The Oxford Treehouse Gallery started as a vision shared between husband and wife Walter and Vivian Neill, both long-time artists and art collectors since before they ever met. After moving to Lafayette County around 1998, they started by constructing a blacksmithing shop on their idyllic little plot of land off of Highway 334, completed by 2002. By 2005, Walter had built a beautifully appointed work space on the property with a nicely sized painting studio and gallery, literally nestled amidst the trees. “We decided if we made a painting studio, it would be nice if there were room there to live—you know, have a kitchen, a bathroom. Then we put in a little basement apartment, and had the idea always of living there while we built our home on the property,” Walter explains to me with the humbleness of a man who constructed the entire building I’m standing in. “That was the premise behind the building. So Vivian would paint in here, and we would have shows. But it’s become a lot easier, now that it’s a full time gallery, to have shows. Because you can leave them up longer.”
A palatial chicken coop followed shortly thereafter. They lived in the downstairs portion of their gallery until construction was finished on their main house on the same property in 2014. Walter and Vivian met local photographer, collector, and founder of the Southside Gallery on the Square, Milly West, in the early 2000s, while she was still curating the Southside. They immediately bonded over shared passions in art, and have been longtime friends since. So when the time came for the Neills to transition their gallery from “Neill Studios” to “Oxford Treehouse Gallery” and open the space up to Oxford’s artistic community at large, involving Milly in several of their previous shows just felt like a natural extension of the process.
When I traveled out to the Treehouse Gallery, there was a prevailing air of relaxed contemplation, as Milly, Walter, and Vivian arranged works for display, and chatted with me over orange juice.
They showed me their favorite pieces, ranging from iconic Revolution-era photography from Cuba, several prints Milly discovered in the vaults where the University of Tulsa keeps artwork since abandoned by former students, to works by self-taught Southern artists such as Jimmie Lee Sudduth, R.A. Miller, and Mose Tolliver. My personal favorite, for the whimsy of the image alone, might be the photograph of Fidel Castro and his entourage playing a round of golf, mostly bedecked in full uniform. Although primarily focusing on work by Southern and Cuban artists, the exhibit truly includes something for every taste, encompassing photography, ceramics, painting, and sculpture. There should be something beautiful available for nearly any budget also. The Treehouse Gallery’s website advises shrewd art acquisitors that “Some works will be priced under a hundred dollars, most under a thousand, but the rarity of others and the significance of the artist calls for higher pricing. Many of the artists in this collectors’ show have shown nationally and have work in museums across the South and beyond.”
The gallery itself features an impressive amount of craftsmanship on display, the type of home where everything seems uniquely bespoke to its occupants. It truly is a beautiful space, and Walter and Vivian happily and graciously provide accommodations to a range of events, including wedding and baby showers, business events and luncheons, receptions, and art shows. They also rent out the apartment under their studio (which has to be seen to be believed) on Air B&B. So come make the short drive out to Fudgetown Road and expose yourself to some culture.
The opening reception took place on Friday, September 18. The show will then run through October 24. The address is 328 County Road 418, in Oxford.
Contact the Treehouse Gallery at (662)-236-1667.