Ami Hill gazes around her new gallery Muse Originals OBX. “I don’t have talent like this, she says, as she gestures to the art that fills the venue to the brim.

But if you look closely at the choices Hill has made in her décor and furnishings, she’s creatively fashioned an old-time beach road shop with the materials she’s used to house and hang the art of 54 artists.

The shop is right on the beach road in Kitty Hawk, just a stone’s throw from the sea. She left the concrete floor as is. Her counter is made out of old windows from her mother-in-law’s house in Virginia Beach. Wooden pallets front the counter, and it’s trimmed with cedar with a plywood top. Sand fencing hangs on the cinder block walls so she can install two-dimensional art on it.

These touches go well with the coastal art — with eighty percent of the work created by Outer Banks artists.

There are lyrically painted, tropical scenes, waves, and fauna by Brad Voyuvich, who favors oil pens. Stephanie Kiker features aboriginal-style designs with a coastal twist. Harry Meraklis, who goes by Harryfish, has several colorful fish portraits on display.

There are mosaics featuring sand dollars and sailboats, windows graced with sea glass, colorful stones and sea stars, a mosaic boogie board, and original paintings and prints by Meg Rubino featuring surfers, mermaids, sea scenes, schools of fish and sand castles. Rubino’s work has a nostalgic feel and, to be corny, simply makes you smile.

Of note is the hand crafted wooden furniture by Stephanie Wills. Combining reclaimed and repurposed wood and metal she’s crafted a number of tables and a memorable couch with a design that joins old world with coastal kitsch.

In the back of the shop is a glass blowing studio where David Pipkin of Kill Devil Hills works. He’s been crafting wine decanters with unique aerators featuring glass jellyfish tentacles.

Nearby is a rack of T-shirts that feature artwork by artists in the shop and the business logo that was designed by Hill and her creative business partner, Melissa Minkowski who, as the creative director, does all the T-shirt designs. Some of the shirts are heat activated and actually change colors.

“They were popular one year when I was a kid,” says Hill. “So, I always wanted one.”

Once Hill, from Virginia Beach, decided to open her beach art gallery, she started visiting art shows, coming to the OBX every weekend. She picked up business cards of the artists she liked. They were invited to an open house in February. Those original people told their friends, and the list of artists showcasing work at Muse grew.

This includes photographers and jewelry designers. Dawn Vinson crafts earrings and bracelets with cork that’s waterproof and doesn’t fray. Other offerings include fused glass pendants, and Carolina Coto jewelry designs that feature mini works of art.

Opening Muse on March 26 was a lifelong dream come true for Hill, who was formerly in the marketing and advertising business.

While she has her hands full as a mother of four children, her business focus is of utmost important to her. It’s all about helping artists.

“These people, to me, should be able to make money with their talent,” she says.

Talented artists featured in a creative setting just close enough to hear the sea. That’s some dream come true.

Mary Ellen Riddle has been writing the Coast’s art column for more than 20 years and brings to her work a BFA in painting from East Carolina University and a profound passion for the role the arts play in society.


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