The year in art
Visual art in 1994 was an uneven weave of homespun and silk that revealed a developing self-confidence in the art community and concurrent support from public and business sectors in the Inland Northwest.
New galleries and display spaces outnumbered the deaths of same. In Idaho, Sandpoint’s Eklektos Gallery and Coeur d’Alenes’s Gallery by the Lake started out strong. In Spokane, Douglas Gallery and Hot Flash of America made it through their first year, WSU’s downtown branch campus created space for art as did Metro Mall, and the Davenport Arts District elbowed room for its flock of emerging artists in hotel windows and vacant buildings. Casualties included Piccadilly Palare, Penstock Gallery and In-Flux.
Local artists, galleries, non-profits and businesses pulled together for a series of visual art tours and walks that looked more coordinated and less territorial than in years past, both in Idaho and Spokane. In Spokane, the fear is that STA will cut bus service in ‘95. The hope is that STA values good public relations enough not only to continue the art trips, but also to add pickup points at some of the Park and Ride spots.
Resignations, retirements and deaths altered the pattern of art life throughout the year. Internationally acclaimed artist Ed Kienholz and locally loved painter Herman Keys died; art educator Ken Keefer retired from SFCC, and art curator Beth Sellars resigned from Cheney Cowles Museum, which some artists mourn as they would a death.
The top acquisition of 1994 was Kienholz’s “The Jesus Corner,” landed by Sellars for CCM’s permanent collection. Hands down, the best public artwork was “Mnemosyne’s Alphabet” by Seattle’s Dennis Evans, installed at the top of the stairs in the new downtown Spokane Public Library.
The annual round of art sales weighed heavier with calories than remarkable art. Food booths appeared to do a better job of catering to shoppers’ tastes, drawing bigger crowds than the arts and crafts tables in every season. Overall attendance seemed to be up, but no sales figures were released to prove purchases one way or the other.
Traveling exhibitions were a treat this year, starting with Native American contemporary work in “The Submuloc Show/Columbus Wohs” last February. In the spring, master ceramist Ruth Duckworth came from Chicago to show her exquisite porcelain sculptures at Gonzaga University’s Ad Gallery. The brightest highlight of summer was “Landscape as Subject and Source” by Australian artist John Davis, who combined fragile materials with durable ideas about traveling through life.
In autumn, CCM aired out its considerable quilt collection, combined it with a loaner show and provided context for them all through a solid schedule of talks and workshops that the whole community - but especially quilters - seemed to love.
An award for chutzpah and humor should go to Derald Long, owner of Hot Flash of America, the ‘50s kitsch capital of the world. His paint-by-numbers exhibition in September, “Stay between the Lines,” kicked the stuffiness out of art. Equally important, he also believed that our community is appreciative and capable of style.
This was an encouraging “growth year” for art in our area, a hopeful indicator of developing interest in cultural diversity and a wake-up call to artists to become more independent and innovative in the creation and presentation of their work. 1995 will be a good year for whiners to stay home. The rest of us have work to do.
xxxx ACROSS THE CASCADES Another benchmark event in ‘94 was the group show, “Ten from the Really Eastside,” in which artists from our side of the state took their work collectively to Seattle for a very successful run. Smart marketing of the group’s work, for one thing, and terrific promotion of the viability and high quality of artwork from “over here” for another.