Views From Kennewick

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Endings and Beginnings

Just after moving to Kennewick, my business partner Josh and I decided to open an art gallery. The Bad Art Gallery was well received here, and we've had a lot of fun with it. But it's time to move on. We'll still keep the large format printer and continue that part of the business.

But today, the walls have no art on them. The furniture is mostly moved out. Holes are spackled. The Click-Rail hanging system is down. Since we still have some print orders pending, the printer and components will stay put till the last day of January.

We started this venture primarily as a store front for the printing business. To help with the rent we decided to rent wall space to artists who needed a venue to display and sell their art.

Unfortunately, Kennewick in general isn't a very artsy community, though there are many fine artists here.

Nearly every day, we'd spy someone driving down the street, they'd see our sign, the unmistakeable Mona Lisa with big yellow sunglasses. A double or triple-take and the driver turned around in the middle of the street, park, and come in. "I just HAD to see what Bad Art is!" was the most common statement.

Some would ask where the bad art was. Some would say "you've got that name right!" Art is nothing if not subjective.

Most of the artists came to us, and asked if they could hang their work. Our postman told us his brother was a talented artist, and indeed he is. I asked him if he'd like to display his art in our gallery. He declined, stating that the name Bad Art Gallery would look terrible on his resume.

I bit my tongue and refrained from telling him no one in their right mind in the art industry, looks at an artists resume. It just doesn't happen. A bio is usually all that's required. It's the occasional gallery that asks for a resume, and slides, and 20 pieces of framed art, but they'll only show eight to ten then take 50% commission on each piece.

He passed on the gallery, and we passed on him too. All works out the way it's intended.

Today, the gallery's almost empty. We still had people coming in for printing, even though it was obvious we are moving out.

We've reproduced and restored ancient photographs. The subject matter anything from relatives to photos of old homes. That won't change, just the location changes.

I'll miss the camaraderie of artists on a daily basis, but I can always visit D.S. Watkins Gallery and my friend Debra, or Michael Rastovich at Wintergrass, and Brooke and Michael at You and I Framing. I can always call C. King Dietrich and have coffee with him.

On the other hand, now I can enjoy Art Walk with the other folks. That'd be a nice and welcome change.

I can't imagine not seeing downtown Kennewick every day. So, probably I'll be a frequent visitor to the Roxy when Ann gets her coffee shop up and running.

The Bad Art experience is ending, yet there is never a shortage of bad art. The new venture is just beginning and with each day, excitement, and happy expectation grows. My gratitude list grows daily.

What will I miss the most about the gallery? It's not the art, or the printing, or the income.

Last week a woman and her father came in. He was charming, had lived here all his life, and told me stories about growing up in Kennewick. He remembered riding in his parents buggy across the Columbia River when it was frozen over, before the bridges were built.

He saw a print of a photo of downtown Kennewick, and remembered people and places of business that have long since passed. His memories are rich and full.

I finally asked his age, he is almost 92, but didn't look 70. He took his cap off and showed me a full head of white hair. He's very proud of that hair, and should be.

That's what I'll miss, the people that come in and stay a while, visiting and telling stories about Kennewick in the old days.

It's been an honor and a privilege to hear these stories, history in a moment of time.


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