Monday, March 21, 2005

Gig Harbor Gallery Walk Through

My daughter Elise lives in picturesque Gig Harbor, a beautiful waterfront small town about 45 minutes from Seattle, and yesterday I walked through its waterfront business district to see what the locals offer in the form of art.

Gig Harbor, WashingtonI will admit that I expected to find what one finds in Annapolis: a couple of galleries and other artsy venues selling watercolors of sailboats, sunsets and seagulls.

And I found some of those, but I also found a surprising, and obviously vibrant, local art scene.

For starters, the galleries all have a 20 page full color publication called Art Gig Harbor that puts anything that we have (actually we don't have anything similar) in the DC area to shame.

The second thing: everyone knows that the Pacific Northwest is the center of the universe for fine art glass. And even in a small town like Gig Harbor, in the smallest of galleries located inside a quaint B&B, one finds terrific selections of glass.

The third thing: Sales. In talking to the various gallerists, it is obvious that around here, people are actively buying art. In fact, since most of the art galleries are withing walking distance of each other, during my Sunday afternoon walkthrough, I kept running into the same four or five sets of people. I asked one couple if they were locals, and they answered that they were, and that they came to the galleries once a month or so to buy a piece of original art.

The first place that I visited was The Harbor Gallery, located on the waterfront and kind of the mix of various artists and framing and gifts that one expects in a touristy town.

Almost across the street there's a really nice B&B and inside as one enters there's a tiny gallery called Fire N Light, and here's the first place where one finds some first rate artwork. This is the Pacific Northwest, and this tiny gallery represents and briskly sells the work of Tim O'Niell, whose "Dory Dreams" series made from gaffer glass was an unexpected find in a genre dominated by vessels. O'Neill is the casting coordinator at nearby Pilchuck.

Down the street, Gallery Row is a co-op representing 14 artists. My favorites among these were some of the works of Barbara Patterson and Rebecca Baumgartner.

The Ebb Tide Gallery is also a co-op of 22 local artists, and a naive artist named Emilie Corbin stands out from the work that I saw.

S.C. Elliott Fine Art is probably the best looking gallery in town, in the sense that it doesn't have that cluttered, horror vaccuui sense to its presentation, and the first place that I recall seeing an abstract artist. Here the artists who stood out were W.F. Stone, Jr., some of the landscapes of Mark Farina and the Rothkoish abstracts of Laura Taylor.

Every gallery that visited (there are a few more) had original fine art glass, even the cluttered Birdnest Gallery, more of the typical framing-shop-become-art-gallery space that I had expected to find everywhere. And yet Birdnest Gallery offers a pretty decent range of original glass by an Iraqui artist named Hassan, who apparently is now a local and is currently in Iraq searching for a bride.

Overall a very pleasant and unexpected series of surprises in the art scene in this beautiful seaside town. Their art walk is called "First Saturday Art Walk" and takes place once a month on the first Saturday (duh!) of the month from 1-5PM.

There are also some great cafes and restaurants in the area, and where else can one get a double expresso for 99 cents? (At Kelly's).

My daughter will soon be moving to a new house, and thus to finish the day, I went to a place called Art & Soul Pottery and Painting Studios, one of those pottery and ceramic studios (in this case co-located inside a nice cafe) where anyone can create a piece. I made Elise a ceramic plate for a housewarming gift; my first attempt to ceramics since I finished art school!