The gallery is only open Saturdays and Sundays - and even then the hours are just from 1-5 p.m.
However, don’t ever doubt that this little treasure trove of goodies located on West Franklin in downtown Waxahachie doesn’t have a lot going on behind the scenes since it opened in 1994. Specializing in art and antiques, Webb Gallery’s owners, Bruce and Julie Webb, have been making a name for themselves ever since.
When they bought the building 13 years ago they not only gave the public space their own personal touch of panache, but they moved in upstairs as well. Indeed, if you want to get a glimpse of a unique gallery, then this is it - and there’s a good chance you will find what you are looking for as long as it’s a one-of-a-kind.
From folk art to fraternal order memorabilia to circus banners and everything in between, this place is all about offering a touch of the eclectic - excluding anything that might resemble the run-of-the-mill standard fare.
“We have always shown what we liked and were interested in,” Julie said, pointing to a circus banner hanging on the wall. “We have done a number of exhibits of antique circus and carnival banners. For example, that banner on the wall has been used at a circus side show midway - a freak show.”
Webb Gallery prides itself on being completely different than any other gallery.
“We do have a focus on art and antiques and lot of handmade objects,” Julie said, “but there are also a couple of areas where we also specialize. Bruce has a specialty in fraternal orders like Masonic and Odd fellows and he is very knowledgeable about the history of those things and their articles and their pieces from the lodges and, of course, the carnival banners.”
Carnival banners aside, the store is packed with hidden finds.
“You could easily say there are over 1,000 pieces,” Bruce said.
However, they don’t own everything.
“Every artist is different,” Bruce said. “Some things we have are estate and some things belong to other galleries and some things we own.”
And, while it could be easy to get caught up in the actual number of pieces they own and show on any given day, Julie adds, “We don’t even like to think about it in terms of numbers. I think it is better to think about it in terms of the range of things like wood carvings and drawings and collages and sculpture and welded metal pieces and so many different types of objects, but somehow they all fit together.”
Bruce and Julie moved to Waxahachie in 1987, living in a house before buying the old downtown space that was once a paint company that also sold art supplies.
“We used to look in the windows of this building and it had been closed for about 10 years and we always thought what a great place it would be,” Bruce said.
When they heard it was up for sale they called the same afternoon to get the ball rolling.
Even now, the Webbs have left remnants of its old owners, with samples of the paints still in sight.
Bruce grew up in Richardson and took some art classes at Richland College before finding his true calling, which includes driving around the country looking for the diamonds in the rough that are sold at the gallery.
Julie grew up in Garland and, in addition to the gallery, she teaches yoga and belly dancing.
Both are self-taught.
“We try to learn by looking,” Julie said. “We have looked and tried to educate ourselves by just getting out there. And, not just getting out there and looking at the things that we like and show. We have gone to look at modernists and things that we can educate ourselves about and know how to appreciate them.”
And, while these gallery owners are always happy to greet customers on weekends, Bruce notes, “The real work goes on here during the week.”
His trips have taken him as far away as New England, where he said he finds the best of the hidden gems, most of the time packing his suburban truck to overstuffing.
“I go on trips - nine-day trips to New England - and by the time I get back every square inch of my suburban is completely packed. I have even had to rent a trailer to pull behind it before,” he said. “A lot of dealers say you can’t find anything good anymore and everything is picked over, but I continually find great stuff - you just have to be out there and looking.”
Being open only on the weekends also means they can take off during the week too, for example, to Nebraska, where Bruce said, “To find the really cool, old stuff you really have to get out and go the back roads - the high roads and by roads - and that is what I really love anyway, is the discovery of things.”
What they are mainly looking for is what they both love to collect, so it can be anything from the tried and true items they love to new interests.
“People ask us all the time what is this place, what do you have here, what do you show?” Julie said. “Artists are always contacting us too and it is very difficult to answer those questions. Bruce and I know what we like and we show what we like. We do have a focus and the art is pretty broad and naive and the antiques are handmade objects that are interesting. We always have a cohesive look, but you can’t describe it.”
“We will get into something and just get really obsessed with that thing,” Bruce said.
In pursuit of their obsession they have traveled around the world, but the bottom line is that Webb Gallery is about the art.
“I think that is the deal about art,” Julie said. “It doesn’t have to be something that you come in here and like or dislike, but you should be able to come in here and find something that you can appreciate.”
“Or that you can identify with,” Bruce adds.
To that end the gallery owners like to keep matters simple, offering treasures anywhere from $5 to $5,000.
“We want things to be affordable for anybody who wants to own something,” Julie said. “It is not about spending a certain amount like everything has to be in the three to five hundred dollar range, it is more that there is something for everyone. If you come in and want to take something away with you then anybody should be able to afford it.”
They have a huge stack of paintings upstairs by one of their artists - and they all cost just $5.
“We are lucky enough to be able to do this and enjoy it so we try to make it fun for the people who come here,” Julie said.
In addition to their art, the Webbs also represent about 40 artists, both living and dead.
“There are not very many living anymore,” Julie said. “There are probably only 10 artists that we represent ongoing that are living.”
Most of the artists are or were self-taught, as well.
“In the early ’80s, there were several big exhibitions that traveled around the country,” Bruce said. “One was black folk art in America that started at a gallery in Washington, D.C., and that kicked off everything in the world of folk art, especially African-American artists that were completely self-taught. Most of them were elderly when they started working and often they had retired and they had time to start making art. We started to go out and visit the artists and a lot of it was just making trips through the Deep South.”
Because of their visits and particular interests, the gallery has many original pieces that can’t be found anywhere else.
“There is a lot of work we have had a long time and we have not sold a piece in like five years,” Bruce said. “But we are the only place in the country or even the world where you can find that particular artist’s work. There are a number of people who have bought and we have sold work to museums and universities and hospitals and a lot of different private collections.”
Often too, the gallery will have shows for specific artists.
“Sometimes we will have an art show just because we will see someone’s art that we really like,” Julie said. “We don’t necessarily want to represent them ongoing, but we want to show it. So we pull together an idea of how we can bring this person into the gallery and have a show and we do that about three times a year.”
In addition to the Waxahachie location, Webb Gallery also has pieces of its collections at a shop on Haskell and Central Expressway in Dallas and also in Austin at Uncommon Objects on 6th Street.