GENEVA — Debbie Ferrell said she and her mother and daughter were looking for a new place to call home after living in Florida for many years.
“We decided it was time for a change and looked, literally, all over the world,” said the New Jersey native, who has also lived in California and Tennessee. “We were very meticulous about it.”
They created 13 criteria that their new town would need to meet, and guess what city ended up on top?
“Geneva met 12 of them,” said Ferrell, a former teacher who now owns the new Vines of New York Art Gallery on South Main Street.
“My mother, Zora, was looking for a medium-sized city, not congested, but having everything convenient to make our lives simpler,” Ferrell explained. “She grew up in New Jersey, so returning to the north with its beautiful seasons was kind of nostalgic for her. My daughter, Aggie, was looking for a walkable town with a good library and colleges, nice people and low crime.
“I was excited about the weather, the lake, mountains, waterfalls and fresh air,” Ferrell continued. “Geneva’s relaxed and friendly atmosphere, along with its location on the wine trail — great for our grapevine art — led us to want to call this town home.”
The only thing missing from their list, she said: an emergency veterinarian facility. Guess you can’t have everything.
The three of them packed everything they owned in pods and headed north.
They now live in a spacious and historic home at 772 S. Main St.
“We needed something large enough to accommodate a gallery and living space,” Ferrell said.
While teaching has been her principal occupation, Ferrell has been involved in art for many years, including involvement with a non-profit gallery in Keystone Heights in northern Florida, where she was the top-selling artist, a member of the governing board, and gallery designer.
Keystone Heights, maybe not so coincidentally, is on a body of water called Lake Geneva.
Ferrell also is a master basket weaver — she’s been at it for 32 years, and you can qualify for master status after 20 — as well as a painter who creates anything from traditional to abstract art.
In addition, she’s a gem enthusiast, making jewelry from an assortment of stones that some believe can affect physical and mental health positively when worn.
“I’m not saying I’m an expert at any type, I’m just enjoy all types (of mediums),” she said.
All this experience goes into her new art gallery — the grand opening is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 1, with an art walk taking place in the gallery from 5-8 p.m. The art walks will be held the first Friday of each month.
As for the grapevines, Ferrell uses them in her art work, including her weaved creations. She started using them while in Florida — yes, Florida has vineyards — but has hit the jackpot in the wine-crazy Finger Lakes.
The South Main Street home of her new gallery appears to be a perfect spot to showcase her creations. Built-in shelving makes for ideal displays for the art, while visitors will be astounded by the 9-foot-high doors and openings to each room.
“The building’s perfect. The location is perfect,” said Ferrell, who moved in about a month ago and has been spending about 18 hours a day setting up her new gallery, which will also feature a guest artist of the month. On sale for October are two prints by Salvador Dali, both signed by the famed surrealist artist.
Ferrell said she and her family are glad to be in Geneva, where they have found everyone welcoming and helpful.
“My mother says she loves it here and is never leaving,” she said with a laugh.