Taking the Leap

Words by BigLife Staff 

L’Anne Gilman is all for throwing caution to the wind and taking a leap of faith. But that’s about as much tolerance for clichés as she can muster. Just walk into Gilman Contemporary and see for yourself. If it’s not the origami-inspired wholesale jerseys and brightly colored steel animal sculptures by Gerado Hacer, the paintings of Kevin Sloan, where naturalism meets allegory, or the highly stylized photographs of Rodney Smith, then it might be the glass box around L’Anne serving as her office that clues you into the fact that she is one-of-a-kind.

Born in Chattanooga and schooled at University of North Carolina (it’s ok, she’s not a die-hard Tarheel fan), L’Anne once gave her parents quite the fright when she turned down a paying job in Washington, D.C. that was sure to put her (not inexpensive) degree in Art History from Chapel Hill to work for her, in order to move west to the Sun Valley where there was no promise of a job waiting for her.

It’s a story many Sun Valley transplants can relate to. It goes something like this: graduated college, had some friends moving to Sun Valley, packed up the car with plans to stay for the summer… yadda, yadda, and here we are 20 years later. But for L’Anne, that story involves getting to town and landing a job at the lauded and established Anne Reed Gallery, meeting the man who would become her husband, and some stories too sordid to tell (we jest)—we’ll just say there was a celebratory over-indulgence in certain libations, the Casino, some innocent flirting, and a question about whether or not the cutie who was to become her husband was of age. Save your judgment and your Mrs. Robinson jokes—L’Anne was in her very early 20s, and come to find out, so was he.

Her parents eventually chilled out about her move because L’Anne proved very resourceful. She worked in local galleries, learned the trade, and eventually opened her own cheap jerseys gallery. The fateful year—2007—was, as L’Anne says with her tongue firmly planted in her cheek and her silky Southern drawl, “A perfect year to open a gallery.” With the financial firestorm that followed in 2008, let’s vence just say, L’Anne might have lost some sleep worrying about the leap she took.

But she didn’t leap alone, and this is a point L’Anne is quick to make. Sure, she decided to quit her job at another gallery and open her own before she even had a space in mind or secured. Sure, she convinced two of her friends, Raine Kidder and Casey Hanrahan, and five artists to go with her into the unknown. And sure, she had no idea how this was all going to go down, but with the support of Raine and Casey, her husband Nick Gilman, and her parents (who had learned through the years to trust in L’Anne’s instincts and decisions), and because of L’Anne’s innate optimism—an optimism backed up by talent and resourcefulness—she willed Gilman Contemporary into being.

About opening her own gallery, L’Anne says, “I have always known I could not do what I do anywhere else.” She credits the people in this town who appreciate great art with making it all possible. Because of this, L’Anne is committed to giving back to the community in whatever ways she can. L’Anne says, “Being here and having the gallery has allowed me to The work with so many amazing people and has given me a chance to get even more involved with local non-profits by opening our space whenever possible.” Whether it’s supporting local artists like Wendel Wirth cheap jerseys and Lisa Wood or hosting a fundraiser, L’Anne and the Gilman team make it a point to be good neighbors—with really good taste.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “You can take the girl out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the girl.” Well, L’Anne is walking evidence of this. She says, “I miss the South all the time, and I’d probably be back there if I didn’t love it so much here.” When we finish our generous after-work glasses of wine (generous because we ordered two), L’Anne says to me, “I don’t know if every Southern girl dives in head first—except into a plate of fried food—but that’s just how I was raised. If you want to do something, then do it better than exercises you ever thought possible.”

And that, my
friends, is how
you take the leap.