Dian Zahner has always been an artist.
In elementary school, she drew and submitted her creations to contests. Her first win was a poster contest in third grade.
She went on to fine-tune her skills at Western Michigan University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in art education with an English minor. She then earned two master’s degrees from Eastern Washington University, in English as a second language and instruction in studio art.
Her repertoire includes mixed media, watercolors, printmaking, weaving, pottery and drawing. Wandering around her North Side home, it is apparent that her range of subject matter, styles and emotions is wide.
Zahner captures what moves her, from found objects like seashells or old lace to images of indigenous people or travelers, seen from the waist down in shorts, thick socks and hiking boots. In her work, she performs subtle storytelling via texture and color.
For many years, her medium of choice was textile, weaving everything from baskets to wall hangings. She has done many public commissions including two 70-foot, hand-dyed and hand-rolled panels for a church in Libby, Mont. On a rainy day in 1995 while driving near Aberdeen, Wash., Zahner was hit by a semitruck. Weaving is a physical art and, with a broken back, Zahner began focusing on watercolors.
It is her calling to express and to teach others or inspire others to do the same. Her résumé is long and includes teaching gigs in art, writing and English as well as a long list of art exhibitions and affiliations. She was on the board of the Spokane Art School for 10 years and the Corbin Art Center for eight. She founded her first cooperative gallery in Michigan, her second in Montana, and her third, Avenue West, in Spokane in 2003.
Now in its third location on the second floor of the Crescent Court just across the skywalk from River Park Square, Avenue West’s 20-plus artists hope the spot will afford them more walk-in crowds. The artists work at the gallery, share expenses, and swap stories and techniques. More like a community, their mission is, besides making sales, to expose customers to the creative spirit that is alive and well in Spokane and the surrounding areas.
On Friday, Zahner and her cohorts will be on hand for their monthly First Friday event from 5 to 9 p.m. On the “featured artist” wall, Sandy Mooney will display photographs of birds. The collection is called “Birds of an Uncommon Feather,” which is a good metaphor for Avenue West’s artists – common in the fact that they are all artists, uncommon in the fact that they all communicate in different ways.