- An unlikely foursome’s dream of a gallery that welcomed all forms of expression by artists from all walks of life became a reality this year when they opened EsoArts.
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In January, artists Andrew Silvius, Zachary Walter, and Annie Roth, along with fourth co-owner and entrepreneur Chris Dreisbach, opened EsoArts, a 4,000-plus-square-foot gallery at 317 N. Queen St. In Lancaster.
Across two stories and the stairway connecting them, art adorns the walls from floor to ceiling. Oils, acrylics, mixed media, T-shirts, jewelry, pottery, candles, and furniture by more than 55 creators are on display.
Field trip gone graphic
The unlikely foursome didn’t set out to launch a gallery and event space. They just were trying to get sober. But over cigarettes, sharing life stories, and inviting one another to Lancaster arts events, they learned that each had a similar passion for visual expression.
Andrew’s fervor for art and subcultures was sparked at an early age. He looked up to his older stepbrother, who introduced him to the worlds of punk rock, skateboarding, and art. The spark turned into a raging fire during Andrew’s sixth-grade field trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. But it wasn’t the wild beasts that entranced him.
On that fateful trip, Andrew saw vandalism for the first time.
“I completely fell in love with graffiti,” he says. “The journey started there and then, you know, I couldn’t stop.”
At the front of EsoArts, Andrew’s working studio embraces floor-to-ceiling graffiti. His brand, crumbsLANC, encompasses bold graffiti-inspired wall and wearable art.
Ink and artistry
When Zach realized that the Ninja Turtles were drawn artwork, he was intrigued by the artistry behind animation. Sketching soon became his go-to escape, and it eventually evolved into ink art. Zach’s tattoo studio, Cactus Zach, is on the second floor of EsoArts.
For Annie, the experience of going from recovery to owning a business has been transformative. She writes on her Instagram: “If you would’ve told me five years ago I would own an art gallery, be an art therapist, have a family of my own, be a mother, have friends that are ACTUALLY like family, or even simply be alive, I promise you I wouldn’t have believed it. The life you want, the love you crave, and all things beautiful & magical are right past your self-limiting beliefs, judgment, fear & shitty people you surround yourself with.”
When the trio met Chris from Blueprints for Addiction Recovery, they began to form a vision of establishing an affordable space where fellow creatives could express themselves and display and sell their art.
Where art comes alive
The co-owners never envisioned creating just a gallery space. EsoArts is a place where art comes alive. Concerts, creative movement, and yoga have a home there. It even will host a wedding. Andrew wanted to create a space where art wasn’t censored and all were welcome.
“There needed to be a community space where artists of any demographic and socioeconomic background and sexual background and race were welcome,” Andrew says. “We have people in here who have dropped out of high school. We have people in here who have their master’s in fine art.”
At EsoArts, with the oversight and insight of Chris, they created a business plan that allowed them to offer space to artists for $70 to $150 per month. Artists typically rent a month at a time, and the walls are continually shifting. Renting out space for events also is key to sustaining the business. The building can accommodate just under 100 people.
Ultimately, Andrew, Zach, Annie, and Chris hope to expand into the unused portions of the building and create more working studio space for artists.
“We’re not here to be some fine-art gallery,” says Andrew. “We’re here to be a home and inspire vulnerability in our community. If someone feels like they’re good and ready and they’re willing and they want to be brave enough to put their work out there, we’re willing to show it for them.”