Home Work

Former Hill Staffer Turns Her House Into an Art Gallery

Posted September 17, 2003 at 2:28pm

The plain exterior of Sharon Fine’s home masks an eclectic collection of color and talent contained within. Beyond the threshold, a spacious hallway laden with more than a dozen paintings immediately greets visitors.

Fine, a former Hill staffer and lobbyist, has traded in Capitol Hill for Bradley Hills in Bethesda, Md., where she prepares to open an art gallery in her home today. Fine left her position at the law firm Wiley, Rein and Fielding in April where she was a government affairs consultant for five years. Previously, she had worked with the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Agricultural Export Alliance.

Paintings hang in every room of the 3,600-square-foot home, including her husband’s personal office. Fine has more than 50 paintings in her home for sale, with prices ranging from $350 to $7,000. The highest priced item hangs next to a beat-up high chair in the kitchen and carries a price tag of $10,000.99 written in the scrawl of a child. The painting is titled “Sailing Ship” and the artist is Noah Katz, Fine’s young son.

A graduate in art history at the University of London and Emory University in Atlanta, Fine left Capitol Hill to spend more time with her three young children and pursue her passion for art.

“I’ve always loved art since I’ve been a child … I came to D.C. in ’89 with my two passions, politics and art. I couldn’t support myself working for an art gallery, so I came [to D.C.] … and looked for a job on the Hill,” Fine said.

Sharon Fine Gallery is unusual in that it is located in her home — a one-level “California style” residence off Bradley Boulevard between Wilson Lane and Goldsboro Road. Fine and her husband bought their home four years ago with the intention of turning it into a unique gallery where buyers could view art on the walls of an actual home instead of the sterile environment of a traditional gallery. It was not until this April that Fine decided to pursue a gallery opening.

“I kept meeting wonderful local artists,” Fine said. “People would come to me and ask me where I got my art and if I could help them [find art]. I just decided this was the right time” to open the gallery.

Most of the artists featured in the gallery are local, and a few live within several blocks of the gallery. Two, Liesl Laverly and Maya Weber, are former Hill staffers whom Fine met while working for the Energy and Commerce Committee. Other artists include Tom Block, Marilyn Bautista, Miriam Rylands and Anamario Hernandez.

The art displayed is of varying mediums and sizes. A Tom Block piece, “Angel Flee #2,” is painted with oils on a 16th-century wood shutter from Spain — not a canvas of choice, but of economic constraints since Block could not afford canvas at the time.

Fine’s favorite piece, “Oxala” (pronounced oo-SHA-la), by Brazilian artist Miriam Rylands, is a mixed media piece mounted on a Brazilian board. The piece depicts an African deity of Creation.

Although no longer working full-time on the Hill — she can be found there once a month as a consultant for a Congressional study group on Japan — Fine is doing her own version of lobbying.

“I’m going to be selling art. Lobbying is another form of sales … where you’re dealing with interesting personalities,” Fine said.

Fine is not concerned with just selling art. She hopes to make buying art a personal and pleasurable experience that will accommodate the needs and schedule of the buyer.

“I strongly believe that buying art is a personal decision, and it requires highly personalized attention.”

Fine will host a cocktail event at her home to open Sharon Fine Gallery today from 7 to 9 p.m., as well as the following Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. For more information, contact Fine at (301) 913-0082 or at sharonfinekatz@aol.com.