Three-decades-old Gallery 1 is undergoing something of a renaissance. If you haven’t visited recently, make the trip – I’m confident you’ll find the climb up the 19-step staircase, to the building’s second floor, worth the effort.

Gallery 1 is newly spruced up, sporting fresh coats of paint; years-worth of stored items have been hauled out, opening additional room for artists; a professional hanging system has been installed, the better to showcase members’ art; and a number of newcomers, some with experience and others newly emerged on the local arts scene, are involved.

And, the name – Gallery 1 – now includes the group, as well as the space they show in. That former something-of-a-mouthful designation, Jackson County Visual Arts Society, is no more.

Why the changes? Mainly, watercolorist Pamela Haddock is hard at work with Gallery 1, pumping her considerable energies and talents into rejuvenating the organization. It’s her way of saying thank you. Gallery 1 helped jump-start Haddock’s nascent art career.

In the early 1990s, she entered a painting into a juried show held at the gallery. To her family’s delight and her surprise, Haddock’s painting won the People’s Choice award. (Known today primarily for exquisitely rendered landscapes, she is amused, or maybe bemused, by her younger-artist-self’s choice of subject matter. “Why did I paint a wolf?” she questioned herself last week as we chatted.)

Already bolstered by the enthusiastic support of her husband, Earl, and the couple’s two children, recognition through Gallery 1 provided the artist the validation she needed, at the moment she needed it most.

Since then, she’s become a signature member of the Watercolor Society of North Carolina, winning the Arches/Cotman Award in 2011. That same year, the Southern Watercolor Society named her its Winsor Newton award winner.

Then, six years ago, Pamela and Earl Haddock’s son died in a rock-climbing accident near Lake Lure.

It was, I thought as we talked, for her as Dante describes: “In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost. It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was.”

To see grief through a painter’s eyes, you need only to look at Haddock’s newer work, a series of studies on rock faces and boulders in the landscape.

When her son, Joshua, died, the 29-year-old, a graduate of Smoky Mountain High School, Western Carolina University and the University of Colorado, had been finishing his dissertation, in philosophy, at the University of Cincinnati.

This summer’s timing, to help with Gallery 1 – well, it felt right, Haddock said. Her husband has been at her side, helping to clean and improve the gallery space.

“It’s not something you get over,” she said. “You don’t need to get over it, frankly. It’s always there. But, I’ve only got so much life left, and I’m going to use what I have left and make something good come out of it.”

Right now, that means helping other artists. “Anyone who wants to try to do art, we want to encourage them. We are not going to turn people away,” Haddock said. “We are all on the same journey, just at different points on the path.”

Ellison is editor of The Sylva Herald.

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Gallery 1 is above Guadalupe Cafe at 604 W. Main St. in Sylva. Lambert Hooper donates the space to the citizens of this community for the promotion of art appreciation. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.