Longtime Ocracoke residents bring artwork to Washington

Published 10:34 pm Sunday, October 29, 2017

More than 25 years ago, Barbara Hardy secured a small gallery space for her artwork on Ocracoke Island.

She was looking for a new chapter, a venue outside of her home in which to display her jewelry. Hardy named her new space Secret Garden, drawing inspiration from the children’s literature novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

“My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Buck, here in Washington, would read to us every day after lunch, and I was just enthralled with it,” Hardy explained.

In the novel, the secret garden was once a place of despair, in which the manor’s mistress dies in an accident. Throughout the story, however, the garden becomes a place of rebirth and a new start. Ocracoke was Hardy’s new start, as was the 12-foot-by-16-foot gallery.

“I stayed for a few weeks, and then came back to Greenville, sold our house and moved down there,” Hardy said.

Hardy soon met her husband Bob Ray, and together they grew the studio into a more comprehensive gallery. Hardy’s son Kevin and his family moved to Ocracoke, as well.

Besides jewelry, Hardy is also a painter. Her husband paints figurative art and expressionist pieces and creates collages. Both enjoy displaying their artwork at shows.

“Over time the shop grew, oddly enough not with our artwork, though, because as the gallery developed down there, we had a lot of artists who did ocean scenes and beach scenes and lighthouses, and our work was so contemporary. We thought no one would want it, so we didn’t even display it,” Hardy recalled.

The interest in this contemporary style was there, however, and the couple realized they could successfully incorporate their own work into the gallery space.

When her son moved with his family back to Washington, Hardy said that was the main reason why she and Bob made the trek back across the sound and up the river. It was time for a new chapter — a new place for the Secret Garden.

“We were just ready for a change. … When I moved to Ocracoke that many years ago, it was what I needed, and it was the perfect spot for me, and now it’s not so much,” Hardy said. “We just said, ‘What the heck.’ When we started down there, we didn’t know if it would work or not, so we put everything in a truck and brought it up here.”

That’s how Secret Garden Gallery made its way to Main Street in Washington, officially opening a couple of weeks ago. Hardy and her husband Bob are making a new home, but yet, it already feels like home. Neither would have it any other way.

INSPIRATION: Barbara Hardy started Secret Garden Gallery more than 25 years ago. She was inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel “The Secret Garden.”