One of the most rewarding parts of opening our doors everyday is meeting new faces and welcoming back old friends who’ve supported the shop since its early days! We all have a favorite neighbor and Kelly Kuhn, co-owner of Blue Gallery, is no exception. With chic curls and a warm, glowing smile, Kelly's style exudes a lovely rarity of high-fashion sensibility with comfort and ease. She agreed to do a quick interview with us about her very first piece she took home from Finefolk, what it's like to run an art gallery and who her favorite style icons are.
How did you initially become acquainted with Leslie and the shop?
A friend who knew Leslie recommended I check out her store, Finefolk, when it was in Leslie's first location. I hadn’t had an opportunity to go in right away. I kept seeing several of my friends wearing beautiful, envy-inducing pieces from her shop, so I finally made a point of going in.
When did you open Blue Gallery and how would you describe your day to day there?
I opened Blue Gallery with my partner/husband, David, September 2000. My days are only somewhat predictable and usually involve meeting with clients, artists, and frequently taking artwork out on approval or to be installed (which I perform) in a private or corporate collection. Or I am usually immersed in installing the next exhibition at the gallery. The gorgeous setting implies ease and glamour, but there’s a lot of physical work required to have it all flow.
Where did you grow up and did you study art as a student?
I grew up in Grand Rapids, MN, one hour south of Canada. I studied Art History at Graceland University and University of Kansas City, Missouri.
What led you to opening the gallery?
While at UMKC, I had the opportunity to work at a commercial art gallery, which I did for eight years. During that time, it was dawning on me that I possessed a very unique skillset required to operate an art gallery. However, it took clients, artists, and the director of the Kemper Museum at that time, to point out that I should open an art gallery, that I had everything needed to make it work.
Do you remember your first piece you took home from Finefolk?
Oh yes! It was on my first visit that I saw several things I loved. I ended up purchasing a gorgeous REALITY STUDIO tunic in shades of reds and charcoal gray. And after 3 years it is still the most interesting piece in my wardrobe, and I love it!
Do you have favorite designers at the shop? If so, what about these designers resonate with you?
I love the luxe bohemian vibe of Isabel Marant. And am passionately in love with the gorgeous sculptural apparel by SCHAI. I’ve worn my SCHAI dress at art openings and cocktail parties and feel effortlessly chic.
What kind of pieces do you look for when shopping for yourself?
I really need my clothes to represent my profession, yet also be comfortable so I am not fidgeting while working with clients. In a perfect world, I want my clothes to be innovative, comfortable and timeless. I also really want my clothes to surprise and delight me.
Who are your style icons?
I love Lauren Hutton, Audrey Tautou, Maggie Gyllenhaal, China Chow, Tilda Swinton and Leslie Fraley.
What is your favorite piece in your closet?
I LOVE the Gary Graham winter coat I purchased a couple years ago. The silhouette is so fascinating, I feel like a walking sculpture when I wear it.
What is the most rewarding part about your profession?
Having been in the art industry for 25 years, you can safely say I’m a lifer. And there are so many rewarding things that have occurred in the 17 years with Blue Gallery. But my favorite part are the clients who have worked with me before I opened Blue and continue to collect from me. I also have clients who come in to celebrate their birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions by going to Blue Gallery and buying themselves a work of art! That is such an honor for me to be a part of their lives in such a personal way.
How does fashion and your personal style influence you as a gallery owner?
I have always loved fashion and art. And it’s been a challenge to find clothing that is stylish and yet can allow you to do the manual aspects of running an art gallery such as installations, packing, etc. On occasion, when I don’t have any art installations on the calendar, I will wear a dress or something fussy. And almost every time, without fail, I unexpectedly need to run a painting to a client’s home and then install it. I’ve climbed a ladder in a dress and heels, and it feels so awkward. Therefore, as of late, I don the gallery ninja uniform; skinny jeans, heels that do not exceed 2” and a top that doesn’t impede movement. Openings and cocktail parties, I get to have a little more fun with clothing and show more of my truer fashion self.
What about Finefolk continues to draw you back?
I know, without a doubt, that I will see fashion that is truly beautiful, innovative and haunting. I am always fascinated and enlivened with Leslie’s curation of clothes and accessories. It truly is my favorite store in the Midwest.
Kelly's 2nd look:
First piece ever taken home, her
color-block Reality Studios tunic
We love you, Kelly!
xx, the finefolk team.