Beyond the Brush: Aplomb Contemporary Portrait Gallery

This new Dover gallery aims to inspire others by sharing stories of strength through visual art
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Danielle Festa with her painting “Taken. Found.”

Winter is here, which means that snow and long days cooped up inside with nothing to do are, too. To help stave off the grumpiness of this season, chilly temperatures, and cabin fever, we’re starting “Beyond the Brush,” a series of profiles introducing you to the many unique art galleries around New Hampshire.

For our latest profile, check out Aplomb Contemporary Portrait Gallery in Dover. We spoke to owner Danielle Festa to learn more about her brand new gallery and studio space. Read on to learn all about how the gallery will highlight the power of a portrait to become a meaningful tribute.

Tell us about the history of your gallery.
Danielle: “I have been an active member of the arts community in Dover since I moved here in 2016 and for a decade prior in Somerville, Massachusetts. I helped co-found the first Friday Dover Art Walk and became director in 2017. When the pandemic hit and it was time to take a step back, I began focusing more time on my own work along with dealing with my own personal and family traumas which led to the concept for opening Aplomb. Having curated dozens of exhibitions during my time in the Boston area, I also wanted to return to bringing artists together in my space.”

What makes your gallery special or different?
Danielle: “While there are many landscape or abstract galleries on the Seacoast, Aplomb is focusing on contemporary portraiture. I plan to exhibit my own work of commissioned or gifted subjects from the Portrait Project annually, while curating several group and solo exhibitions throughout the year.

Figurative paintings of the Renaissance period were reserved for the rich and powerful, with carefully selected attire to highlight their prominent placement in society. I am highlighting a different type of power, that which lies in individuals who have overcome challenges, painted in outfits that showcase their strength.

Applications are being accepted for direct commissions, crowdfunded paintings or applications for gifted portraits supported by local sponsors and individual monthly patrons. Learn how to apply as a subject, nominate someone else or support the project at

Aside from exhibiting work on rotation, I will also be teaching a variety of workshops. Private lessons and courses can be attended in-person or via Zoom.”

What’s the story behind the name of your gallery?
Danielle: “I chose the name Aplomb for my contemporary portrait gallery and studio because it represents the type of work I want to highlight in my own ongoing series and when curating exhibitions. I capture the beauty in perseverance and poise after overcoming challenges. It is my mission to inspire others by sharing stories of strength through visual art.”

What are you best known for?
Danielle: “As a contemporary artist, I am known for hyperrealism oil painting with unconventional materials. I am also known for being an involved member of the arts community and an early technology adapter by sharing work via virtual reality.”

Tell us about your artists. What styles of art do you feature? Any particular disciplines?
Danielle: “‘Stronger’ is the first group exhibition from January 25 – March 5, 2022 with a closing reception on March 5 from 6-9 p.m. A dozen portrait artists from New England and across the country will be presenting work that evokes inspiration through portraiture. Artists will employ different mediums to share personal experiences and interpretations of emotions that arise when confronted with difficult times.

In an abundance of caution, pre-registration, staggered attendance, vaccination proof and masks are required to attend the reception. Visit our website to sign up or schedule a walk through tour. 

Exhibiting artists include Chris D’Amore, Danielle Festa, Tarja Harney, Bruce Jones, Phoenix Mayet, Eliza Moser, Erica Nazzaro, Melissa Scheid Frantz, Vanessa Simms, Lydia Spencer, and Andrija Zeković and Mark Zimmerman.”

Do you have any exciting exhibits planned for 2022? Any other events?
Danielle: “The next exhibition after ‘Stronger’ will be ‘The Eyes Have It’ from March 19 – May 19, 2022. This exhibition will also be on display in virtual reality as the ‘Stronger’ exhibition was this past fall. With ArtGate VR, visitors can see the work from around the world on an Oculus headset, or with a PC or Mac. The Portrait Project exhibition will be opening in June, and contemporary artist Michelle Doll will be guest curating a solo exhibition in September.”

What keeps you passionate about the arts?
Danielle: “Traditional art has evolved to be more inclusive than ever with widespread technology. I am really drawn to the idea of art being open to all. For me, painting and viewing art is therapeutic, and I think it can be for many. In my new body of work, I want to enable subjects to see themselves in an empowered light. I also really enjoy bringing other artists together to feature a variety of mediums and nuanced techniques in modern portraiture.” 

How can people best support you right now?
Danielle: “Sponsoring gifted commission portraits is a great way to support the gallery and help those who have been through difficult times highlight their strength. If you are a portrait artist, check out my calls for entry. For anyone who has an interest in learning something new, check out the current courses or private lessons available. Finally, if you or someone you know has been through a medical crisis, a traumatic experience or loss and are ready to celebrate strength, a contemporary oil painting is a permanent way to tangibly represent and honor courage. Applications are being accepted for direct commissions, crowdfunded paintings or applications for gifted portraits supported by local sponsors and individual monthly patrons.”

Categories: Arts & Shopping, Beyond the Brush, Family-friendly things to do, Local Artisans