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Art Beat

April 29, 2004


Making it happen


[the Empire Squared group posing on roof of building]I RAN INTO EUREKA'S FORMER MAYOR Nancy Flemming at a potluck dinner last night and we talked about the upcoming debut of the Empire Squared (E2) Studio and Gallery in Old Town. "I think it's fabulous," she said. "Here's this group of kids with basically no financial resources, and they're just making it happen. I love it." [photo at right]

What's even better is that E2 is just one of three new gallery ventures -- all very different -- slated to open this coming Saturday night during Arts Alive. This indicates that there are a lot of creative people around town "making it happen," and hopefully the weather will hold so the community will turn out in droves to celebrate. After all, it's been a long time since Eureka has seen a new gallery, and everybody knows we're in desperate need of more places to exhibit and market our art.

While one of these new venues, the Accident Gallery on F Street, is only temporary, both the E2 Studio and the new Shorelines Gallery have long-range plans. I met the owners of Shorelines, Matt and Sherrie Butler, in front of their new business the other day, where several of their friends were helping them unload a truck parked on the sidewalk. After welcoming them to the neighborhood, I peeked inside.

The room was still in progress so there wasn't much art to see yet, but the Butlers had clearly been working hard on the space -- there was fresh white paint on the walls and lots of great lighting. The couple (both potters) said they'll be showing a variety of artwork by local and regional artists, including paintings, sculpture, jewelry, glass and handmade pottery.

While I haven't seen the finished gallery or the art they'll be exhibiting yet, Matt Butler has a sales background, which can't hurt. Shorelines is also right in the heart of Old Town (directly across from the gazebo on Second Street), so the Butlers definitely have the location factor nailed.

The E2 Studio, on the other hand, is all the way down at 47 Third Street, between A and Commercial. To call this block "iffy" would be glamorizing it, but the rent is cheap and these 25 energetic and talented young artists are bound to reinvigorate the neighborhood. When I visited them at their new digs the other day, several members of the group were working on a variety of tasks and projects, readying the space for opening night. "It'll be an event," Anayansi Ricketts promised. "We have lots of surprises planned."

Donovan Clark showed me around the 1,600-square-foot space while explaining their concept. "It's mainly a working studio," he said. "We wanted to have a collaborative space where we could work together and inspire each other, but we also wanted gallery space so we could do Arts Alive openings." The initial plan is for each E2 member to contribute $50 a month to cover rent and expenses. Clark added that while E2 won't initially keep regular hours, group members will usually be there creating their art if people want to drop by.

This won't be the case with the Accident Gallery down at the foot of F Street (next door to Vanity) -- if you miss the Arts Alive opening of their "Hit and Run" exhibit, the 20 participating artists will have packed up their art and moved on.

I discovered this collaborative venture (by accident) the other day on my way to the boardwalk when I saw three young people inside the space pounding nails in the wall. I poked my head in to see what was going on and Phyllis Barba, one of the artists, explained that the group is composed of several friends (in the 20-30 age range) who were just looking for a place to display their art. The F Street location is currently being leased by Laura Dougherty next door at Vanity (she'll be knocking down the wall and expanding), and she offered the artists temporary use of the space, rent-free.

I can't vouch for the quality of the art, since I haven't seen any of it, but the Hit and Run show should still be a really fun event, with lots of inexpensive art, live music and serious prizes. Get this: The group will be raffling off 15-20 pieces of their art at 9 p.m. (you have to be there to win) and the ticket prices are only 50 cents each. That's right, 50 cents. Guess where I'll be at 9 on Saturday night? Barba says the group plans to use the raffle money to keep their Hit and Run concept going, since the next time they have a show they'll probably have to pay someone rent.

Now, I have no idea whether any of these new ventures will still be around next year or the year after that, but for me, success comes in the doing of it. It's impossible to keep our art community healthy and alive unless local entrepreneurial spirits are willing to go for it and "make it happen." As Nancy Flemming said when we spoke last night, "Sometimes you just have to hold your nose and jump."

Also in MAY:

  • This weekend will be your very last chance to see Mel Schuler's exhibit at Morris Graves, since the show closes on May 2. The Redwood Art Association's Juried Spring Exhibit also opens at the museum this weekend.
  • If you missed the opening of Becky Evans' exhibit at HSU's First Street Gallery in Old Town last month (one of the best local shows I've seen this year), you can still see it through May 16.
  • Eric Fidjeland's "Fragile" exhibit is another one you don't want to miss -- it opens at Piante for Arts Alive and continues through May.
  • Frances Boettcher is one of the featured artists at Arcata Artisans (on the plaza) this month, and I just want to correct an omission from the title page of the 2004 Palette magazine, which I edited. The palette and that magnificent painting on the cover are hers and we neglected to give her credit. Mea culpa, Frances.
  • Janie Walsh has been working on an illustrated roster of all Humboldt County artists for some time now, one that will eventually reside in the county library's Humboldt Room. If you are producing any sort of two- or three-dimensional work, she wants to hear from you. Return the form she sent you -- or call her at 443-4733 and she'll send you one.

Linda Mitchell can be reached via




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