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Arts! Alive 2013 kicks off with 80 artists at Sewell Gallery 

You've made it through the holiday season, for better or worse. Now, with the weight of overly ambitious New Year's resolutions squarely on your shoulders, you stare out across the abyss of another year, having just sworn off everything that made the previous year tolerable. What is one to do? Well, you could spend the first weekend of the New Year staring into that abyss. Or, rather than going cold turkey, you could ease into those resolutions and hit the town for the year's first Arts! Alive.

The Sewell Gallery in Eureka is looking to inject some life into what has traditionally been a slow Arts! Alive month by putting together one of its largest exhibitions of the year. Invitational Interlude will include more than 30 artists new to the Sewell Gallery. Along with that show, 50 artists who the gallery currently represents will also be on display. You have to admit, 80 artists under one roof is a lot of life in one location. In the words of Sewell Gallery director Joan Rosko, "We'll be rockin'."

This kind of large-scale invitational exhibition is a first for Sewell. The idea started in September, as part of an effort to find new artists to represent. The first step was selecting artists to invite. Gallery owner Jack Sewell, gallery director Joan Rosko and exhibition curator Adrienne Werth compiled a list of local artists they hoped would participate. Next, in an effort to cast a net beyond artists whose work they already knew, they emailed the gallery's current stable of artists and invited them to suggest other artists they'd like to show with. They got a great response and lots of new names. "And there wasn't a dud in the group!" Sewell said.

The artists on the final list were then invited to submit one piece each for the exhibition in January. Aside from size restrictions (a necessity to accommodate the large volume), the artists were free to submit whatever work they wanted.

The invitation also carried with it the possibility of being selected for long-term representation by Sewell Gallery. "That was part of the pitch," Werth said, "that we were looking, perhaps, to add another artist into our fold -- and it might end up being more than one."  In the end, more than 30 artists from the list submitted work for the exhibition. The resulting show promises to reflect the expertise and diversity of the Humboldt County arts community. "We've got a whole lot of really interesting work, from paper mache to assemblages to abstract [paintings] and other things in between," Werth said.

While the gallery is happy to see a wide range of mediums and styles from the artists it shows, it demands uniformity on one thing: Artists must live and work here, in Humboldt County. "We get a lot of artists outside of the area that apply to the gallery," Rosko said, "and we just have to tell them 'no, you're not a Humboldt County artist.'" The strict adherence to the Humboldt County rule flows from the gallery's original mission. It was founded to give local artists a home, an arena to showcase their work. "I had no reason to find artists from elsewhere. We wanted a showcase place for all the local talent up here," Sewell said.

The gallery's strategy seems to be paying off. Visitors from out of town often remark on the variety and number of quality artists in Humboldt, he said, and the eclectic mix of artwork appeals to a wide range of people.

Invitational Interlude will run from Jan. 2 until Jan. 28, featuring work by the following artists new to Sewell Gallery: Tim Baum, Elaine Benjamin, Natalie Craig, John Crater, Kit Davenport, Richard Duning, Bob Fasic, Susan Fox, Roy Grieshaber, Andrei Hedstrom, Cynthia Hooper, Kayla Johnson, Claire Joyce, Melanie Kasek, Suk Choo Kim, Mimi LaPlante, Georgia Long, Jim Moore, Peace, Susan Pence, Walter Pence, Steve Porter, Lyn Risling, Alan Sanborn, Keith Schneider, Sondra Schwetman, Emily Silver, Hans Spek, Mike Stengl, Shannon Sullivan, Lien Troung and Sarah Whorf.

There will be a reception for the artists on Saturday, Jan. 5, in conjunction with Arts! Alive. The group 4/4 Jazz will be providing live music. The Sewell Gallery is located at 423 F St. in Eureka.

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Jason Marak

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