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Sybil Godwin of Shain Gallery is a native Charlottean who is going places

People of Charlotte, meet Sybil Godwin— art lover, business owner, mother, and native Charlottean! Sybil owns the Shain Gallery, which has a wide-ranging and impressive collection of art. As a lifelong art enthusiastic, she wants people to know that art collecting is more accessible than you might think. The Shain Gallery (on Selwyn Ave.) has a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and includes pieces in a wide range of styles. Check out their next show on July 12, featuring emerging Charlotte artists.

When did your interest in art begin?

Art has always been part of my life. My aunt is an artist, and growing up I was surrounded by her art in my home—which I loved. My parents always encouraged me to do my own art, drawing and painting. And we went to a lot of museums. I continued with my own art into college, and even sold a few of my paintings. Once I graduated from college, I started working in galleries. I stopped selling my own art and started selling other people’s.

You were the director of the Shain Gallery before becoming the owner. Can you talk about that transition?

When Gaby Shain (the founder and previous owner of the gallery) hired me, she was looking to step back and moving toward the end of her gallery owner career. She gave me a lot of autonomy as the director. I already knew how to run a gallery because I previously worked in a gallery in Atlanta, and the owner was never there. I pretty much did everything. So when Gaby was ready to retire, it was a natural progression for me to continue here as the owner. The biggest change and challenge were the financial aspects. That was a learning curve with that.

Interestingly, you, your director, and your sales associate are women who are native Charlotteans. Does that commonality bring anything special to the business?

I think it does. It’s so fun to have people come in and recognize one of us from the past and have that reconnection. Eli (Cordell), Kimberly (Duncan), and I grew up in different areas of Charlotte, so between the three of us, we sort of cover all the bases. It’s also fun because they’re younger, so they experience Charlotte in a different way than I do, and that keeps it interesting.

How would you describe the variety of art and artists represented here?

We represent everything from hyperrealism to very abstract. And we try to cater to all tastes and budgets. We have a wide range of artwork, and at least once a month we have a show that is open to the public. It might be photorealism or abstract flowers, it varies. We have artists from around the country and even a few international artists. But we also have a large concentration of local Charlotte artists—as well as others from around North Carolina. We love to support artists in our community however we can.

You’re also the new owner of Paper Skyscraper, which is a Charlotte institution. Tell us about that.

Yes, my husband Bill and I are excited to be the new owners of Paper Skyscraper. It’s so cool, because my husband remembers riding his bike past the store when he was growing up here. Bill worked in banking and was ready for a change when he heard about the possibility of Paper Skyscraper becoming available. We mulled it over for several months and when the opportunity presented itself for us to buy it, we thought, “Let’s do it!”  

Should people expect changes now that the store is under new ownership?

No! We love it the way it is, just like everyone else here. We plan to keep it going just as it has always been. And the previous owners are going to be with us through the end of the year, so we’re learning everything we can from them. We want to make sure the store is in good hands and continue with what they’ve created.

What would you say to someone who loves art and wants start collecting, but feels intimidated by the idea?

I totally understand that walking into an art gallery can be intimidating. That’s why we work hard to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome. I especially love when we get young people who are ready to buy their first piece of artwork. I know they’re going to get hooked, because that’s what usually happens. I want people to know that art collecting isn’t just for wealthy people. We have some pieces around $100, and many pieces under $500. In fact, at our upcoming show of emerging Charlotte artists almost everything is under $1000. It’s a great opportunity for someone who is looking to start collecting and wants to support local artists.

What do you love about living in Charlotte?

One of my favorite things is driving around is seeing where my grandparents lived and where my husband’s grandparents lived. I love that my little girls have that legacy, and I feel lucky that we have that special connection here.

Any favorite places to go?

Right now, I’m loving Superica restaurant in the South End. It’s the best Tex Mex food! What’s really cool is that it’s located in a building where the Spaghetti Warehouse used to be. I grew up with my dad taking my dad and my two sisters there to eat every weekend, and now my new favorite restaurant is located there. So there are good memories associated with that area for me.

You’re a mom of two young girls. How do you balance being a business owner and a mom?

I’m very lucky because I have a lot of help in order for me to do this. I have Eli and Kimberly here, if I have to leave. And I have a great nanny at home, in addition to wonderful parents and in-laws that help with my girls. It takes a village!


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Check out Mixed Nuts: A story and discussion about diversity and inclusion for children



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