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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Verve: Artist opens new gallery in Garland District

Kay West is an abstract photographer and painter who has always used art to express herself. She  recently opened Little Dog Art Gallery in the Garland district to give a voice to other artists. West displays her cellphone photographs of automobiles. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Kay West is an abstract photographer and painter who has always used art to express herself. She recently opened Little Dog Art Gallery in the Garland district to give a voice to other artists. West displays her cellphone photographs of automobiles. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
By Jennifer Larue jlarue99@hotmail.com

Artist Kay West grew up all over the country as the child of a serviceman. In high school, art was her salvation.

“I was an introspective bookworm, fly-on-the-wall kind of girl,” she said, “Art was my only means of communication.”

She created pastel portraits, sketched snippets of rural landscapes, and took photographs.

“Raised in a very creative, resourceful family, I was always tinkering with something, drawing something, making something or observing something,” she said. “My dad gave me a camera when I was about 12, which started a love affair with the photographic image. I seldom pointed the camera at people or human activity, but down to the asphalt street, to the pattern of petals on a flower.”

She attended a junior college in California, learning new ways to express herself through art. She went on to marry, raise two sons and work odd jobs, including operating a secretarial service in Redlands, California; working as a graphic artist; dressing window displays; volunteering as a co-op art gallery manager in California; and selling houses in Birch Bay, Washington. When the recession hit, she moved in with her sister in Spokane.

Feeling sorry for herself, she hibernated for a few years and then decided, “This is ridiculous.” She ventured out into the local art scene, joining the River Ridge Association of Fine Arts, meeting other artists and participating in group exhibitions.

West creates art in an array of mediums, including jewelry making, mixed-media sculptures, textiles, acrylic paintings, and photography.

“I’ve always thought that artists are the historians, the chroniclers, and the watchers; from marking man’s environment on cave walls to social commentaries spray-painted on urban walls,” she said. “I’m drawn to the narrative, the statement, but I personally don’t seem to be able to achieve this in my own artwork. My work is more focused on texture, natural process, and patterns; natural and otherwise.”

Inspired by the works of others and their commitment to bringing beauty and meaning into the world via artistic expressions, West decided to open an art gallery. She hopes it’s a place where others find inspiration and that can help propel artists forward.

“There aren’t many gallery spaces in Spokane,” she said. “One more would really be beneficial to the community.”

The space, called Little Dog Art Gallery, is in the Garland District, close to where West lives. When the space became available, she had four days to decide if she wanted to give it a go, and, with the help of a silent partner, she jumped on it.

She reached out to artists she admired for her first exhibition, which opened this month. The current exhibit, which runs through June 27, features artists Marion Flanary, Tom Quinn, Christina Rothe, Megan Holden and John Thamm.

In the future, West may display some of her own work at Little Dog. “It’s always a bit of a surprise when someone expresses that they have been personally touched by my artwork. I suppose it’s because my work is so personal that I forget that my human experience might well affect another human being.”

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