BY MARTHA McCARTNEY
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
October 29, 2014
Coupeville’s Penn Cove Gallery is turning 20 years old this month. And that’s a stunning achievement.
“The longevity and success of this cooperative stems from loyalty, commitment and concern between members. It’s a very family-like group of artists and artisans. There’s a great sense of being an essential part of a team,” said photographer Denis Hill.
The atmosphere in the showroom of Penn Cove Gallery seems to echo the feeling of connection between the artists of which Hill speaks. The space is infused with light and color, taking on a vibrancy that feels organic, homegrown and stitched together—with all parts becoming an essential dynamic element of the whole experience. The space is filled with heart and vibrates with energy.
Twenty years ago one of the founders of the Gallery, Teresa Saia, owned a building on Front Street and, being an artist herself, she approached others with the idea of starting a cooperative. There were 17 original members and the current membership has increased to 27 artists.
It’s certainly a strategic location and business along Front Street in Coupeville appears to be increasing for the artists. They had one of the best years in sales last year and are projecting to exceed that amount this year. “I believe we were able to weather the recent recession better than other galleries on the island. Cooperation is especially essential during a financial downturn but our success owes a lot to our location,” Denis Hill said. Penn Cove Gallery is now in its second location on Front Street.
The types of art included are diverse. An overview based on materials used includes wood, glass, pottery, textiles, jewelry and two-dimensional arts such as photography, painting, printmaking, drawing and mixed media. “A cooperative gallery has more variety—a different feeling,” Hill explained. “In a private gallery, everything being shown is based on the owner’s taste.”
From the perspective of an artist, there are many benefits to being part of a cooperative gallery. The operating costs and daily sales duties are shared and there is an advantage in being able to network with other artists in regard to resources.
The Gallery has a board of directors and several committees to handle every task ranging from scheduling and display to changing light bulbs. Display spaces are rotated every three months, providing a constantly changing and fresh look while giving all members equal access to what may be considered the best sales spots.
Being juried into the gallery is a two-step process. The initial requirement is that the artwork blends well with the pieces already being shown. The second step is an artist interview followed by a vote of existing members. If display space is lacking for the particular art form at the time, the member may be selected but placed into a waiting position. There are, of course, fees, commissions and the division of labor to be considered but as the glass bead artist, Beverly McQuary, pointed out, the benefits of membership are clear. “It looks great in the obituary,” she quipped.
In addition to gallery sales the artists participate in the Annual Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival and have exclusive off-site venues with displays at two local established businesses, Christopher’s Restaurant and Front Street Grill. The Gallery participates in late night shopping during the town’s annual holiday festival, The Greening of Coupeville, and also on Memorial Day Weekend.
The Gallery is now participating in the Red Ticket giveaway—a community event held during the December holiday season. Red tickets are given out to reward local shoppers and nearly the whole town, along with their dogs, turns out for the give-away drawings.
20th Anniversary Celebration
Penn Cove Gallery
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 1
Coupeville Rec Hall
Penn Cove Gallery is celebrating its 20th Anniversary from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 1. The public is invited to attend the festivities, which will take place at the Coupeville Rec Hall. Artwork from past and present members will be available for sale with a 20% discount—just in time for holiday gift buying. The discount also extends to shopping at the gallery location. Artists will give demonstrations throughout the day and refreshments will be served. This is a fun-loving group of artists and the celebration promises to be an event full of surprises.
Margaret Livermore, Lucinda Abrams, and Akemi Walker are original members who are still active with the Gallery. Other original members are Martha Bund, Marianne Brabanski, Kim McWilliams, Helen Ryder, Ann Wilson, Anita Johnston, Betty Rayle, Al Tennant, Joan Brosnahan, Teresa Saia, Jan Holmes, Kathleen Jo Ryan, Harry Rich and Stella Canfield.
Find all information regarding the Penn Cove Gallery at www.penncovegallery.com.
Image at top: The Penn Cove Gallery (photo by Denis Hill)
Martha McCartney is a poet, photographer, mixed-media artist, persistent gardener and candle-maker.
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What a fantastic article! This really shows just how wonderful the gallery really is. When I am doing my shift at the gallery bragging comes so easy about the artists here. The talent is by far the best and most importantly this amazing cooperative is just that “cooperative”. We truly support one another.