The Art Gallery Shall Be Illuminated! Part 1

Last week, my former high school ceramics teacher contacted me on Facebook and asked if I could help him solve some lighting problems in his art gallery. I told him I was on the case, and a few days later I went over to his gallery.

Studio Design Gallery, Chapel Hill, NC
Studio Design Gallery, Chapel Hill, NC

It was one of those late January afternoons in Chapel Hill, NC – you know, winter sky through leafless trees.

I hadn’t seen my former ceramics teacher, since, well, high school. (And that is fifteen years, if you’re wondering.) But as soon as I walked through the gallery door and saw Paul Hrusovsky, it was as if we hadn’t skipped a beat.

Paul Hrusovsky, Art Gallery
Paul Hrusovsky and his painting, “Crying Out Loud.”

Paul, or “Mr. H.,” as we knew him at East Chapel Hill High School, encouraged my artistic bent during my formative years. The pottery wheel was a place to forget the drama that comes with teenagedom. With Paul’s¬†guidance and encouragement, I was able to pretty much become awesome at making pottery. Now it was my turn to do something to help Paul.

The Problem

Paul opened his gallery in October 2013 in The Courtyard on Franklin Street, the main drag in Chapel Hill. He is very happy with the location and the space itself, and he has been extremely successful so far providing unique furniture and art to happy customers. But the lighting is problematic in his gallery. Paul is knowledgeable enough about lighting to know that small adjustments can make huge differences in how a space looks and feels, so he’s ready to take a little action and solve his lighting problems.

The two lighting problems in Paul’s gallery correspond to the two main components of his inventory: paintings and furniture. First, the LED track lighting he chose to spotlight the paintings on his wall are not quite bright enough to display the work adequately. The display lighting should make his already vibrant paintings come even more alive, showcasing their color and composition. But, as you can see below, the effect isn’t quite what Paul knows it could be.

The LED light bulbs Paul chose are not bright enough to do his paintings justice.
LED is a popular choice for display lighting, but these particular LED light bulbs are not bright enough to do these paintings justice.

The second problem is that the light being cast from the LED light bulbs overhead is washing the color out of the mid-century furniture that he sells. Any retailer of beautiful things, especially art and furniture, knows that the right lighting makes a huge difference in the way customers perceive your products. No one wants to spend good money for work that isn’t completely beautiful. You definitely want your display lighting to showcase your art as the truly beautiful work it is.


“I have to turn off the lights to show the furniture,” Paul says. It was true: The colors in the furniture appeared far more compelling and distinct in the natural light. The problem is, obviously, that it gets pretty dark in the gallery with the lights out. I mean, it’s rather absurd that Paul has to turn OFF the lights for his customers to see what he’s selling.

Paul offers me a Diet Coke and then summarizes his problems, “I think the LEDs are great, intense white light for working, but they tend to wash out furniture. And my spots aren’t bright enough. And I don’t want to have to replace the track. I want to know if anything else can go in there.”

The Task

So, how are we going to solve Paul’s lighting problems? Does he need entirely new fixtures, or can we simply replace the light bulbs? Do we need to figure out a way to get the light fixtures closer to the paintings? How about the furniture lighting problem? New fixtures? Or can we just replace the light bulbs? Getting the best possible lighting effect is, of course, the ultimate goal, but we need to accomplish this goal inexpensively, since Paul has already invested in his lighting once.

I left Paul’s gallery asking myself these questions, wanting very badly to help him achieve the kind of display lighting any art gallery owner wants – something to show off the beauty of his work and the work he sells.

Tune in next time to find out how we solve Paul’s art gallery lighting problems.


Tom Sowders

After majoring in creative writing at NC State, I worked in the home remodeling industry. Then, I attended graduate school for a really long time and gained experience as a writer and writing instructor. I live in the Raleigh-Durham area with my wife and baby boy, and you can find me around the Triangle anywhere there's good music and/or NC-style BBQ.

3 thoughts to “The Art Gallery Shall Be Illuminated! Part 1”

  1. Spot on! You got the problems down and I love the details like I offered you a diet Coke!
    To me to see the maturation of a student is what teaching is all about. You are the same Tom who provived so much fun and joy as you tackled clay and the wheel.
    I can’t wait for the lighting to be solved!

Comments are closed.