Next time you visit the Museum Shop, you'll see a few changes - in the layout and displays of merchandise, and, most notably, in the person who manages the shop. She's Shari Corley, newly named Special Projects Coordinator, who replaces the just-retired Karen Olson.
A native of Annapolis, Maryland, Shari brings a wealth of experience in retail management - more than 20 years, much of it in national chains such as Jones New York, Dillard's and Lillian Vernon-as well as spending the early part of her career as a gallery director. It's hard to imagine a more perfect candidate to take over the Museum Shop. Ironically, she virtually fell into our laps.
Shari and her husband, Bob, had relocated to Myrtle Beach in 1998, when she had been recruited to manage the Jones New York store in the Tanger Outlet Center. When that job ended, she moved on to Lillian Vernon as a District Manager but she was itching to get back into the art world and offered to volunteer at the Art Museum. From working the front desk, she was soon helping out with Museum events like the Spring Tour of Homes, assisting Karen in the Museum Shop and subbing for her during vacations. With her gallery background, it was just a matter of time before she was assisting curator Liz Miller to hang new art exhibitions.
Shari describes her new job as melding her retail background with an art "hat," but with an important difference.
"At the Museum I have the opportunity to have a more personal relationship with the artists who create some of our merchandise," she says, noting that the Shop sells not only prints, note cards and other items commissioned by the artists who exhibit in the Museum, but some original items as well. Artist William Miller, whose exhibition What You See Is What You Get currently is on display in the first-floor galleries, has created some special pieces for sale in the Museum, she notes. There are also handmade, one-of-a-kind dolls by Georgetown artist Zenobia Washington, which she says "really have a strong story to tell" and offer a personal experience for buyers.
"I love the merchandising aspect of running the Shop," she says. "When you create a display, you're telling a story that gives your customers a bit of inspiration. That's always been one of my favorite aspects of retail."
How does she choose what to include in the Shop? First, she aims for a variety of types of merchandise: some fashion items; some artwork, both from classic and contemporary artists; and some practical items like stationery. She keeps an eye on what's happening in the fashion world as well as the art world through publications and through her own research. And she looks to changing seasons as well as the Museum's changing exhibits for inspiration on the look of the Shop as well as the merchandise she selects.
For example, the upcoming
summer exhibit Making Waves | A Drew Brophy Retrospective. "So I'm thinking what I can find with a surfing theme that would complement the exhibit and ensure our summer guests have something unique to take home with them."
In between managing the gift shop, helping with events and with new exhibitions, Shari also wears the "hat" of Volunteer Coordinator. How does she juggle all those hats?
"It's never boring," she says with a laugh.