Labourlove Bringing Art to Golden Belt since 2009

By Chelsetia Davis
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE


If people want to know what’s happening in the local art community, labourlove Art Gallery is the place to visit. The gallery displays works of collaborative artists such as photographers, painters as well as designers in attempt to encourage diversity in the art community.

labourlove owners Kim Dew and John Pelphrey stand in front of Dew’s paintings on display in the gallery. Photo by Chelsetia Davis.

Located at 807 East Main Street, laborlove has provided Golden Belt with a splash of creativity and artistic value.

Small business owners John Pelphrey and Kim Dew can be viewed as the pioneers of the Golden Belt art scene. They introduced a variety of artistic styles from urban to traditional when they opened their gallery in 2009 —  before there was any sign of artistic vision in Golden Belt.

Opening the gallery at that time forced the couple to make some life-changing decisions. Pelphrey  resigned from his corporate job as a pharmaceutical product manager. But the couple had known for a long time that they wanted to start an art gallery.

Dew, a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, had artistic vision, but the collaboration with her husband allowed them both to learn about starting a business.

“Keeping the business small has been good,” says Pelphrey. “It is not easy to start a business, but it is exciting that I can collaborate with other people and organizations such as WUNC radio host Frank Stastio and the Scrap-Exchange.”

Although the couple’s initial idea of the gallery was considered risky by some family members and friends, they remained supportive.

The couple tries to combat a perception that art galleries are for the wealthy by creating a comfortable setting that everyone can relate to.

The artwork ranges from $25 to $200 and includes original canvas paintings, photography, handmade jewelry and innovative t-shirts.

“They have some cool t-shirts and it’s really dope place,” says Craig Burgan of neighboring Dogstar Tattoo. “The couple is always nice to people, even when they are just observing the art.”

The gallery has expanded beyond featuring only art. The couple also rents out their 1800 square foot space for jazz bands, wedding receptions and concerts.

On Feb. 17, their After Hours event will feature Kim Arrington. The event is hosted by the non-profit Art of Cool, which is an advocate for the promotion of jazz musicians and holds events throughout the Triangle.

LabourLove also differs from other galleries by allowing the artist to promote themselves as well as the business.

The artists must submit an application in order for their works to be considered in the gallery. “The criteria is for the artist to be willing to promote their works,” Pelphrey said. “The power of thirty artists promoting a space is better than two people.”

The artists pay an $89 rental fee and in return receive 90 percent of the earnings from their work. Other art galleries charge higher fees and the artist only receives 50 percent of the earnings.

Pelphrey and Dew agree that it is important that people understand the concept of owning a business.

“We never stop working even when we are at home,” said Pelphrey. “We drink coffee and watch 30Rock, while constantly coming up with new ideas to make profit.”

The couple owns a second business Organic Food2You which serves organic fruits and vegetables as well as hormone free meat to customers at the footsteps of their homes. Their second business opportunity is doing well and has allowed them a great way to supplement their income from labourlove.

“Entrepreneurs must be open to new ideas,” said Pelphrey.

The couple has a six-year-old son, who tags along in this family business venture and also helps his mother with her painting.

“This is a true family business,” said Pelphrey. “Operating a business with a spouse has its dangers and sometimes people’s marriages may suffer, but our key is communication.”