Several years ago, Kristen Feighery was a fledgling actress. Back then, she never dreamed she would one day become a different kind of artist altogether - in addition to owning her own art gallery, Sanctuary, in Davidson.
As a child in the Appalachian region of Kentucky, Feighery loved singing, dancing and performing. She began acting professionally at 18 and spent years doing regional theater and touring the country.
After she got married, however, she no longer wanted to spend so much time on the road. She wound up picking up a paintbrush seven years ago, when she was pregnant with her first child - though she had no formal art training.
"In the beginning I was terrible. But I enjoyed it, so I kept working," Feighery said.
Her work paid off: She soon was picked up by 15 galleries.
Feighery describes her style as "modern folk art, very rustic, very raw. I use a lot of wood, old cabinet doors, anything recyclable, and then I rough it up."
Her mountain roots definitely influence her work.
"A lot of my pieces look like they could have come off an old house in Kentucky," she said. "My work is made up of what I believe, what has meaning to me, and what has influenced me. And it's very much a passion. I paint because I have to."
About seven months ago, Feighery was doing well at the So Alive Gallery on Main Street. Unfortunately, the place was going out of business. The owner approached her: Would she be interested in taking over?
"I just felt that this was a gift from God, something that I should be doing. I jumped in feet first," she said. "It has been such a tremendous amount of work, but there are so many people who are willing to help, and the community and artists here really want to see it survive."
Feighery formed a co-op, with artists paying a monthly fee to display work. Many have that fee waived by working one day a week in the gallery. All artists are local, and the store displays artwork of every medium - purses, pillows, jewelry, metalwork, pottery, stained glass, felted items, furniture and, of course, paintings.
"People have told me how happy they are that the gallery is here, and when they learn that all our artists are local, they are even more willing to buy, even if it's just a small item."
For now, Feighery is looking forward to the April is for the Arts activities, celebrating art and culture in the northern part of the county. Sanctuary will participate in the gallery crawl on April 16 and the Art on the Green the weekend of April 24.