North Bank Artists Gallery celebrates 10th year

Group celebrates anniversary, its role in community

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 

North Bank Artists Gallery Gala

What: North Bank Artists Gallery celebrates its 10th anniversary with food, music and a visual retrospective as part of the First Friday event. New work from current and former members will be part of the exhibit.

Where: 1005 Main St.

When: 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1.

Cost: Free, open to the public.

Information: northbankartistsgallery.com

Personality shouts from the walls of the studio spaces that weave and sprawl through the North Bank Artists Gallery.

Beyond the two main galleries in the venue, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a special gala tonight, is a hivelike collective of a dozen highly varied artist spaces.

Upstairs, one artist has carefully set up her space with paintings on the walls and a central bin of works for visitors to peruse. In the next room, a different artist has materials piled in random spots, plastic bins lining the walls and paint canisters spread over a desk.

Downstairs, as you go through a nested maze of studios within studios, you'll see an easel with crookedly hanging works in progress in one, a sewing machine and stacks of fiber in another, a shared space with cubbies, a highly stylistic and well-organized room with white paint from floor to ceiling, and "the rabbit hole," where Maureen Andrade works.

"Yes, I actually paint in the hole," said Andrade, one of the collective's original members who now serves as the executive director.

You have to walk through the cubby room to get to the odd cement ramp that drops into her small and somewhat sparsely decorated space.

She recently returned to the collective after taking some time away to focus on raising her kids, she said.

"Our membership is larger now," Andrade said. "When we started we had maybe a half-dozen people. Now we have I think 18 members."

To become members, artists have to be voted in by their peers. All of the artists must be professionals.

That's not true of those who rent the studio space, though. Those rooms, which go for between $100 and $250 a month — and have since the gallery first opened — are open the community, and the rents pay for the nonprofit gallery to continue operations.

Still, several of North Bank's members also partake. Looking across the studios gives a small preview of what to expect when the gala and exhibit starts at 5 tonight as part of the November First Friday Art Walk.

"We asked for new works from all of our members," said Kathi Rick, an installation and performance artist and the gallery's manager. "We're going to have a variety of things. There will be paintings, prints, sculpture, glass. I'm going to do a performance piece. There will be installations, too."

Immersive art experiences called installations and performance art can be difficult for many heavily two-dimensional focused galleries. So having a gallery that's run by artists is a blessing for Rick, she said.

"Since we don't have to have work that sells, people like me who do conceptual art, we can show it here," Rick said.

The gallery, which was founded by artists Rebecca Seymour and her husband, Greg Lueck, held its grand opening on Nov. 6, 2003. The couple, Andrade, Anne John, Guy Drennan and Maurice Fykes — who are all original members — will have pieces at the gala event, along with several newer members.

"Galleries tend to be very heavy on two-dimensional art, but we do have several mixed-media artists, including a sculptor who just joined us," Andrade said of the group's newest member, Kaite Thompson Chase. "We are very excited to have her."

The event will also have a slide show, live music and catering. And Lueck will give a talk about the gallery and its history.

"Part of the vision when we opened the doors downtown on Main Street was to encourage revitalization downtown," Andrade said. "A similar thing happened in Portland with the Pearl District, where they used art and entertainment to bring that district back."

It also was a way to encourage more artists to thrive in Vancouver and Clark County, she said.

"It really is a fine community for artists," Andrade said. "We all support each other."

And while the gallery probably isn't the only thing that can take credit for downtown Vancouver's upswing, it's certainly part of the picture, she said.

"We hoped to see wine bars, microbreweries and shops that people could check out after looking at the art downtown," she said. "It's great to see how much of that has grown. We love to hang out at Niche (wine bar) after work, many of us use Aurora (gallery and framing) for our art. It's a very strong, interwoven community."