Perquimans County’s Best Kept Secret

By: Ron Ben-Dov

Velvet Sanford, the Perquimans County Arts League (PAL) treasurer, overheard a patron exclaim, “I had no idea that Hertford had a public gallery with such wonderful art!” Ironically, PAL’s active members hear comments like this all too often. Despite having been in operation for nearly 25 years, PAL is unknown to many local residents. A group of interested citizens formed the Perquimans Arts League in 1995, and its first home was in a corner of the old library building on Academy Street. Subsequently, PAL leased space in the Hall of Fame building at 109 N. Church Street, which remains its current location. This venue is both a blessing and a curse. While occupying very nice space in this multi-tenant building, it does not have a “street front presence” to make it prominent in the Town of Hertford. PAL is effectively a “word of mouth” organization where a friend tells a friend or its artists inform their followers of its existence. Ironically, artists discovered PAL early on and saw it as an effective place to display and market their art. Today, PAL has over 100 artist members that present their arts and crafts in the gallery. In fact, many of PAL’s artists are high skilled, award winning practitioners of all of the arts from other geographic areas. Kazuko Fuller, a well-known jewelry maker from the Hampton Roads Virginia area, maintains an inventory here and has a significant following of customers. Shirley Whitenack from Carrolton Virginia, who is a prominent professional photographer and teacher, displays her high quality prints in the PAL gallery.

Although a large percentage of artists display in galleries throughout the region, they find that PAL provides a great environment for their art. Many of these artists are competent clinicians who lead seminars and master classes in their respective genres. PAL has a spring member show each year to enable its artists to compete for awards. As a part of these shows, PAL brings in leading fine art professors and artists to judge the work.

PAL holds seminars and classes to enable its artists and members to learn new skills and techniques. Regional, national and international artists lead these learning opportunities. Just this year, PAL brought in Ken Hobson from Greensboro and Ryan Fox from Raleigh to teach workshops in watercolor painting.

While these initiatives make PAL a first class organization, its work with the Perquimans County Schools is even more impressive. PAL regularly conducts workshops, classes and demonstrations for elementary, middle school and high school students. As examples, the organization sponsored a free 5-day summer art camp for students this past June, hosted a dance troupe residency and performance at Perquimans Middle School, hosted an Art Day performance at Hertford Grammar School, sponsored an interactive storytelling performance at Perquimans Central in November and is currently conducting an after school art class at the Hertford Housing Authority for students. These are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition, PAL is helping to fund the transportation cost to enable students from Hertford Grammar to see a play at the College of the Albemarle this month. It does not end there. PAL provides an annual scholarship to a deserving High School student who intends to pursue the arts at the college level.

It is hard to imagine that an organization that operates at this level of activity remains relatively unknown in the area. PAL’s leadership team is determined to drive the organization to do more and to be more. In 2017, PAL purchased the building at 133 N. Church St. Many residents know it as the old grocery store building. Its current condition is that of a gutted shell, and PAL intends to make this facility its new gallery and headquarters after extensive renovation. Importantly, it provides PAL with a “Store Front Presence” that will raise its visibility. The first floor will house a “Class A” art gallery that will enable it to improve the display of its high quality work. The second floor will be a learning space that will host seminars, classes and after school activities for students.

That is not all. PAL intends to extend its reach to include musicians, poets and writers among its artists. The building will accommodate small concerts, receptions, coffee nights and poetry readings. In other words, there will be great entertainment for residents and visitors to have something else to do in Hertford. Moreover, it will be open on certain weekends and evenings with interesting activities. In fact, private groups can use it for affairs, which will increase PAL’s ability to pay its own way.

PAL needs the support of all residents to help it increase its ability to serve… especially service to the students in an environment where schools are reducing budgets in art education. In addition, PAL needs financial support. Of course, the major goal is to renovate the building, which will be very costly. It currently has an end of year donation drive in progress. You can visit PAL’s website at to contribute. Also, you can become a PAL member which is an excellent way of supporting this organization. PAL’s leadership team invites the entire community to visit the gallery and see the wonderful art as well as the outstanding holiday displays. Most of all, PAL does not want to be a little known town secret. Let’s pass the word about this organization and all of the good that it does in support of our community.

Feel free to contact, Ed Sanford, PAL’s current president at for more information