If it’s wrong to fall in love with a gas station I don’t want to be right. It’s not just that someone offers to look under my hood every time I fill up or that one of the attendants hand delivered my debit card to my house minutes after I left it there or that they have music CD giveaways, although those things could give anyone a good case of the warm fuzzies. No, the Village Exxon goes above and beyond: they support local businesses, charities and artists in a way I haven't noticed anywhere else while pumping gas.
I first knew something special was going on between the exhaust fumes and oil changes the day I asked the dark eyed, dark haired woman holding a
in a pink sweater behind the counter for quarters to vacuum out my car. As she handed
me my change, she started talking about authors, poetry and the novel she was in the midst of writing. I lit up. There's nothing like finding literature outside of an expected institution. Over the months, as I read Exxon's Customer Service Administrator, Hope Whitby's book
reviews and artists interviews included at the end of each of the station’s electronic newsletter, I knew I’d
discovered something really special. Chihuahua
As Hope and I continued to talk about literature and music and the local arts scene, she told me about her most recent efforts to organize “Art in the Shop, The Photography of Scott Pels,” a benefit for The Wounded Warrior Project.
marriage of form and function. But what successful marriages, I wondered, aren't unusual? And who wouldn't love the opportunity to blend culture and charity and a good fill up? I was immediately taken with this unusual
Why, I asked Hope, do you feel moved to support local artists from behind the desk of a filling station and auto repair shop? “Being an artist is often a hard life to live and sometimes lonely,” she says. “An artist is often overlooked or maybe even misunderstood, so if there is an opportunity for me support an artist or give him or her a platform, I’m there. Art enriches our community with beauty, it educates our children, it mirrors our society and inspires change, and it can foster an appreciation for cultural differences.”
Excellent! Why then did you choose the photography of Scott Pels for Exxon’s first art opening? “Scott Pels has a gift," says Hope, who gave the 25 year old chef his first official sale two years ago, purchasing one of his photographs of the Byrd Theatre chandelier. "He has an eye for capturing the snapshots of our everyday lives and giving it back to us with romance, charm, and respect. I appreciate how he approaches his subjects and the dedication he has in revealing that picture to his audience. There was no other choice for me, but to recommend him for the show.”
Fabulous! Why then will the proceeds from this opening benefit the Wounded Warrior Project? "They are a non-profit that provides a complete rehabilitative effort to assist wounded service members as they recover and transition back into civilian life," says Hope. "The owner of the station, Jim McKenna, admires the work they do and wanted to give back to them by having a yearlong fundraising campaign. Helping veterans is dear to Jim, because his father, James McKenna, Sr., served during World War II and was taken prisoner. Jim, Sr, later founded the first chapter for POWs in
. This art show and the fundraising
drive is dedicated to the memory of James McKenna, Sr." Richmond
“I’m excited and a little bit nervous at the same time," says Scott Pels, a native of Charlottesville who moved to Richmond at age 3. "It’s something that I’ve never really done before.” Scott first became interested in photography in the fall of 2008 and joined the Camera Club of Richmond in 2009. After submitting his work and winning numerous wards, he started taking his new hobby a little more seriously.
So far he has focused on shooting nature, architecture, landscapes, portraits and anything else that catches the eye of his Canon 60D, a digital single lens reflex camera, the shots sometimes enhanced with photoshop. Scott loves venturing downtown, to the James River, the fan area, Shockoe Bottom,
, Goochland and Maymont to find subjects that appeal. At the opening this Sunday, prints of his work will be available for purchase, order or to be framed upon request. Hollywood Cemetery
And, if it goes well, Hope plans to organize more arts in the shop. "It’s a great space to host our neighbors and bring awareness for a great charity," she says. "We are considering a poetry event in April and a silent auction in the early summer."
Even if my tank's already full, I know where my car will be parked this Sunday. I hope to see yours there, too.
Enjoy the photography of Scott Pels, live jazz by
and O’Leary and refreshments on Sunday, February 26 from 1-4 pm at the Village Exxon. All proceeds from the $10 admission price benefit the Wounded WarriorProject. Moore
Contact Scott Pels at 804-200-9592, Scottpels@yahoo.com or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Scott-Pels-Photography/51086474316.