Lifelong Hillers open art studio/gallery on 'Pike'

by Len Lear
Posted 3/31/21

In late December of 2020, defying the pandemic, Bibby Loring and Christy Morse founded The Line Studio + Gallery across from Septa’s Chestnut Hill East train station at 105 Bethlehem Pike “to bring a vibrant, contemporary element to the art-loving community of Chestnut Hill.”

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Lifelong Hillers open art studio/gallery on 'Pike'

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Christy Morse Kelly and Bibby Loring both went to Springside School, although Bibby left in seventh grade and switched to the Agnes Irwin School on the Main Line while still living in Chestnut Hill.

Later Bibby and Christy worked for competing real estate brokerages, Bibby for Berkshire Hathaway Fox & Roach and Christy for Eichler & Moffly, but ultimately left real estate to pursue painting full-time, although they were unaware of each other’s plan. In 2019 they became acquainted while volunteering for a community project.

They commiserated about the significant “mess factor” inherent in painting from their kitchens, and that became the impetus for finding a proper studio to share. One month later they moved into a new space, and their families were happy to reclaim their kitchens.

In late December of 2020, defying the pandemic, Bibby, now 54, and Christy, now 51, founded The Line Studio + Gallery across from Septa’s Chestnut Hill East train station at 105 Bethlehem Pike “to bring a vibrant, contemporary element to the art-loving community of Chestnut Hill.”

Since The Line functions as both a working studio and a gallery, displays of available paintings change frequently to accommodate new work, and window displays change every Friday. Socially-distant appointments are welcome (like my visit last week) and easily arranged by contacting either Christy or Bibby.

Bibby was a fine arts major at the University of Delaware, and Christy has a BFA from the Boston University School of Fine Arts. Bibby's specialties are printmaking and metalsmithing, but “the medium I've had almost no instruction in is painting!”

In 2018 both Chestnut Hill artists were painting from their houses with the usual challenges of separating work and home projects. “In 2019,” said Bibby, “I contacted Bowman Properties, knowing Richard Snowden had been very helpful to other artists searching for studio space. Fortunately one property was available. Excited about the plan, we signed a lease and moved in October of 2019.

“Five months later the pandemic hit, and like everyone, we had to adjust. We had many discussions to make sure we were on the same page regarding social distancing and created a system which enabled us to paint simultaneously with careful screening and keeping the door wide open. Then we hit another snag in late May. Our local art supplier was having trouble with inventory because manufacturing had slowed way down, also due to Covid. I had a commission to complete, and both of us were literally running out of supplies.”

The duo finally found a source downtown, but they were so afraid that manufacturing might not bounce back for a long time, they bought enough canvases and paint to last for a year. When we got back to their studio, they quickly realized they could barely move, much less paint, with their supplies filling almost every available foot of space. They knew they had to find a bigger studio space.

The bigger space turned out to be right next door at 105 Bethlehem Pike, formerly home to Teens, Inc. and next to the former Carol Schwartz Gallery. “It was bigger and had a nice large window for good light,” said Bibby. “When it became available, we jumped at the chance to rent it and make it our new studio. We just intended it to be a studio, with enough wall space to get our paintings off the floor until they sold. We expected we’d have visits from existing clients from time to time but didn’t envision it as a gallery per se.

“After signing our new lease, it took about six weeks to get the space cleaned, painted and set up. What we hadn't expected was ... the remarkable level of community enthusiasm as people walked by and watched day by day to see our progress. On almost an hourly basis strangers would wave, visibly clap and smile through the window. Some would stop and talk through the glass. It still happens often! There was something magical about that experience which might not have happened pre-Covid. There has been a lot of loss, and something about a new, creative space seems to bring hope and energy during this difficult time.”

The gallery is exhibiting the owners' work, of course. They rotate the paintings as they sell and change the work weekly. They are also currently having discussions with several local artists about showing their work. They also have a beautiful art book on display from Chestnut Hill artist Dan Rose, who was recently profiled in the Local.

(“Bibby and Christy are very good artists,” Rose told us, “as well as good mothers and good citizens in these hard times.”)

For more information: thelinegallerystudio.com or bibbyloringart.com. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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