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New restaurant, new gallery coming to Lexington

Sapori Italian restaurant will open on North Lake Drive in Lexington in early August.
Sapori Italian restaurant will open on North Lake Drive in Lexington in early August. Photo provided.

This summer, Lexington will welcome a new Italian restaurant and a new art gallery--both of which are tied together by Lexington resident Karen van Heerden.

After 22 years in Florence, Italy, van Heerden, a native of Cape Town, South Africa, moved to Lexington seven years ago. Three years later, van Heerden began making jewelry and opened Esihle Designs jewelry boutique and art gallery at 121 E. Main St.

"I love to work with semi-precious stones, big cuts of natural stones and quartz and pearls," van Heerden said. "I get a lot of inspirations for my pieces from African art or Italian Renaissance jewelry."

However, four years later, after her Italian-born daughter and her Italian son-in-law (who was part of a family of restaurateurs in Italy) moved to Lexington van Heerden got the notion to consider a new venture--one that utilized her skills garnered managing two Italian cooking schools and a culinary tours travel company in Italy.

"I have always had a great passion for food and wine," van Heerden said. "We decided to open our own Italian restaurant, Sapori, as a family to have the opportunity to share with the people of Lexington all the tastes and passions of Tuscany."

Sapori, which is Italian for "flavors" or "tastes", is expected to open in the first week of August at 407 N. Lake Drive across from Lexington Elementary School,

van Heerden's decision to open Sapori and scale back on her jewelry design and creation opened the door to another opportunity in Lexington--one for Lexington Artists Collective group which Lexington artist "Abstract" Alexandra White helped form and which exhibited at van Heerden's Esihle Designs Studio space at 121A E. Main St.

On July 29, Lexington Artists Collective will open a gallery in that space.

"Karen offered the space to our group to have a gallery there and we thought it was a great idea," White said. "We sent invitations out to artists all over South Carolina and narrowed it down to five artists to exhibit in the gallery."

Those five artists--in addition to White--are Chapin resident and mixed-media artist C.J. Martin-Marchese; Irmo landscape artist Susan Johnson; Blythewood monochromatic figurative artist Jason Julio Freeman; and Swansea blacksmith artist Jamie Von Herndon.

In addition to being an open art gallery, LAC Gallery will have a studio space that will allow for private art classes in creative sculpture, blacksmithing, mixed-media and painting, White said. The gallery also plans to have a salon where artists can bring their own supplies and gather and create within a same space.

The concept for the space is one that van Heerden fully supports.

"I am very excited to be able to help local artists to have a common space to show their art," said van Heerden who is leasing the space to the LAC and still plans to have a scaled-down display of her Esihle Designs jewelry for sale there. "Art is such an important part of the culture and spirit of any town. Hopefully the presence of the gallery on Main Street will lead to a greater appreciation of art in general in this community."

LAC Gallery will be open to the public every Friday from 1-8 p.m. and other times by appointment only.