The Mississippi River Gallery opens on July 23, with an open house all week and a champaign reception on Saturday, July 29.

Patricia Garey sat on the deck of a riverboat that was cruising the Mississippi River. There, with the river stretched out before her, she sketched what she saw.

Inspiration.

That inspiration later turned into a watercolor piece of art.

“I just love the fabulous landscapes — and cityscapes — we have here throughout the Mississippi River Valley,” Garey said.

Garey has traveled up and down the valley as a companion to her husband Richard — who portrays Hannibal’s ephemeral son, Mark Twain — on various riverboat trips.

“It’s such a rich area with history,” she said. “We’ve just learned so much about the people, the history, the legacy.”

The Mississippi River Valley is rife with inspiration for Garey, who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. There’s so much inspiration that Garey is opening an art gallery that specializes in the showcasing art featuring the Mississippi River Valley.

The Mississippi River Gallery opens on July 23, with an open house all week and a champaign reception on Saturday, July 29.

The opening is the culmination of a 15-year dream for Garey.

Her husband first purchased the Planter’s Barn Theater at 319 N. Main St. in Hannibal 15 years ago. Since then, many people — from Hannibalians to international visitors — have seen Richard Garey portray Twain on the stage and reflect the heritage of the Mississippi River Valley.

Now, visitors will also have the chance to peruse art inspired by the same region.

“I have to say, I’m extremely eclectic in my art taste,” Garey said.

A stroll through the gallery proves that.

On one wall, a large portrait of Mark Twain by St. Louis-area artist Zach Smithey shows the famous author in a new way, using contemporary techniques. Nearby, Garey’s own watercolor works show a sophisticated hand in depicting countryside landscapes. On an opposite wall, works by Bob Halloway features characters with almost a Steampunk-esque quality.

All of the pieces reflect the Mississippi River Valley.

Garey emphasized that the art in the gallery isn’t specific to Hannibal, but the entire region from St. Paul in the north to New Orleans at the mouth of the Mississippi.

The gallery will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and for demonstrations and by appointment at other times. The gallery shares a space with the Planter’s Barn Theater.

When the Gareys purchased the building, which in it’s previous life served as a livery, Patricia admits it needed a lot of work. But she saw the potential — and clearly had the inspiration for the themed gallery. She continued working as a talent manager with a passion for art as the theater became a reality.

Still, the desire to open a gallery remained.

When the Gareys relocated permanently to Hannibal a few years ago, work began anew to open the gallery.

To see the gallery open, Garey says, is a dream come true.

“It’s been so fun supporting Richard and his journey here in Hannibal and to be able to be a more active, engaged part of that is just so fun,” she said. “The timing just turned out to be right.”

To celebrate the opening, Garey’s son-in-law took photos of her inside and outside the gallery. One photo, she points out, is of her standing in front of the building, arms outstretched in jubilee.

A moment to celebrate that dream-turned-reality.

“It’s just so exciting for me,” she said.

The gallery also sells art supplies and literature related to Hannibal. Richard Garey penned a series of poems themed to Hannibal. That collection is also on sale at the gallery.

Additional, the gallery provides custom framing services for artwork.

For more information, visit mississippirivergallery.com or call 573-795-4255.

Reach editor Eric Dundon at eric.dundon@courierpost.com