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Meet Dr. Valerie Gillespie of Pencil on Paper Gallery in Farmers Branch

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Valerie Gillespie.

Dr. Gillespie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My husband, Emmanuel and I have always been advocates of the arts and visual artists in our community. We met in education, as we are art teachers. For both of us, our passions for the arts had always been present since we were young. My husband, Emmanuel, a Booker T. Washington School of the Performing and Visual Arts grad, has always used the arts as his method of communication. His ties to our Dallas community run deep from his past community work with the South Dallas Cultural Center and the African American Museum just to name a few. In everything that he does, art is always at the center and his love of teaching as its compliment. Through many of the murals, Emmanuel and his students have created in South Dallas, to his recent sculpture commission for the Booker T. Washington high school of Ernie Banks, Emmanuel’s art has always managed to unite and create meaningful conversations in our community while adding beauty and harmony. This is one of my favorite things about Emmanuel… his ability to speak to the world through his art so beautifully. For me, art has always been and continues to be a way in which I can heal myself and reach others around me. Art is incredibly healing and can be a form of therapy in many ways! Yoga has always had this healing effect for me as well. Through my yoga certification programs from Chinook Wusdhu and Yogees Yoga 4 Kids, I learned that yoga too is an art form and can have numerous benefits for children and adults. I have a very student-centered approach to teaching and learning in studio art and my yoga practices. I have come to find over the years that despite any differences that may be present between me and others, art offers a wonderful way to combine and share commonalities among these differences. In my studio art Master degree studies at New York University and recently with my completion of my doctoral degree in educational leadership, I have found myself in a place where I understand the need for the arts in education, and even more specifically, the importance of social and emotional learning and mindfulness in classroom practices. Cultural competence was the main focal point of my dissertation. I wanted to research ways in which educators could reach all learners in the classroom. This desire to be a better teacher for everyone I came into contact with, and need to share my awareness of mindful teaching practices brought me to Pencil on Paper Gallery. My husband and I spoke of opening a studio or space for students often. Each year we fantasized of the prospect of owning an establishment that housed our passions for education and the arts. I think seeing firsthand what this kind of teaching, coupled with art, can do for individuals truly was our inspiration for starting P.O.P. Gallery. One of the things that I feel keeps Emmanuel and I grounded, inspired, and motivated is the fact that we both believe in each other. Our children believe in us, and our families and community support us. We are definitely not blind to the fact that their support has played a large role in our success as artists.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It’s been two months since we opened our doors in June. I feel as though our community has accepted our space and appreciates what we bring to the area. We have had two exhibitions so far, and within these shows, a few artists from all over the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex have exhibited their personal work. Our first opening exhibition featured the art of the visual artists from our respective schools, along with visual artists like Frank Frazier and Vicki Meek both of whom have paved the way for so many of us. While it hasn’t always been a smooth road, I feel like as far as struggles, the reality that everything takes time has most definitely sunk in for me. Starting a business just takes time. Time however does not always pay the rent. I feel our biggest struggle resides in finding that work life and home life balance. As full-time educators, and small business owners, we are not often afforded the luxury to take vacations, sleeping in on weekends, or visits to family as often as we would like. I feel as though in time, this balance will work itself out though. I think the bottom line is that we both are doing what we love! Teaching and the arts are our passions, and we have found a way to merge the two and create a life we are proud of our children and students to see.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Pencil on Paper Gallery story. Tell us more about the business.
Pencil on Paper Gallery is an art gallery and studio space where people of all ages can experience visual art, studio art practices, and yoga. In our art classes, we offer Painting and Drawing for kids, teens, and adults. We also aid students interested in continuing art in high school or college through our Portfolio Prep program. There are kid Yoga and Art classes where students 5 and up are able to experience the beauty of art through mindful expression and engage in a holistic yoga practice while fostering a sense of self and artful discovery. One of the things I love about Emmanuel and my teaching style is that we specialize in assessing a child or adult’s artistic ability and aiding them in growing from where they are. Instilling a sense of joy while learning is imperative to the both of us in our teaching best practices. We are most proud that we can provide a space not only for both of us, but also for local artists to exhibit their work, and a space for kids to learn and thrive! Having safe spaces is a key component to growth! I feel as though we are most proud of the fact that we have managed to combine our strengths for the good of our community. We are a team! While Emmanuel and I may look at things from different perspectives, our past has provided us with the understanding of art from not just a professional and educational level, but from a personal level. I think this understanding from many levels that we possess sets us apart from others. As teachers in the workforce, parents of young artists, artists in the community, and now new business owners, there’s a different level of insight that we are operating from. We live it, and we get it.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I think luck has played a role in the fact that it has allowed us to meet individuals who also understand the importance of art. We have been lucky that the people who love art for themselves and their children have played such an integral role in Pencil on Paper Gallery’s success. We have been so blessed to be embraced by the community so far!


  • Kids/Teens/Adult Painting Class – $150 a month (4 classes)
  • Kids/Teens/Adult Drawing Class – $150 a month (4 classes)
  • Kids Yoga and Art Class – $150 a month (4 classes)
  • Portfolio Prep Class – $175 a month (4 classes)
  • Gallery Space Rental available unpon request
  • Kids Yoga and Art Camp – $185 a week (3hr a day for 5 days)

Contact Info:

  • Address: 14466 Midway Road
    Farmers Branch, TX 75244
  • Website:
  • Phone: 4693604931
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @pencilonpapergallery
  • Facebook: @pencilonpapergallery

Image Credit:
Emmanuel Gillespie, Sagai Gillespie

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  1. Dr. Karen Bradberry

    September 4, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    Dr. G is so amazing! I have had the pleasure of knowing her since she was a teaching fellow at Greenhill 17 years ago. Even then, in those early stages of her teaching career, we all knew she was destined to become the master teacher and artist that she is today. Her love of children, mastery of teaching and amazing artistic talents have influenced so many of us here at Greenhill- both students and adults alike. The Farmers Branch community is blessed to have her and Emmanuel as community builders. Way to go, Dr. G.

  2. Carolyn Wigfall

    September 4, 2019 at 10:56 pm

    Very good article and I wish them great success

  3. Diane R. Miles

    September 26, 2019 at 1:32 am

    What Dr. G and Emmanuel have created with their gallery is a welcomed space that permits people of all ages to express themselves through art and movement. Pencil and Paper Gallery is a gem! The compassion the Gillespie’s have to assist people in discovering their creativity is a gift. Best wishes to them with this venture!

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