IIt has been almost thirty years since The Artist’s Gallery opened in Olympia. And today, the cooperative gallery is bigger and better than it has ever been. About four years ago, they moved from downtown to their current location on the Capital Mall Promenade. Now they want to make sure people know they’re there. “We enjoyed it. It’s just fantastic. We can have more artist work, the walls are beautiful, we are not cramped for space. We really like the gallery here. We hope to see a lot more traffic, people, customers. If nothing else, look, know it’s here. Spread the word, let them know it’s here, ”artist Ruth Bravetti tells me.
I remember the old artists’ gallery in the city center as a cramped space with little natural light. Getting into their current location is a whole different story. Ruth and her colleague Kathleen Guest greet me as I enter the modern space. The first thing I notice is the abundance of space and light to showcase the artwork. It’s not too crowded, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to see. Ruth said to me, “You can watch here everyday, like when I come for my shift, and I can always see something different and unusual, or have an idea. It’s just great to have so much variety of art to learn from.
From paintings and photographs to three-dimensional pieces and jewelry, the artist’s gallery does not disappoint. Kathleen says they have something special here. “I think our niche is the size and number of people and the quality of the artists. It’s something to be proud of to be represented here because you share all this creativity with the community. And I think creativity should be shared. That’s what I like about it. Artists live here in the region. So if you even visit this gallery, you are supporting local creativity.
Because the gallery is a cooperative, all featured artists are in some way owners and must become members before their work is exhibited. They then elect officers to help manage day-to-day operations and pay dues each quarter. In return, they can price their own pieces and the gallery only takes a 20% commission. With a cooperative, The Artist’s Gallery is also not limited to the styles of artwork that can be displayed. They can have twelve different people doing paintings if they are the right person.
In fact, Kathleen and Ruth both have paintings on display in the gallery. “If you love art and realize that you’re not going to be a millionaire or make a living from art, I see it as a place where I can bring my art and people can see it. If it sells, wonderful, that’s an advantage, if it doesn’t, that’s fine with me, ”Ruth said with a smile. Every two months, all displays are rearranged to keep the space cool and the windows rotate every four weeks.
Each artist also works two 4.5 hour shifts per month as part of their membership. “It’s wonderful when you’re here as an artist. I love. You are surrounded by art for your shift. I mean you can walk around and look at familiar pieces or new pieces. I remember they asked me during my interview what my expectations were. I said it would be wonderful to see my art on the walls here – just to see it in a public place, ”shares Kathleen. Ruth says they’re not only looking for talented artists, but also people with retail experience who are comfortable with computers as well as selling and interacting with others.
Kathleen says she went through the interview process herself not long ago. “I was just shocked and delighted when Ruth called me and told me I was part of the gallery,” Kathleen exclaims. She says the interview included a series of questions that she was able to prepare for in advance. “It makes you think about your art and the interviewee thinks about their art and why they are here. I really believe in this kind of gallery so I was delighted, ”she adds. Kathleen and Ruth are both retired teachers and exceptional painters as well.
As I walk through the artist’s gallery, I remember a museum with different themes in different sections. I acquire quite an education of the variety of the pieces to which I am exposed. Kathleen says the space encourages people to learn and tells the story of a young Boy Scout who walked into the gallery during her shift. She says he loved art and wanted to earn a specific badge. “There wasn’t a room in this gallery that he hadn’t looked at and questioned. This just made my month. I asked the leaders why they brought him here. They said we knew how big this place was so this would be a great place to bring it.
With artists always present and a wonderful space, it is a unique experience to visit the artist’s gallery and well worth it. And it’s not something you can find everywhere, as Ruth explains: “I guess the reality is that there is wonderful art and it’s not the same as there is. you can find in big box stores. It is something to cherish. If you have an original work of art, there’s only one like it in the world, that’s all. If you buy something, you are going to end up with things that everyone is going to have.
Visit the Artist’s Gallery website or Facebook page to follow upcoming events and for more information.