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Gales Creek couple brings new art shop to Hillsboro

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Gales Creek residents Scott Vaughan and Amanda Stead are opening Perks of Art in Hillsboro, a business that allows artists to lease space and sell their work. Scott Vaughan and Amanda Stead’s 4-year-old son Fox is excited to sell his first work of art. It’ll be a bee eating a muffin surrounded by balloons, he said.

The Gales Creek couple is planning on leaving their son a little space in Perks of Art, the market-style retail shop they plan to open in the 4th Main Apartments building in downtown Hillsboro. Selected local artists will rent space for their art in mediums ranging from painting to felting to pottery.

After Vaughan quit his job as a graphic artist in the corporate world, he started selling his paintings and drawings at farmers markets and craft fairs. That’s not an easy way to make a living, he realized fast.

Market attendance relies on everything from traffic to weather, and artists’ works are only available a small fraction of the week. “I started to think about what I wanted as an artist,” Vaughan said, and realized he wanted a space that would make his artwork available to the public without a high commission.

Other artists want that too, apparently. Stead and Vaughan have room for about 25 artists — and have received about twice as many applications.

They’re slowly weeding through applicants in an attempt to stock the shop with variety and are focusing on those who are trying to make a living off their art. “We are considering everything,” Stead said.

“We ask ourselves, ‘Are we leasing to somebody whose use of the space will benefit the residents of our building and who will add to the vibrancy of the community?’” said Dwight Unti, president of Tokola Properties, the property management and development company responsible for 4th Main Apartments. “I like what they’re trying to accomplish here and I’m particularly interested in making art more accessible to more people.”

Starting sometime in August, the shop — complete with a coffee and wine bar — will be open regular hours throughout the week as well as additional hours to complement other downtown events such as farmers markets on Tuesdays and Saturdays or their own special receptions for new artists.

“It’s going to be very Crafty Wonderland-esque,” said Stead, referring to the annual Portland art and craft market held at The Oregon Convention Center featuring everything from candles to pet sweaters to paintings.

“We want to channel everything you love about all these craft fairs,” Stead said, including high-quality work, variety, items priced for all incomes, and a laid-back and welcoming atmosphere. They also want to choose work that’s different enough that artists don’t have to compete with each other in the same space.

A Pacific University speech-language pathologist program professor, Stead is not an artist herself but said she “appreciates the work and what it takes to create.”

“I live in the arts vicariously through Scott,” she said.

Stead will take over the administrative side of the business while Vaughan manages the day-to-day of the shop and continues to work on his art.

A Louisiana native, Vaughan had found the culture-steeped New Orleans starkly different from Baton Rouge, which was starved for art and culture. Moving to western Washington County, Vaughan and Stead didn’t know which sort of artists’ community they would find here.

They were pleasantly surprised.

“I think Oregonians in general appreciate their own — their own culture, their own farms, their own views, their own environment,” Stead said. “And when you think of suburbia you often think of a bland, corporate place but downtown Hillsboro is an exception to that.”

Hillsboro is one of the fastest growing cities in the state as the skyrocketing cost of Portland housing pushes more and more people into the suburbs.

That means more local customers for a place like Perks of Art.

“There’s been a huge push for an art-centric community and I think Hillsboro is ready for this,” said Stead, hoping Perks of Art will complement the rest of the downtown businesses.

Hillsboro Arts and Culture Council Community Arts Program Supervisor Melissa Moore set up a meeting with Stead and Vaughan as soon as she heard about their idea. “It’s a little different than what’s already there and it’s adding a nice way to connect independent area artists with patrons,” Moore said. “They’re really going to add to the arts and culture offerings.”