Did you know there’s a store in Westfield that not only sells the trendiest boutique items and gorgeous artwork, but also is changing people’s lives? I’m talking about Gallery U Boutique, of course, and it is a must-stop on your next venture into town.
Located in the Root building on South Ave, Gallery U wears many hats. On the one hand, it is an upscale boutique, and quite possibly the prettiest you will shop in anywhere thanks to the discerning eye of manager Deneise Hyatt-Murad. The store carries an incredible selection of unique jewelry, housewares, clothing, accessories, and gifts, many of which are handmade by local artisans. Sue Frigand, who works part time in the shop, says, “We have the usual and the unusual here together. You’ll find a lot of one-of-a-kind gift ideas here.”
Gallery U is also a true art gallery featuring original artwork displayed in themed showcases. According to gallery manager and curator Robert Langdon, “With all of our exhibits, I like to include a little bit of every medium, all different styles, so that eight out of ten people will connect with something.” Robert is on the board of the Westfield Art Association, and he says, “We are working closely to develop an art scene in Westfield, and to develop the south side of town into a true arts district.” The current art exhibit on display until August 3 is titled Fotographia and includes some very striking photographic images.
But the most impressive hat worn by Gallery U is this: It is a vocation training site that provides retail and business opportunities for adults with traumatic brain injuries. In conjunction with the Universal Institute, Gallery U gives countless tasks to their clients (as the brain-injured employees are known) day in and day out that help with their fine motor and social skills, not to mention bolster their resumes.
The clients do everything from computer research; hand-making and packaging greeting cards that are sold in the store (and are a wild success!); creating original artwork for sale in the boutique; assisting with all aspects of marketing; and much more.
Some clients even work as salespeople in the boutique, including the ever-charming Eric, whose bright smile and helpful attitude would be a welcome addition to any store. Eric told me, “This is an eye-opener of a place that’s about getting people back on their feet.” How many stores can you say that about?
Here are a few upcoming events at Gallery U. Follow them on Facebook to learn about more events and the many ways Gallery U is giving back to the community. And don’t forget to stop by on Tuesdays during Jazz Fest throughout July for 10 percent off all purchases in the boutique. Jazz musicians will be playing right outside the shop.
Friday, July 24, 7-9 pm: “Poetry U” featuring readings by local poets.
Friday, August 7 6-8 pm: “Pequenos–A Group Exhibition of Small Works” featuring smaller-scaled artwork.
Saturday, August 15, 1-3 pm: “The Kidz Are Alright” featuring artwork by the students of Carl H. Kumpf Middle School (Clark); sales benefit the school.