Photo courtesy of Jackie O. Photography
BY LANDON WOODROOF
A new art gallery has opened in the 12South neighborhood dedicated to a cause very dear to the heart of its owner, Brentwood resident Julie Couch.
G. Grace Gallery is located on the first floor of the offices of Couch’s interior design company, Julie Couch Designs. The gallery is named for Georgia Grace, Couch’s daughter who passed away after being born prematurely a little over four years ago. Georgia Grace’s twin brother, Gus, survived, but only after spending several months in an intensive care unit. He had been born at 27 weeks weighing just a little over 2 pounds.
For years Couch had brainstormed what she could do to help families who had undergone similar experiences to hers.
“I wanted to do something for NICU families,” Couch said. “It’s a very hard process. Even if your babies live, it’s hard.”
Starting a non-profit organization was appealing, but she is so busy with her other job and with raising 4-year-old Gus, that she was not sure she would have the time to create and grow a thriving one.
Then she thought about the Forrest Spence Fund. The fund was founded by David and Brittany Spence in memory of their son, Forrest, who died in 2007 following 55 days spent in a pediatric intensive care unit. According to its mission statement, the fund’s purpose is “to assist with the non-medical needs of critically or chronically ill children and their families throughout the Mid-South.”
“I knew about the charity and all that, and I thought it was amazing,” Couch said.
In fact, the fund’s goals seemed to align neatly with her own.
“If I was going to start a nonprofit, this is exactly what i would do,” she remembers thinking.
That idea dovetailed with another one. Couch, an art lover who majored in art history in college, had begun to mull turning the first floor of her business into a gallery. If she did so, she realized, she could use a portion of the proceeds from each piece of art that was sold and give it to the Forrest Spence Fund.
Couch decided to approach Brittany Spence and tell her about the art gallery idea. It turns out that the Spences had been planning to expand the fund’s reach from Memphis, where it was founded, to Nashville, so the timing was perfect.
This past Friday, March 31, Couch held a party at G. Grace Gallery welcoming the Spences and other people involved with the fund to Nashville. The fund has already established roots here, having begun a relationship with the Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital. Going forward, 60 percent of sales at G. Grace Gallery will go to the artist, while 40 percent will go to the Forrest Spence Fund.
Of course, to be a success, the G. Grace Gallery has to do more than just contribute to a good cause. It has to sell art, and Couch has put a lot of though into how the gallery will find a niche in Nashville’s market.
“Nashville is just growing so quickly. I thought there was a bit of a need for more affordable art pieces,” Couch said.
To meet that goal, the G. Grace Gallery has a $4,000 cap on its artwork—nothing in the store costs more than that.
The art itself is eclectic and comes from both local and out-of-state artists. Works range from abstracts to figure paintings to still lifes.
“I wanted things to be more accessible, and I wanted things that sell,” is how Couch described the gallery’s contents.
The process of planning and opening the gallery has been a welcome addition to Couch’s life.
“Honestly, this has been a really awesome, just positive thing,” she said. “It’s been fun. meeting the Spences, they’re awesome people.”
Going deeper, though, the work Couch has put in to make the gallery bearing her daughter’s name a reality has been therapeutic, too.
“I still have some bad days, but overall I feel like it’s been somewhat healing,” she said. “I think anytime you lose a child, just to hear their name and affirm their life is really healing.”
The gallery is currently open for business, but Couch will be hosting a grand opening party for the public there on April 21.
“We’re super excited about that,” she said.
The G. Grace Gallery is located at 1205 Linden Avenue in Nashville’s 12 South neighborhood.