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Community support and co-op model credited for the Spiral Gallery's longevity in Estacada

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - The late Joe Cotter created this painting of the Spiral Gallery, which also depicts Estacada residents. Gallery members will celebrate the organization's 15th anniversary with a reception on Friday, Oct. 6.

Before The Spiral Gallery came into existence, the Estacada Arts Commission would organize a pop-up art gallery every summer.

But 15 years ago, arts commissioner Jami Berry decided that the temporary gallery, which was an element of the Estacada Summer Celebration, needed to be a permanent fixture in town.

Berry noted that one year, the temporary gallery found its digs in the Estacada Motorsports building. Another year, the gallery would occupy the space on Broadway Street that would become The Spiral Gallery.

"I was sitting there in the afternoon going, this is a wonderful gallery," she recalled.

So she decided to make it permanent.

This month, the gallery will celebrate its 15-year anniversary with a group show titled "Autumn," which will hang through the end of this month. A reception will be held from 6-8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6, at the gallery, 341 Broadway St. The evening will feature live music, gift certificate drawings and complimentary cake.

Part of Berry's inspiration to start the gallery 15 years ago was Estacada's vibrant arts community.

"I knew there were so many artists here, and I (thought) they needed a place," she said.

Previously, the gallery's location on Broadway Street had been a gym, and before that, a grocery store.

Upon opening the gallery had approximately 15 artists, seven of whom are still there today: Berry, Nina Bradford, Earlean Marsh, Kolieha Bush, Am Griswold, Lynn Flores and Oscar Flores. Founding member Joe Cotter died in 2012.

Today, the gallery has 25 artists, with mediums spanning from painting and photography to clay, wood and mixed

media.

The gallery's inaugural First Friday artist — the creative force behind the revolving show each month — was Nina Bradford, who created 18 paintings depicting yucca plants.

"It was really fun and exciting. We had a big turnout," Bradford said, remembering the evening. "I sold a lot of art that night."

Since then, first Friday has become a well-established Estacada tradition.

"I'm always thinking, 'Oh, I hope someone shows up to first Friday,' and then they do...everyone does," Berry said.

Bradford noted that there has been a lot of continuity with first Friday attendees.

"A lot of people who went to first Friday 15 years ago are still coming and supporting it," she said. "People have a glass of wine, chat it up and see new art."

Carol Pulvermacher, the gallery's current president, believes the fact that there is a different show each month ensures that the space remains dynamic.

"The freshness of the show every month (is valuable)," she said, noting that the entire gallery is also rearranged monthly. "The gallery gets a freshness every month."

Gallery members the organization's longevity to community support and its co-op model, which it adopted two years after opening. As a cooperative, each member shares ownership and pays monthly dues to cover the building's rent.

Both Berry and Pulvermacher see many valuable aspects of being a cooperative.

"It's the only way to survive in a small town," Pulvermacher said. "I often think about other empty stores on the street (and wonder), what could we put in to be a co-op?"

In addition to the financial benefits, Berry also believes being a cooperative has encouraged member participation in the gallery.

"Everybody feels ownership in it, and everybody is willing to participate," she said, noting that tasks such as bookkeeping and decorating are divided among the artists.

Additionally, community members in Estacada have played a valuable role in the gallery from the beginning.

"The art buyers in this town are amazing," Pulvermacher said. "They do not let us down. Other (businesses) have come and gone, but we've stayed. And we stay because of community support.

When reflecting on how the gallery has changed, several artists agree that the pieces displayed have developed over time.

"It's gotten so much richer," Bradford said. "At first, it was a nice gallery, but it wasn't the gallery that it is today. It's constantly changing and growing and becoming a life of its own."

Artists added that they enjoy working with their fellow gallery members.

"(When I had my first show) they didn't have any qualms. (It was) 'Sure you can have a show," Pulvermacher said. "I had never had anything like that. I had never had that kind of response. It does wonders for your confidence."

Bradford noted that that camaraderie has been there since the beginning.

"All these years we've basically gotten along," she said. "It's quite amazing. I've been in other groups, and that's not always the story."

The artists encourage anyone interested to stop by the gallery.

"Autumn," the show for this month, will feature work from the majority of artists in the group. The show's theme came about because the gallery first opened in autumn.

"It's whatever your interpretation of autumn is," Pulvermacher said. "Each artist has their own, whether that's changes or colors."

Over the years, gallery members have strived to make others feel welcome in the space. For example, Berry noted that she will sometimes pull people in from the street to look at the gallery's offering.

"Bob Austin, he was mayor at the time, I pulled him in and said 'I have a piece you'll want to see," Berry said. "I've had people open the door and ask if it's ok if they come in, and I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, of course.' If the weather is nice I try to keep the door open so people are more apt to just walk in."

Pulvermacher added that "galleries aren't snooty."

"People should come to galleries for inspiration," she encouraged. "Go there and check it out, and learn about it."

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