The closing of Dodson’s Jewelers after 130 years in business is, by all accounts, a loss for downtown Spokane. Adding salt to the wound is the knowledge that the shuttering of Spokane’s oldest retail store also means one fewer fine art gallery showing local and regional artists.
As a sort of “grand send off” for the artists they feature, Dodson’s owners, Penn Fix and wife Debra Schultz, will participate in one last First Friday tonight, from 5 to 8 p.m. The event will also serve as a way for the art-loving public to say goodbye to Dodson’s, as the owners prepare to retire.
Fix recalls that some doubted the viability of an art gallery within the store when he and Schultz launched their first show in May 2010. The couple got the idea to open the gallery in the wake of Lorinda Knight’s retirement and closure of her gallery in 2009. The loss of Knight’s classic “white box” space, across the street from Dodson’s, left a hole the couple believed they could help fill.
“We were met by skepticism by the local art community since we were not a gallery,” Fix recalled. “Since then most galleries have failed and (been) replaced by more unconventional spaces like wineries and restaurants. Ironically, we are seen as one of the last galleries in the Spokane area.”
While selling art at a jewelry store may be unconventional, it is not without precedent in Dodson’s history. A photograph taken in 1889 of Fix’s great-grandfather, George R. Dodson, shows the inside of the store on Riverside Ave. with paintings for sale hanging on the walls.
“In many respects, we have come full circle,” Fix said.
Dodson grew its dedicated art space over the years. To augment the 2,000 square feet of walls in the main gallery, Fix and Schultz added 1,500 more square feet for art when they opened the mezzanine level, tearing down walls and converting a hallway. Today, Dodson’s represents 15 artists and 250 paintings at any one time.
“It will be a hard act to follow,” said Vicki Broeckel, whose oil paintings of the Palouse countryside were among the first artworks ever shown at Dodson’s. “The lighting is spectacular, and the attention they give to each artist’s display is so supportive.”
Broeckel is one of several artists participating in Dodson’s final First Friday exhibition tonight. Other artists include Charlie Palmer, William E. Elston, Kim Matthews Wheaton, Luann Ostergaard, Joseph Rastovich, Susan Fern, Kathy Wildermuth, Caren Furbeyre, Catherine Hysell and Lila Girvin.
“There has been a kind of stability and commitment that goes with (Dodson’s owners) and the store’s long history and reputation,” said Girvin, who will have four of her stirring, diaphanous oil paintings in tonight’s show. Dodson has regularly featured Girvin in its gallery over the years.
The community activist/artist has also worked on low-income housing solutions with fellow advocate Schultz in the past. Schultz’s and Fix’s passion for the arts, their community volunteerism and conservation efforts, are expected to continue. Just the store will be gone.
“The closing of the store is understandable, yet a significant loss for the arts,” Girvin said. “We will miss it.”
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