In a world of infinite possibilities, one of the least likely might be that two Scrabble players, one in England and the other in Falls Church, Virginia, would begin a friendship that would bloom into a romance, marriage…and an art gallery in Chestertown.
And yet, that’s what happened with Inez and Paul Santori.
At the time the couple met over the digital Scrabble board, Inez was a vice-principal at a high school in Essex, England, and Paul a federal employee in Falls Church, Virginia. As both were painters, the two quickly found common ground in their love for the arts and after months of conversations finally met each other. The rest is history, at least that part of their history.
Paul Santori, also an accomplished musician with a soon to be released CD, studied at the Chicago Institute of Art. He’d long had it in mind to open a gallery and both of them sought a community on the Bay coast.
“We came across a house in Rock Hall online one day and decided to drive over to the Eastern Shore. The house didn’t work out but we discovered the Chestertown community and knew that it was the right place for us,” Inez says.
Noting that the arts were primary to Chestertown’s culture they also decided to fulfill their dream of opening a gallery. And Tish Fine Art Plus came about after they noticed a vacant retail space on High St.
“We were cautious about it. Can we afford a gallery to fail? That was the question we asked each other,” Inez says.
Inez got involved with the Chestertown art scene almost immediately by becoming a member of River Arts Photography Club. She also exhibits her crocheted and knitted creations and has been critical with their IT needs.
The Santoris opened Tish Fine Arts Plus in January and, with the rest of the country, closed in March. Maryland’s phased opening allowed them to open their doors again.
The couple’s basic philosophy is to offer new and experienced local artists and craft people a place to exhibit their work and continue to also bring in nationally known artists on a revolving basis. For some artists, Tish Fine Art Plus is their first opportunity to exhibit their work. “We want to give everyone a chance,” Inez says. It’s their inclusivity that makes the gallery unique.
Currently. the gallery exhibits a wide range of art and crafts including paintings in several mediums, locally made jewelry by Arleen Keifetz and Cheryl Hurt, American-style wooden hand-operated kinetic sculptures by M.K. Henry, wood crafts by Jason Miksitand many others. June and part of July highlight a Plein air show and July will bring in artists from the Philadelphia area. Tish also offers an ever-expanding line of apparel with an exclusive line of custom designs by Paul and Inez in the works.
And if you are wondering about the name “Tish”: in a previous incarnation, Inez wrote an art blog called “Morticia”s Post Mortem” and signed off as Tish. The name stuck.
As far as who won the most Scrabble games, you will have to go in and find out for yourself. In the meantime, the Spy and Chestertown community welcome the Santoris.
To see more of their gallery, go to www.tishfineart.com or their Facebook page. Gallery hours are Thursday and Friday 12-5. Saturday 10-1 and 3-6, and Sunday 12-4. They may be contacted at 443-282-9551 or via email at email@example.com. Tish Fine Art Plus is located at 343/345 High Street in Chestertown.