Sustained through three different locations, a myriad of different artists — and their accompanying diverse personalities — as well as a restructuring of its management system, the Verksted Gallery’s resilience is a testament to the power of working together for the greater good.
The ultimate good in this case is providing a welcoming setting for artists to display their works and for art lovers to indulge. As the Verksted celebrates its 20th birthday with a bash Saturday, it can safely put a check mark next to that objective.
The cooperative gallery was established in 1987 by two local artists — Mary Heffner and Elizabeth Haney. It began as a gallery ran by its own artists in the upstairs space of the Front Street building that is currently occupied by the Mor Mor Bistro. And though its location has since moved up the street to its current spot near the Jensen intersection, the tradition of artist cooperation has been sustained through two decades.
“Come celebrate with us 20 years of having something run by local artists,” said gallery marketing manager Dinah Satterwhite. “Which believe it or not, is quite a task.”
The gallery, which hosts space for nearly 50 artists, will be celebrating its birthday with a day full of artist demos, music, food and fare April 14. It all begins at 10 a.m.
Visitors will have the opportunity to witness the distinct artforms of wood turning and antler art while also watching wheel-thrown pottery and loom weaving.
All the while local musicians, including three gallery members and a North Kitsap High School jazz ensemble, will be providing ambience.
“At any given time, there will be two demos and music happening, plus the prize drawings and the food … and that’s about all we can fit in here,” Satterwhite said.
But that’s not quite all. Mayor Katherine Quade will also be making an appearance around noon.
“One of the things we do here is we are good for customers,” Heffner said, noting that the management structure of the gallery — in which member artists also serve as shopkeepers — provides for less overhead costs that would otherwise drive up the price for patrons.
“And because we’re not paying staff, that means you’re always meeting an artist here,” Satterwhite added.
The Verksted’s works are as diverse as the personalities which have created them. And as those artists are fused into the ground level of the gallery, it tends to create an excitingly sincere atmosphere.
The strength of the gallery is directly related to the strength of its membership, Satterwhite said.
“You’re getting a lot of original stuff,” she said. “This is all hand-made.”
The gallery features works that range from Anita Albala’s one-of-a-kind handcrafted wool hats to Jerry Lyman’s unique artistic perspective on animal antlers.
The Verksted also includes the somewhat requisite paintings, photographs and sculpture works in addition to its exhibits of obscurity.