Tucked away on a modest street off of Colley Avenue in Norfolk, Virginia, is an art gallery turned event space that feels both intimate and high class.
The waterfront view is the first thing you might notice when arriving at Corner Gallery, followed by the grand, string-lit tree that greets you with liveliness as you approach the entrance.
Owner, Anne Temple Smith, describes the space as “the perfect place for the party or gathering you do not want to have in your home.”
Anne greets you with that elegant and comfortable flair, best known as Southern hospitality, and you immediately know you have come across something special.
How It All Began
Once you see the vibrant paintings throughout the space, you would not be surprised to hear that it all began as an art gallery.
Inspired by some artists in Richmond, and her art teacher turned friend, she wanted to bring a welcoming art venue to the area.
“After finding the building, I started in the front room and the expanded into the next one over. But what I remember most from the early days is how people would constantly comment on how warm, inviting, and different the space felt. So we started experimenting with renting it out and the consistent theme became a love for the space itself,” Anne recalls.
She continues, “I started really listening to what people were saying, and paying attention to what I loved doing – which was helping people with the events and parties they were throwing. So things evolved, and in July of last year, we decided to make it solely an event venue.”
Despite the transition, you will still notice an agreeable mix of colorful artwork that fills the walls, many of the paintings by Anne herself. Both for a consistent aesthetic and simply because she still loves to paint and create whenever she can in her admittedly disorderly home studio, where her creativity flows best.
The Corner Gallery Experience
Corner Gallery offers design packages and on-site props, glassware, furniture, and other items that people can use to make it their own and make their event feel special.
“We try to make the whole thing as easy and seamless as possible. We do not dictate what caterers or vendors people have to use, and have a small, usable kitchen space. We also provide a certain level of service the day-of the event including set-up, take-down, cleaning, and making ourselves available to lend a helping hand”, Anne explains.
Anne also offers tours each Wednesday so prospective clients can get a feel for the ins and outs of the space and better envision their event being held there.
These appointments can be online on the Corner Gallery website.
“Wednesday tour days have become my favorite. It is so fun to hear what people want, why they are throwing the event, and affirm them in their vision and ideas”, Anne smiles.
Anne is also supported by her right-hand girl, Michaela, who oversees Corner Gallery’s social media, day-of-event staff, and really anything else that comes up.
“It was awful doing everything by myself, so having someone alongside me has just been incredible,” Anne admits.
“My background is actually in social work. Relationships and human connection have been huge themes of my life and if you really think about it, that is what I get to do through Corner Gallery, and what people love about being here,” Anne shares.
Whether it is a baby shower, bridal shower, book club, birthday party, small business launch, company dinner, or whatever else the occasion might be, people get to connect and share in a special moment together.
“In the age of social media, I find it essential to have a space where people can unplug, share in some real face time together, and celebrate. I love being able to provide that because it matters,” Anne expresses.
“It is much more personal and intimate than being in a public restaurant, and my team and I love to help. By having extra hands built-in, our hosts are able to be much more present with their guests,” Anne explains.
Proudest Moment & Biggest Obstacle
When it comes to the challenges of owning a business, Anne is quick to exclaim,
“Red tape! City regulations, licenses…things you were not aware existed at first. You don’t know what you don’t know. And that can be a painful process. But you learn quick – you have to!”
After spending months crawling through hoops of logistics and setbacks, Anne tells us she would often ask herself, “Can I not just run my business?”
With the dust now settling, Anne is able to reflect fondly on her journey so far.
“I am most proud that I did not quit when things got really hard. I have kept a business journal over the last four years and so many times, the conclusion would just become, ‘I am not going to give up yet.’”
Anne adds, “I have also been able to build really sound relationships with those around me, which absolutely pays off. It takes time, but I totally get why people say that is such an important part of being a business owner.”
Advice for Aspiring Business Owners
When asked what advice she would give to others looking to start or grow a business, Anne pauses before confidently stating:
“You get to define your own success. You can get distracted by a lot of noise out there – especially because of social media. You have to come back to your core vision and mission.”
She includes, “And of course, get to know your city. Do your research and learn the ins and outs of your industry, taxes, regulations, and all of that.”
Future Goals & Favorite Things
“I am excited to continue updating the design packages to keep them fresh and unique so everyone’s event can be different. I love the design and styling element of it all,” Anne tells us.
When she is not at Corner Gallery working in her office, meeting with clients, or assisting with events, she enjoys spending time with her husband and 3 kids, most likely at the beach with a good drink in hand.
“Painting makes me happy, too. It is more about the color than anything else. I paint what is interesting to me – everyday life stuff. Things that are simple but not perfect. Painting with oil forces me to paint slow. You have to wait. It has taught me to get comfortable with a process, when I would rather move forward quickly,” Anne expresses.
How to Experience All That Corner Gallery Has to Offer
Anne concludes, “Gatherings are important and I love creating the space to make it happen. People never leave regretting having spent time together.”