Ex-Barnes director Camp opens Collingswood gallery

Galerie Marie in Collingswood is named for owner Kimberly Camp's mother, who taught her to sew and draw. Camp is known for her dolls. RON TARVER / Staff Photographer
Galerie Marie in Collingswood is named for owner Kimberly Camp's mother, who taught her to sew and draw. Camp is known for her dolls. RON TARVER / Staff Photographer
Posted: July 14, 2013

Former Barnes Foundation director Kimberly Camp has administered museums around the country. Her artwork - paintings and dolls - has been shown far and wide.

But the Camden-born and -raised artist never has had her own gallery until now.

Her Galerie Marie opens at 11 a.m. Saturday at 709 Haddon Ave., Collingswood.

"This is the first time I've had my own gallery," said Camp, 56, while getting ready for a reception Friday in the gallery.

The gallery is named for her mother, who taught her to sew and draw. She died in 2007.

"She always wanted me to have a gallery," said Camp, who grew up over her father's dental practice.

She started painting at 11 and had her first show at 12 - a sidewalk sale in front of her art teacher Narcissa Weatherbee's Woodbury home. "I sold everything," she said.

Retirement from administrating brought her home to South Jersey. While at the Barnes, she lived in Wynnewood. After the Barnes, she went to work in Washington state, planning a museum.

She retired from there at the end of 2011. She thought about moving to Washington, D.C.

Then she came to Philadelphia for last year's opening of the Barnes' new home on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

"My friends and family said, 'We love you, we miss you. Move back,' " she said.

She started looking around. She bought 709 Haddon two days after Hurricane Sandy and set out remodeling, turning the ground floor into a gallery and a craft nook. Upstairs is her residence and painting studio.

"It's been a labor of love," Camp said.

But her return hasn't been a silent one.

She has written a memoir, "Defending the Dead: The Totally True Story about the Barnes Foundation Transformation," which she is trying to get published.

A blog post in which she said bankruptcy was not the reason for the foundation's controversial move to the city from Merion and that the foundation had a cash surplus recently resulted in the Friends of the Barnes, a group that fought the move, going to court to try to have the case reopened.

On Friday, Camp said she was standing by her statements - including that the move did not break Albert C. Barnes' trust.

"Dr. Barnes in his own papers said it should move to Philadelphia if it can't survive in Merion," she said.

She put blame for the long-running Barnes dispute on what she called harassment by Lower Merion Township officials and the Barnes' former neighbors, as well as large funders, whom she said would not give substantial support if the foundation stayed in Merion.

Camp called the new quarters "wonderful," although she said entering them initially gave her a feeling of inaccessibility. When asked if she would have supported a move had there not been hostility in Merion and an unwillingness to give by large funders, Camp said, "Probably not."

For now, she has a gallery to run. It features her own work as well as other artists'.

And she is enjoying her new hometown.

"It's a wonderful little town," Camp said. "It's close to downtown Philly. It's diverse. It's business-forward. And I have a whopping, stair-high commute."

Galerie Maria is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. this Saturday because of Collingswood's Second Saturday festivities. It normally will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Contact Rita Giordano at 856-779-3893, rgiordano@phillynews.com or on Twitter at ritagiordano.

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