Justin Lentz and Kurt Schmierer wear many hats.
They are art supporters and appreciators, they are businessmen and decorators, they are keepers of history, and they are artists.
“I believe that art is our oldest form of communication that passes on our history. Art tells its own story, back to a time or a place or maybe a feeling. One of my favorite things about owning a gallery is being surrounded by so many of these stories and helping local artists tell their stories through their art,” Lentz said. “Over the last 10 years I have worked in just about every aspect of art from fine art reproduction to custom framing to art sales. Over the last five years I have started to pursue my own art career, but, as inspiring as it is being surrounded by art, it has been difficult to find my own artistic path.”
Lentz and Schmierer own Ink to Media, 523 N. Pines Road, a gallery filled with the works of dozens of artists. Long hours in the attempt to bring local art to the masses have left the duo without much time to follow their own artistic paths, but they are ready to give it a whirl.
Lentz grew up in Spokane and attended Liberty High School in Spangle. He drew but became intrigued by computers and went on to receive a degree in arts in communication and graphic design from Collins College in Phoenix where he stayed for six years, working in galleries and learning to reproduce artwork on 40-inch drum printers.
He then moved to Seattle, where he mastered custom framing. He came back to Spokane where he worked for artists, framing and printing. “I took sort of a backwards journey through art,” he explained, “I had to make money.”
Just before Lentz opened Ink to Media with Schmierer, he began showing his own work and got a good response.
Lentz’s artwork is whirls and tentacles of color. Using his knowledge of the computer, he manipulates photos of things found in nature in order to capture texture and colors the computer alone cannot master. He turns the image into a liquid palette and then, using a pointer or a brush, he pulls and stretches until he is happy. The images of leaves, flowers and animals become otherworldly scenes filled with motion.
Schmierer grew up in an Army family, moving often. His longest stays were in Arizona and Alaska, where he painted gold pans and sold enough to buy his first car. When he settled in Spokane, he found work at sign shops and then at Washington Photo and Digital, where he was introduced to art reproduction. He met local artists and began taking painting lessons, mixing his knowledge of reproduction into contemporary realism and impressionistic creations. He also met Lentz.
Since opening the gallery about two years ago, Lentz and Schmierer have taken their business knowledge into the world of art. “One of my main goals with my art and the gallery is to make local art available to people of all income levels. We have started our own line of local posters, prints and greeting cards,” Lentz said.
Using local art, they also create blankets, tiles, mugs and just about anything else that can be printed on. They have also urged their artists to create small paintings so customers can afford an original. “We want to make artists and art lovers out of everyone who comes in.”