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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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MAC offers rent-to-own masterpieces

From an early age, Tammy Gabbert promoted art and artists. Her parents helped start Art on the Green, an annual arts and crafts festival in Coeur d’Alene.

“When I was a tiny kid, I remember wearing sandwich boards yelling, ‘Art on the Green! Art on the Green! Go to Art on the Green!’ ” she says.

Today, she still cheerleads for art, just in a less conspicuous way.

Gabbert is the assistant manager of the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture’s Art @ Work program, a service that rents out original art to homeowners and businesses. Rather than buying a $1,000 to $3,000 painting, sculpture or other piece outright, people can rent those works for $45 to $180 for three-month periods.

Spokane real estate agent Bitsy Peffer calls it a “Nordstrom policy” for art.

“For $100, you can get an original piece of art, and you get to try it on,” she says.

After three months, if you choose to buy it, you’re credited for 60 percent of the rental fee. If you don’t want to keep it, the museum either replaces it with a new selection or gives you a break from renting.

Peffer began renting art from the museum several years ago, when the program was run out of what’s now the West 809 Building in downtown Spokane. Today, she owns many of her own pieces, but she encourages others to take part in Art @ Work, including clients who want to add beauty and interest to the homes they’re trying to sell.

“I recommend it to everybody – young people, old people, people who don’t understand art and don’t know how to get immersed in it,” she says. “This is a wonderful way to expose yourself to really unique art. Nobody else is going to have the piece you have.”

The program attracts a variety of renters. For some, it’s a way to surround oneself with high-quality art without breaking the bank. For others, swapping out pieces every three months keeps their environs interesting and alive. And while some homeowners might rent one or two pieces at a time, there are businesses that keep a regular display of 50 or more paintings in their offices.

Gabbert helps renters choose the artwork from the Helen South Alexander Gallery in the Cheney Cowles Center at the museum. If the homeowner doesn’t find anything there they like, they head downstairs to the Art @ Work storeroom, where hundreds of pieces await temporary homes.

“It’s really fun for people” to look through the collection, Gabbert says. “I get such a kick out of it when they say, ‘Oh, we had that one before and so-and-so didn’t like it. They said it looked angry.’ “

Gabbert delivers the art to renters’ homes and hangs it in place. She often brings several selections in case a particular painting doesn’t fit in the desired spot or if a homeowner can’t decide on a piece until they see it on their wall.

“What a great way to change (the look of) your home,” Gabbert says, adding that it’s much less expensive than replacing your furniture. “It can have so much impact.”

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