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Regional treasure is a gift-buying pleasure

Shoppers looking for creative, fun, meaningful gifts turn to Valley Art


by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: JOANN BOATWRIGHT - Kathy Brooms origami ornaments caught the attention of Gales Creek resident Marilyn Dober when she shopped at Valley Art recently.According to Marilyn Fink, Lake Oswego doesn’t hold a candle to Forest Grove—at least not when it comes to Valley Art.

“Oh my gosh!” the LO resident gushed Monday as she shopped for presents in the Main Street art gallery. “It’s the most incredible treasure of gifts that are affordable.”

For her daughter, “who is kind of struggling right now,” Fink found a “gratitude journal” featuring a mixed-media collage with real leaves on the cover. Artist Koka Filipovic offers garden and travel journals as well.

For her sister-in-law, Fink eyed a large, rectangular $54 serving dish: “She loves ceramics. She entertains. It’s handmade.”

For her husband’s secretary, a beautiful plate. For her grandchildren, glass snowflake and gingerbread ornaments. For her neighbor (and herself), little glass Christmas-stocking pins.

Marilyn Fink is the ideal shopper for Valley Art--at the ideal time of year:

Dana Zurcher, the current Valley Art board chair, said November and December see the gallery’s biggest sales numbers. The holiday season brings in most of the revenue to fund its many public events, including the popular Chalk Art Festival, monthly First Wednesday celebrations and opening receptions for each new show.

“And our artists get fatter checks, which they appreciate,” Zurcher said of the holiday season.

Since 1966, the nonprofit has provided both a place for local artists to show and sell their work and a venue for shoppers to select one-of-a-kind handmade arts and crafts.

Holiday shoppers rarely blast into the venerable art gallery, grab something and rush out again.

The venerable Main Street gallery envelops shoppers with color, texture and creativity, inviting them to linger, puzzle over gift selections and soak up the beauty displayed by dozens of Pacific Northwest artists.

Because the gallery is run entirely by volunteers, Valley Art’s operating costs are low, said Zurcher, who estimates volunteer hours at 3,000 a year.

“We couldn’t do it without all of the wonderful volunteers,” she said.

Most of the artists live and work locally, although some hail from as far away as Longview and the Oregon Coast. Their media range from two-dimensional works—paintings, photographs and mixed media—to three-dimensional pieces such as pottery, fused and blown glass, hand-spun and knitted garments, jewelry, and wood carvings.

Each artist is carefully juried for quality and creativity, Zurcher said.

Especially popular this year, she said, are garden-art pieces created by Terry Powers of Sandy, who recycles gauges, meters and other industrial odds and ends to make whimsical outdoor sculptures.

Powers is, in fact, Valley Art’s biggest-selling artist, followed by jewelry maker Kay Bridenbaugh, mixed-media artist Lin Haak and potter Gene Phillips.

Zurcher said artists who can offer their work for less than $100 are most successful sales-wise, but higher priced items such as paintings can also do well, especially with collectors of the artists’ work. 

“All of the artists sell,” said Zurcher, who works as manager of Pacific University’s arts collection and is a fine-arts photographer, although she does not show her work at Valley Art. “Maybe someday,” she said.

Zurcher has guided Valley Art Association through the installation of a new wall-hanging system for 2-dimensional work, and new wooden display units now show smaller items like cards and prints to better advantage.

Valley Art owns its building and took on a major remodel and facelift project several years ago allowing for more flexible exhibition space.

It certainly got the attention of Fink, who stumbled on the gallery last year when she was taking her in-laws to a dentist appointment nearby.

"You can hardly take everything in that's here," she said Monday, scanning the large, colorful, warmly-lighted space. Even if she weren't forced to make the 32-mile drive to help care for her in-laws, Fink said, "I've thought often it's worth the drive to shop here."

Jill Rehkopf Smith contributed to this story.



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