5 Ridiculous Questions with Sonya Pfeiffer


Sonya Pfeiffer, Owner
Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art

We’re not exactly sure how many active criminal defense lawyers are also award-wining journalists and documentarians AND also own an art gallery, but we’re willing to bet it’s a pretty small number. In fact, we know of only one. And, she lives in Charlotte.

Sonya Pfeiffer is a committed criminal defense and civil rights advocate. Art has always been an interest for her and she sees her work as an attorney intersecting beautifully with her passion for art. 

Over a 2017 dinner with Larry and Janice Elder, the former owners of Elder Gallery, that passion pulled her in a new direction. She decided that night to buy the gallery and use it to explore the issues she passionately defends in the courtroom in a more creative way.

“I had been looking for new ways to address some of the challenging societal issues that underlie my legal work — race, gender, income, education, the ways in which various historical narratives have affected (and infected) our understanding about each other and ourselves,” she said. “Art is such a nice and sneaky way to draw people into what can be a thorny conversation. It can also speak in ways that words cannot.”

A New Way to Explore Old Issues

After a handshake agreement and a check she wrote from an account that held money she’d been saving from delivering newspapers, mowing lawns, house-sitting and waiting tables as a kid in Columbus, Ohio, Sonya was the proud owner of an art gallery.

In October 2017, the gallery reopened as the Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art. The name change reflected Sonya’s passion to work with contemporary artists to address contemporary issues.

Working with her team and the artists with whom they partner, Sonya has made the gallery “a platform that includes those who have been historically marginalized.”

Between preparing for court and preparing for the opening of a new exhibition, “HOME,” at the gallery tonight (read more about it here in The Biscuit), Sonya’s got a full plate right now. 

But, she made room on that full plate for Five Ridiculous Questions. And, you can read her answers below:

If you could steal one work of art anywhere and not get caught, what would you steal?

No doubt I would steal the portrait of Michelle Obama (by Amy Sherald) from the National Portrait Gallery in DC.  

What’s the second-worst piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? 

“You should get a puppy for your daughter’s 10th birthday.”

What was the last book you started, but did not finish?

“Perfect Puppy in 7 Days: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right” by Sophia A. Yin

If you had a chance to exhibit “The Kramer” from Seinfeld … would you? What would the exhibition be called?

Of course, I would! Apparently “The Kramer” has mysteriously disappeared since the making of [the episode] The Letter. So exhibiting the work would be quite a coup.  Obviously, the name of the exhibition would be “…Yet I Can’t Look Away.”

Do you sing and/or dance in the car? What song triggers you?

If I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston comes on the radio, not only will I break out singing every word and aiming for every high note, but I will also weep.  No dancing.  Plenty of hand motions.   Occasional facial contortions.  So many tears.

We know we said it would be 5 questions, but this one was too good not to include:

What animated GIF do you use waaaaaay too much?

I didn’t think I was allowed to use GIFs at my age.

Hang with the Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art