Pushing forward with brush strokes and sculptors’ hands, the Blue Whole Gallery members celebrate their 14th anniversary during the month of June.
The local cooperative art gallery, which houses art in a variety of mediums from 36 artists, continues to sell and build on its reputation as Sequim’s notable art gallery despite tough economic times.
Mixed media artist Karin Anderson has been a gallery member for seven years and said her best sales month was May after she was one of the featured artists. Anderson said it came as a shock because in April, she didn’t sell any artwork.
Reggie Consani, a representational watercolorist and co-founding member, said she’s sold about 100 paintings in 14 years.
“You hate to paint pictures and have them end up under the bed,” Consani said. “We needed a place to show our art.”
Consani said the gallery has seen the effects of the economy.
“It definitely affects us,” she said. “People aren’t traveling as much from afar but we’re getting more people from Seattle on shorter trips.”
Anderson agreed that not as many art connoisseurs come from outside the state now but said there is a good mixture of local and tourist buyers.
“There’s always a population who seeks out art galleries,” Anderson said.
Carol Eichler, mixed media artist, said statistically 1 percent of the population spends money on art and when times are tough, art is one of the first things to go.
“But we’re optimistic about the Blue Whole Gallery,” she said.
Anderson said if the gallery weren’t a co-op it would-n’t have survived.
Sculptor Barbara Boerigter, a co-founding member, said gallery artists are continuing to find new ways to market their work, including enticing new displays and shows. One method is through their four annual group shows. The co-op alternates featured artists the other eight months.
Consani said they reach out to potential buyers by maintaining a friendly environment.
“It engages people and makes them feel welcome,” Anderson said about the gallery setup. “People love meeting the artists and talking to them.”
Boerigter said some art co-ops lease space but a hanging committee works together to create continuity through the gallery.
“Ours all flow so your eye moves between pieces,” she said.
Another recent success for the gallery was the first Gala Auction last year. Boerigter said they earned enough to renovate the gallery and install new floors. The next auction is Oct. 29 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.
“It showed us people still buy art,” Anderson said. “It’s a good feeling.”
Anderson said other key ingredients to their success are the affordability and variety of their art.
Consani and the rest of the group believe the gallery will continue indefinitely.
“It’s unusual to have a group 99 percent enthusiastic about what we’re doing,” Consani said.
The Blue Whole Gallery opened June 14, 1997, with 17 artists before growing to more than 30 participants in its first month.
Boerigter said the group came together because they felt a strong need for a local gallery. The only other gallery closed down before then, leaving many artists without places to display and sell their art.
Boerigter said they’ve only missed one Friday Night Art Walk opening, due to snow in 2005, and other than the one night, the gallery has been open for 14 years straight of artistry, creativity and craftsmanship. Right now, 36 artists are the most the gallery has ever hosted; there is room for up to 40 participants.
Anderson said attrition happens due to a variety of reasons but mostly because of regular life situations.
“Some artists need to take time and re-energize, try something different or a new style,” Anderson said.
Joining the gallery requires an application process with approval from a jury and the board of directors.
Monthly membership dues and commissions from art sold support the gallery’s expenses.
Boerigter said they are very specific about whom they choose to join.
“It’s like a family,” she said.
The gallery’s business typically picks up in the summer months and they offer layaway for purchasing art.
Membership applications are available at the gallery and artists are on hand to answer questions. Blue Whole Gallery, 129 W. Washington St., is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., seven days a week and can be reached at 681-6033, or visit www.bluewholegallery.com.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.