The Art of Making a Career Change

It is evident that a-r-t can be found in the word heart. Dreya Moore, co-owner of The Artist Studio & Gallery @ Annex 24, embodies that fact — she has put her heart into the art that is displayed and created at her downtown gallery and studio.

Dreya has worked since the age of 14. Her first job was with a nonprofit organization, working while on school break. She remembers being very enthusiastic about cashing her first paycheck and spending it. But, it was her wise mother, Jackie Moore-Ballard, who offered Dreya a fundamental life lesson – deposit that first check into a bank account and save it.

Today, Jackie is still offering her daughter sage advice, but this time as co-owner of The Artist Studio & Gallery @ Annex 24. This mother and daughter have always shared a deep love for art. Together, they also share a very loving and respectful relationship. But, who knew this close bond and a shared interest in art would lead them into opening their own business one day.

Dreya did not set out to become a business owner. After graduating from Philadelphia University in 2006 with degrees in science and chemistry, she went to work for a series of contract-research organizations. She points to her mother for her interest in chemistry – at the age of 8, she received her first chemistry set. “That was the greatest gift I ever received,” Dreya confides. “I’m going to become a chemist, Mommy,” she recalls telling her mother. That promise led her to becoming a biochemist, working in pharmaceuticals.

Art has always had a special place in Dreya’s life. She can remember standing on a milk crate at the age of 5 and ringing up sales with her mother, who had opened her first art gallery in South Philly’s Italian Market. Over the years, Dreya developed into an artist, delving into painting, mixed media, sculpture and jewelry.

Dreya has been married for six years to her husband, Christian. They are parents to their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Uli. It was during her pregnancy that Dreya became painfully aware that some companies are not sympathetic toward the needs of working mothers. While Dreya loved her job, she felt the needs of her infant daughter should be her priority.

Dreya’s opportunity for a “second act” arose when Annex 24 was put on the market in 2017. (She and her mother had been displaying artwork at the gallery for years.) Again, she relied on her mother’s wisdom in making her decision to become a business owner. She remembers her mother telling her, “Just try it; you have never failed at anything before.”

That mother-daughter relationship continues as business partners. “Mother mostly leaves things to me, but I run a lot of things past her,” Dreya notes, adding that her husband has always been supportive of the business in any way he can.

Under Dreya and Jackie’s direction, Annex 24 has become a haven for both seasoned and emerging artists to show their work. It also serves as a studio and an artisan space. It’s also a teaching space, where art classes (mixed media) and live demonstrations are offered to budding artists of all ages. Another specialty is creating something new upon request. “We like to reach the public any way we can,” Dreya remarks.

Dreya searches for work that is complete, beautiful and mature. Even if an artist is still growing and changing, she looks for the beauty in their work and anticipates what is coming next. She and Jackie take pride in giving emerging artists exposure. “Any relationship you build with your artists must be one of trust,” Dreya explains. They can’t trust their reputation to just anyone. Dreya works hard to develop trust with all her artists.

She strives to have her gallery walls tell a story without being obvious. She seeks to have all the different work look harmonious.

During the month of October, Annex 24 will be celebrating its 10th anniversary as a studio and gallery with a packed schedule of activities. The month begins with the opening of the art show, Petite, whose subject matter will be small-scale or miniature art. Annex 24 will also be a stop on the Lancaster County Best Kept Secrets Tour, October 4-20. Each day of the tour will offer a new activity, prize or gift for guests. Annex 24 will be participating in the annual Fall Art Walk, October 6-7, featuring artist demos, live music and free paint classes. The very popular Harry Potter Weekend is back, October 12-14, celebrating all things Harry Potter.

What are Dreya’s hopes for the future? “I want to establish long-running relationships with artists, and I also want to continue to have a broad base,” she says. She also vows to be a good neighbor. “I never want to forget that since we are in the community, we need to be an active member of the community,” she says.

Dreya likes to share her favorite saying, “Art yourself – go out and make art, go out and purchase art. Don’t be afraid to fail.”

The Artist Studio & Gallery @ Annex 24 is located at 24 W. Walnut Street in Lancaster. Hours are Thursday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Friday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. (9 p.m. on First Fridays) and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information, call 717-341-0028 or visit annex24gallery.com and Facebook.

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