Artist Carmen Shenk, formerly chef and co-owner at Jimmy Anderson's Casual Gourmet has started a new venture in Staunton, Virginia, called “geSHENKe, a fine art and live music experience.” Geschenke is the German word for presents and “Shenk” is the artist's last name, so the business name became “geSHENKe”.
Shenk is a jewelry designer, photographer, and works in textiles as well as a variety of other art media. Color is a common theme in her work, and her new gallery features the joyful exuberance of vivid colors and textures. GeSHENKe is an art gallery featuring Shenk's work along with the work of a dozen or so artist friends from around the region whose work is not otherwise in the Staunton market. The gallery includes studio work space, and space for classes and workshops. The gallery will have a musical component and features a piano and other musical instruments that are also available for sale. Shenk's husband, Xaver Wilhelmy, provides piano tuning and repair as well as pipe organ tuning, voicing, and restoration services.
When Shenk returned to the Shenandoah Valley in 2000, she started work as a fine art consultant at William Grover Gallery in Bacova and Hot Springs, Virginia. In 2004 she opened Charis Designs, a boutique art gallery, in Warm Springs Virginia and became an award winning jewelry designer with her designs featured on the back cover of print publications and online. Shenk was on the board of directors at Oasis Gallery in Harrisonburg, and was Director of Exhibits for a number of years. Shenk moved from Bath County to Staunton in 2006 and met Xaver Wilhelmy and the pair married in 2012 in the building known as “Jimmy Anderson's”. Together they opened Jimmy Anderson's Casual Gourmet which was a neighborhood restaurant favorite on Springhill Road just north of the duck pond in Gypsy HillPark. They closed the restaurant in June 2014 to pursue other interests, and sold the building to Chef Mike Lund.
When asked what she misses about the restaurant, Shenk invariably replies that she misses having fresh bread, crispy Kunzler bacon, and fresh produce at her fingertips at all times. She misses the farmers and producers from around the region who became friends. She says she doesn't miss the day to day demands of managing a staff, creating an ever-changing menu, sourcing, and the administrative work required to manage a restaurant. Shenk and Wilhelmy hosted a concert series in the restaurant featuring classical and jazz piano music, and those concerts were a highlight of their time as restaurant owners.
As Shenk and Wilhelmy closed the restaurant, conversation invariably changed to plans for the future. And together they decided it was time for Shenk to return to her roots as an artist and art gallery owner. “I often have people in the gallery who express their sadness at the close of Jimmy Anderson's and it's really kind of people to say such great things about that place.” However, Shenk says it's a difficult playing field when you make a meal completely from scratch and compete against restaurants who order food from Sysco, warm it, and serve it for the same price. “It's different in the art world”, Shenk says. “It is easier for people to tell the difference between a plastic mass marketed product and a one-of-a-kind work made by a skilled artisan.”
Shenk is delighted to again be a small business owner in Staunton, Virginia. She loves being surrounded by beautiful artwork and believes the community will appreciate the art and music offered at her gallery. “In a world of cheap plastic imports, it's great to see artisans at work creating beautiful hand made things that will last.” Visit geSHENKe and enjoy a selection of beautiful fine art and craft made by some of the Shenandoah Valley's finest artists.
“I landed on my feet, this is the right gig for me.” Shenk says. When you visit the gallery and take a look around, you will agree. She did indeed.