One of the newest galleries to call the Upstate home opened its doors in the Village of West Greenville. Bakova Gallery owner Anna Shcherbakova and artist Nicholas Baldridge celebrated their recent move to the Railside Studios from Hillsborough, North Carolina, with the opening of their first group exhibition, “LIFEFORMS.”
The exhibition features batik works by artist Mark Mulfinger and vibrant, abstract paintings by Brian Anderson, along with a surrealism-heavy mix of figure and landscape paintings, unique floral arrangements and other contemporary works. Artists in the exhibition hail from Greenville to North Carolina, California, Cuba and Canada.
“I love thematic shows,” Baldridge says, but defines “LIFEFORMS” as more of a straightforward, curated group exhibition. “[This show] is thematic in the way that everything here is art that my wife and I like—artists we love, are representing and want to share with our community.”
A warm welcome
Just three months after opening their original location in North Carolina, the pandemic hit and staying in the space became a challenge for the fledgling gallery. They ultimately decided to shutter their North Carolina location and look for a new home. Opportunities to grow—and a thriving arts culture—attracted the duo to the Upstate area.
“It couldn’t be more perfect,” Baldridge says. “We found this neighborhood, we found this spot, with an amazing group behind it … and we couldn’t be happier.”
“I think the best places to experience art right now happen to be in smaller, more unexpected places.” – Artist Nicholas Baldridge
The Greenville community has given Shcherbakova and Baldridge a warm reception, too, from the time they arrived in town to the time they opened Bakova gallery – located at 46 Lois Ave. – in March. “We’ve had a smashing first three months,” Baldridge says. He credits the hard work of Greenville native and Bakova Gallery Director Bradford McCracken for helping them make connections and get to know people all over town.
And that warmth is shared: one can hardly walk through the doors of the vibrant, eclectic gallery space before being offered a handmade refreshment by an enthusiastic team, served on top of a restored antique organ. From the unique decor to inventive installations, it quickly becomes clear that the visionaries are passionate about the unexpected.
Baldridge is confident the Upstate is the ideal spot for what the Bakova Gallery team envisions for the future. “I think the best places to experience art right now happen to be in smaller, more unexpected places. A lot of people think they’ll only see artists like this in Los Angeles or New York. I don’t agree. I think that LA was probably at its coolest when it was a lot smaller, like Greenville. At [Bakova Gallery], we want to bring things that are unique, that are different.”
Eye-popping art, inside and out
When establishing the gallery in their new space at the Railside Collective (formerly called Railside Studios), Baldridge and McCracken pitched the idea of a mural on the side of the building to the property owners, a project they eventually determined was a perfect fit for one of the artists they currently represent, Douglas Cason out of Texas. Cason is an established artist with a distinct style, and has pieces in the Houston Museum of Fine Art.
“[Douglas] finished the mural in less than a week,” Baldridge says, “and it’s amazing.”
An inspired new way to bring people together in the Village
Beyond curated exhibitions, Bakova Gallery is looking to be a center for progressive arts endeavors and exciting events. “We’re very much a community and event space, as well,” McCracken says, pointing out that Bakova Gallery will be available for rent. “Any way that we can get more people looking at all of this amazing art, we’re open to it.”
Starting with the First Friday Gallery Crawl on April 2 and continuing indefinitely, McCracken has been working with emerging female musicians in the Upstate to bring live music to Railside. They have also applied for beer, wine and liquor licenses to continue serving up handcrafted cocktails.
“What could be a better way to meet or network with people than when surrounded by incredible fine art?” McCracken asks. “You’ll never run out of things to talk about or look at.”
46 LOIS AVE. GREENVILLE, SC
Owner: Anna Shcherbakova
Gallery Director: Bradford McCracken
Open 1-8 p.m. every Friday and by appointment