Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Walla Walla art galleries remain local while nurturing expansive mediums

Walla Walla contains a strong arts community, expanding in tandem alongside the ever-growing wine industry. Here are a few galleries to consider visiting when getting your “art fix” downtown.

Skylite Gallery features local artists and pieces from around the world. Walla Walla’s art galleries offer students the chance to work, intern and showcase their artwork. Photo Credit: Ethan Parrish

Fenton/Stahl Gallery, 11 S. Spokane St.

This small gallery occupies the front space of a frame shop of the same name, both of which are owned and run by painter Mollie Fenton. The works featured in this gallery range from photographs and paintings to glasswork and jewelry.

Though not tied together by a chosen aesthetic style, the featured pieces change seasonally. When viewing the works, one can sense an overarching theme relating to nature. The gallery prides itself on maintaining a “certain quality of work” according to Shannah Johnson, a Walla Walla native and employee at Fenton/Stahl.

The gallery features the work of artists living in Walla Walla as well as artists from Idaho, Oregon and other parts of Washington. The gallery’s solid connection with the community allows local artists to bring their work to sell in the shop.

“We try to be supportive of the local art scene. We put notices of different classes people can take and different cards and brochures for artists,” said Johnson.

The frame shop is Fenton/Stahl’s greater focus, however, and generally they frame works for businesses and private owners.

“People bring in work and we look at matte and frame combos,” said Johnson. “We try to make people feel relaxed and at ease.”

Fenton/Stahl Gallery also has a connection to Whitman, as it has had three different students participate in work study programs that teach the framing trade.   Johnson encourages any students interested in art and framing to consider applying for a work study program at Fenton/Stahl.

Skylite Gallery, 7 North 2nd Avenue

Skylite Gallery. Photo Credit: Ethan Parrish

The Skylite Gallery features various artistic works in a series of rooms upstairs and a wine tasting room downstairs. The gallery displays a wide range of artistic mediums, including sculptures and paintings, with a unique and exotic aesthetic connecting the majority of the pieces.

The gallery tries to exhibit the works of local artists, but it also displays a number of foreign pieces as well due to the gallery owner’s frequent travel to different parts of the world.

Brian Mele, a Walla Walla native, is the current artist featured at the gallery. His photographs, capturing various aspects of skateboarding in what was the Blue Mountain Mall, have been on display since August. Mele graduated from Washington State University with a degree in photography.

Various pieces from Egypt, Africa and Asia contrast the local art. The gallery contains a room dedicated to Egyptian art with works ranging from sculptures of sphinxes and sarcophagi to paintings reminiscent of the days of Pharaohs.

Due to the gallery’s tendency to feature a single artist for a period of time, Whitman artists are encouraged to submit the gallery owner can consider it for this period of public display.

Willow, 2 East Rose Street

Photo Credit: Ethan Parrish

Perhaps the most upscale gallery of the three, Willow’s loft gallery features specialized exhibitions and a first floor for more general works of art. This gallery has a modern edge to it, with a very clean-cut design throughout.

Willow’s exhibition currently features works from artists Anne Bullock and Yuri Kinoshita. Bullock tends to favor art inspired by nature, and Kinoshita is known for her “woven lanterns” made with Japanese textiles and paper.

Each showcase that appears in the loft lasts for approximately two months and features an opening night catered with cheese and wine. Often times the artists themselves come to the openings in order to speak about their works.

Willow also strives to display works from artists who live in the area.

“Willow really focuses on local artists as well as artists from the upper northwest, but mostly right around Walla Walla,” said Willow employee Catherine Hysell.

The same goes for customers, as Willow draws many people from Seattle and Portland, but a fair amount from Walla Walla as well.

The downstairs area offers a variety of smaller pieces to buy, including woodwork, oil on copper products, knit work, jewelry and even decorative soaps.

Visitors will also notice a bronze willow structure spanning from one of the beams in the room. A work of art in itself, local artist Douglas Gisi designed the piece specifically for the gallery, taking over 500 hours to complete it.

Overall this gallery features an interesting variety of works in terms of price and type, and it is located in a space that is fittingly beautiful.

Skyline Gallery. Photo Credit: Ethan Parrish
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