By Delia Engstrom
A brilliant blue door beckons visitors at 9409 Battle Street in Historic Manassas. Inside, they’re welcomed up the stairs and into the vibrant world of McCall Studio Gallery.
Owner Denise McCall is a visual communicator, who also owns DMVisual LLC, an award-winning design studio specializing in custom branding services. McCall Studio Gallery opened in March 2017 after she purchased and renovated the Battle Street building that would become home to her new venture. In Historic Manassas, McCall feels that she “gets the best of both worlds, as it’s a small city, but has so much to offer with the arts.” The building dates back to 1905 and serves as the perfect canvas for the wonderfully diverse collection of art that she showcases.
New Business, but Experienced Expert
McCall may be a new business owner in Manassas, but her design studio opened in 1988 after she graduated from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art. McCall put her design and branding services to work freelancing with several organizations before working with the American Red Cross in Philadelphia.
“For over ten years, I served in various capacities, such as staff artist, art director, and production manager,” she said. Relocations due to her husband’s U.S. Navy career brought her opportunities to gain new corporate clients across the country, such as the American Advertising Federation, while still serving
as a long-distance consulting partner with the Red Cross.
During these military moves, McCall also pursued advanced certifications from Moore College of Art and Design as well as Rhode Island School of Design. In 2005, she attended the Executive Design Leadership Program at Harvard Business School and gained additional knowledge to aid her as a business professional.
Integrating into the Local Community
When all of her years of education and design experience brought her to Virginia, McCall wanted to share that knowledge with others, so she joined the Prince William Chamber of Commerce. She also serves as an adjunct professor of visual communications at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria.
A few years ago, as McCall started searching for studio space, she came upon the brick building on Battle Street. “I started to look for just an office space for my studio, but the architecture I found inspired me to showcase art as well,” she said. And with that inspiration, the expansive new space became home to her
newest venture, in the form of a public art gallery.
The main area of McCall Studio Gallery serves as a finely curated gallery/gift shop, offering fine art that is available for purchase from local and national artists, including pieces from McCall’s personal portfolio. Drawings, paintings and photography are all framed to museum-quality standards and presented with an
expert touch. Smaller works of art, in addition to vintage items and exquisite jewelry (some made by McCall herself), adorn display cabinets, and a leather sofa encourages shoppers to take a reprieve and absorb the art.
Down the hall, another room offers a seasonally rotating museum collection. Two new exhibits were featured during McCall Studio Gallery’s 1st Annual New Year’s Event. Live music added to the festive atmosphere as Denise unveiled “Travel Art Around the World” and “White House Art & Artifacts.”
Guests were treated to personal stories from a local artist and fun anecdotes from a former White House usher as they enjoyed appetizers, refreshments and a special dessert made from a White House recipe.
Art History Aficionados Rejoice
McCall also provides highly informative art-history tours of a private collection of paintings, illustrations and graphic art spanning the last century. Reasonably priced at $10 ($8 for students and 10 percent military discount), her personal tour adds yet another unique and educational component to the space
that is appealing to student or church groups, as well as friends and families visiting Historic Manassas. The rear of the gallery offers a generous meeting space that is available for rental and is furnished with period pieces acquired from a multi-generational military family.
McCall Studio Gallery is open 12:00 p. m. – 5:00 p. m. Monday through Saturday and by appointment on Sundays. Clients are served during morning studio hours when McCall fulfills their
advertising and branding needs. “I create anything from logos to vehicle wraps and everything in between,” she said. For someone who felt Manassas offered her the best of both worlds, McCall is
hard at work offering her best back to the community.
Andrea Short, executive director of Leadership Prince William, said, “Originally, we were only really aware of this one facet of her business—the graphic design services. Then we started to become aware of her depth as a business owner and as a member of the community. She owns her building in Historic Manassas, runs an art gallery and museum, runs a design firm…the list goes on. Denise never stops learning and never stops growing, so her business can’t become stagnant. That constant evolution is
important in the life of any business.”
McCall reflected on her artistic endeavors: “Artists are always aware of opportunities for self-improvement. I try not to limit myself creatively. If it comes to mind, I just do it.”
To schedule a tour of the private collection or to discuss your design needs with McCall, please contact her at 571-379-7598 or [email protected]. More information can be found online at dmvisualgallery.com.
Delia Engstrom ([email protected]) is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in Prince William County.