Mont Airy pop-up site attracts kids and art collectors


by Stacia Friedman

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 from the provocative paintings by Corinne Dieterle currently on display at 545 Carpenter Lane in West Mt. Airy.

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

This is no ordinary pop-up window. This is the private home of Nick and Maureen “Mu” Gregory. Don’t bother knocking on the door or ringing the bell. They are not open for business. A panel in the window provides a number to call for information about the paintings.

When the Gregories bought their home almost 30 years ago, their downstairs storefronts presented an opportunity. Maureen, now 65, used the space to make a childhood dream come true.

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

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

“At first I filled the windows with an assortment of items I found in the yard. Shards of pottery, thrown jewels. Next, I made a papier-mâché tree and populated it with miniature hedgehog-shaped clay creatures, inspired by stuffed animals from Steiff, a German toy maker. They’re only 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 Mount Airy children. “I was working at Weavers Way and a young man told me he walked past my windows every day on his way to Henry School and how much he loved them,” Maureen said.

Over the years, road traffic has increased with the opening of new stores including: Mercantile, a craft store operated by Weavers Way; WPM, a typewriter supplier; Tremplin meditation studio; Wild Hands, a wool and fiber arts store; 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 children touch Gregory’s windows that they have to regularly clean the prints of tiny hands and noses.

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

“I met Nick in the 1980s when we were both working at The Eatery, a hippie restaurant on the Penn campus,” Maureen said. She then cooked for the Weavers Way kitchen in Mt Airy for 14 years and is now an administrative assistant to the executive chef of the co-op. Her part-time position allows 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 displays in Hedgehog Village.

So how did the Gregories go from tempting the imaginations of children to the interest of art collectors?

“I have known Corinne for many years and admire her work,” said Maureen, “When I heard that she was looking for a pop-up to display her paintings, I felt it was the right time. to bring me closer to my desire to present installations. ”In response to the enthusiastic comments, Maureen plans to host a reception for the artist directly on the sidewalk.

One of Dieterle’s paintings, “Me and my shadows,” is a nude self-portrait. This presents a good learning time for parents of curious children. A timely anatomy lesson perhaps.

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


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