Bradley said, chuckling.
Bradley, now 73, started the Waverly Artists Group about two and a half years ago. He has since traded his watercolor pallet for one filled with oil paint, and his work hangs on the wall among the pieces of 19 other artists.
The group has emerged as a vibrant part of Cary’s art community, regularly hosting exhibits and special events at its studio in the Waverly Place shopping center off of Kildaire Farm Road.
Waverly Artists Group offer lessons, workshops, open studio days, critiques and a place for the resident artists to display and sell their work.
“We wanted a community of friends who were artists, patrons and lovers of art,” Bradley said.
He said his inspiration for the studio comes from his desire to better the community and the people who live here.
“We want to know what’s going on on the outside, but not the inside,” Bradley said of society. “We don’t really understand each other, just know one another. When you encounter beauty, it sparks something inside that’s good. I decided to try and bring more beauty to the world.”
On the final Friday of every month, Waverly Artists Group takes part in the Cary Art Loop, in which local venues host special events. At Waverly, guests can enjoy music, food, wine and art.
“It’s basically a giant party,” Bradley said.
Occasionally, the studio turns the celebration of art into a fundraiser. Recently, artists came together to create a show featuring horses to raise money for the CORRAL Riding Academy, a nonprofit that uses rescue horses in therapy sessions for girls.
“We look for artists that have a spirit of helping,” Bradley said. “It is better to serve than to be served.”
The group receives many applications from local artists who want to be part of the studio, Bradley said. When selecting new artists, he considers the quality of their art and how they will fit in with the other artists.
“Relationships are the most important part,” Bradley said. “We want to make sure that we’ll all get along with each other.”
Beth Carrington Brown is a resident artist featured in the gallery. Like Bradley, Brown didn’t always focus on art. Before she started working full time as a painter, she was a teacher for the deaf and a speech and language pathologist.
“Music and art were always a part of my life, just not professionally,” Brown said. “I always used it as a teacher and later as a speech and language pathologist. I would incorporate music and art into the therapy with the patients.”
Brown got on board with the Waverly Artists Group about a year and a half ago. After doing a few painting sessions with Bradley, she was invited to join the group.
“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done,” Brown said. “The group of people there are special. They care about each other, there’s not a lot of ego or politics. It’s not about selling paintings, but it’s about connecting with other people.”
Bringing art into homes
Brown said the gallery’s prices are reasonable. For the artists, the main goal isn’t to make money, but to share their passion for art with the community.
“It’s about making people fall in love with art, and bringing it into their home,” Brown said.
Eric McRay is thelatest artist invited into the group. McRay will host free art lessons at the gallery on Friday, when his work will be displayed at an open house.
McRay is known for his acrylic paintings, and the open house will feature his depictions of jazz music.
“Eric is a prolific painter. He produces a lot of good work, and he’s really well known,” Bradley said.
Wanbaugh: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @TaylorWanbaugh