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An old building on Jarrettsville Pike that was once a blacksmith shop and the site of community dances has been restored and turned into a fine art gallery by a local man who says he loves good art, old buildings and a good project.

Rick Opfer, who owns Richard Opfer Auctioneering, in Timonium, bought the shop and adjacent house two years ago. The Phoenix resident said he spent more time and money on the restoration than he ever imagined.

But the result, Forge Fine Art Gallery, is a unique building where art-lovers, antiques enthusiasts, collectors and the public can glimpse a piece of history while gazing at an eclectic mix of fine art. It’s also a place where established artists can show their works alongside the works of painters hoping to be discovered.

“The way I’m going to use the building continues to evolve, but I really want to promote art,” Opfer said. “We will have a little bit of everything in here. It’s all quality items, and I want people to have fun when they’re here.”

He plans on a spring cleaning sale from March 5 through 20 and a show from April 9 through 23 that will feature horse-related art.

The Northern Baltimore County Art Foundation will hold its annual fundraising dinner there March 25 to fund an annual scholarship. The Foundation will follow the dinner with a show of local artists, which will run through April 3.

“We hope to do more shows there,” said Tami Satterfield, founder of the nonprofit foundation. “Rick has been very generous with his improvements. It’s really incredible what he’s done.”

The early 1900s building that started out as a blacksmith shop and lumberyard was eventually converted into an antique store. The exterior was covered with vinyl siding, and the adjacent house was concealed by overgrown trees and bushes. Many motorists on Jarrettsville Pike didn’t know it was there, Opfer said.

He stripped off the siding and finished the exterior with cedar planks. He saved some old exterior barn boards and has incorporated them into sections of first floor walls.

The centerpiece of the first floor is the blacksmith’s forge and some original equipment. Opfer found a poster advertising a dance that hangs on a wall next to steep steps that once led to an upstairs hall.

The poster reads: “Dance to the red hot tunes by the Happy Vagabonds. Sat. May 23. Jacksonville Barn on the Jarrettsville Road. 9 miles from Towson. Gents 50c. Ladies 40c.”

The second floor features the art gallery where paintings are hung on white walls in a warren of rooms. One room features exposed wooden beams in the ceiling. Pine floors throughout are embellished with Oriental rugs.

“Art needs to be framed right. Art needs to be lit right. Art needs to be hung right,” Opfer said.

“And that’s what this upstairs space is all about.”

He held a grand opening party — which featured antique folk art, bronzes, sterling silver, jewelry, slot machines, decoys, 19th- and 20th-century paintings, as well as works by current artists Ned Ewell, Mary Streaker, Lloyd Cargile and Jim Voshell — in December.

“It was exciting to be part of the initial opening, and if asked to show there again, I’d be happy to do so,” said Voshell, a Parkton artist. “It was an opportunity to show my must recent works and show to people who may not be familiar with my work.”

Jerry Beaumont, who owns Beaumont Pottery across the street from Forge Fine Art Gallery, said he sold some pieces to people who came to the area to visit the gallery.

“It really has spruced up the neighborhood, and it’s bringing new people to the area,” he said.

Opfer has many of his own items, which he’s collected over the years he’s been in the auction business, for sale .

“My theory is that it’s all stuff. It’s great stuff, but it’s all stuff. You should own it for a while and enjoy it, then let somebody else own it.”

Credit to Pat van den Beemt of The North County News.