Mt Airy pop-up site attracts children, art collectors

by Stacia Friedman
Posted 4/22/21

Part of the excitement of a pop-up gallery is that you never know where, what or when it will appear. All the more so of the provocative paintings of Corinne Dieterle now showing at 545 Carpenter Lane in West Mt. Airy.

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Mt Airy pop-up site attracts children, art collectors


Part of the excitement of a pop-up gallery is that you never know where, what or when it will appear. All the more so of the provocative paintings of Corinne Dieterle now showing at 545 Carpenter Lane in West Mt. Airy.

A local artist who has racked up an impressive list of exhibitions from Woodmere’s Annual Juried Show to the Wayne Art Center, Dieterle’s current work represents a major shift in subject matter. Previously, she focused on landscapes inspired by travels in Ireland, Scotland and France. With the onset of the pandemic, Dieterle did what artists have done for centuries. She painted everyday objects in her Lafayette Hill home, including herself and imaginary guests. “I conjured up historical figures, artists and writers to populate my paintings,” she said.

This is no ordinary pop-up. It is the private home of Nick and Maureen “Mu” Gregory. Do not bother to knock on the door or ring the bell. They are not open for business. A sign in the window provides a number to call for information about the paintings.

When the Gregorys bought their home almost 30 years ago, their street level storefront windows did present an opportunity. Maureen, now 65, used the space to follow through on a childhood dream.

“Our house, like so many on this block, had been a shop at one time. We decided to make it interesting,” she said. “Since I was a little girl, I always wanted to have my own store.” But not the kind of store that actually sells anything. What Maureen wanted was a “play store” in which to create an imaginary world, a diorama to delight neighborhood children.

Located just two doors from the Big Blue Marble Bookstore with Weavers Way and the Henry School on the corner, Maureen had a guaranteed high traffic audience of tiny tykes.

“At first, I filled with the windows with an assortment of objects I found in the backyard. Shards of pottery, discarded jewelry. Then I  made a paper mache tree and populated it with miniature hedgehog creatures made out of clay, inspired by stuffed animals by Steiff, a German toy manufacturer. They are just three to four inches tall, and I dress them up.”

For over 25 years, Maureen and Nick’s magical Hedgehog Village has captured the adoration of generations of Mt. Airy children. “I was working at Weavers Way, and a young man told me he that he had walked by my windows every day on his way to Henry School and how much he loved them,” said Maureen.

Over the years, street traffic grew as new shops opened, including: Mercantile, a craft shop operated by Weavers Way; WPM, a typewriter vendor; Springboard Meditation Studio; Wild Hands, a yarn and fiber arts shop; and High Point Café. As a result, the 500 block of Carpenter Lane has become the epicenter of community life in West Mt Airy. So many kids touch the Gregory’s display windows that they have to regularly clean off imprints of tiny hands and noses.

Growing up in Huntington Valley, Maureen studied art and biology at Beaver College (now Arcadia University). She planned to be a medical illustrator, but her career path took a culinary twist.

“I met Nick in the 1980s while we were both working at The Eatery, a hippy restaurant on Penn’s campus,” said Maureen. She went on to cook for Weavers Way’s kitchen in Mt Airy for 14 years and is now administrative assistant to the Co-op’s Executive Chef. Her part-time position enables Maureen to pursue other passions: catering, cake decorating and working as a collage and fabric artist. However, all of Maureen’s creative talents come together in her whimsical Hedgehog Village displays. 

So how did the Gregorys switch from tantalizing the imaginations of children to capturing the interest of art collectors?

“I have known Corinne for many years and admire her work,” said Maureen, “When I heard she was looking for a pop-up to display her paintings, I felt this was a good time to move closer to my desire to present installations.” In response to enthusiastic comments, Maureen anticipates hosting a reception for the artist right on the sidewalk.

One of Dieterle’s paintings, “Me and My Shadows,” is a nude self-portrait. This presents a teachable moment for parents of inquisitive children. A timely anatomy lesson perhaps.

How long will the paintings be on display? “Oh, I don’t know,” said Maureen. “For as long as Corinne likes. I am so thrilled to have them. It is very inspiring to have another artist using the space.”