For Patisserie owners, curating art is piece of cake

Alex Hagen

To many Whitman students, the Colville Street Patisserie is an inviting and cheerful alternative to spending another afternoon at the library. With its lively but calm atmosphere, the Patisserie offers not only delicious pastries and coffee but also a space in which one can take a moment to think, relax, study a bit and admire the artwork on display.

Credit: Allie Felt

It may take a few visits to the Patisserie to truly appreciate the various photos, prints and paintings adorning the walls. The art, selected by co-owner Tiffany Cain, comes to the Patisserie from a variety of sources, including artists from the area as well as artists whom Cain personally knows.

The art of the Patisserie is meticulously planned, with a waiting list of artists stretching three years into the future. Artists’ work is displayed for two months at a time, after which Cain puts up a new “show” with brand new art. The store can display any variety of art, though Cain says she tends to prefer contemporary and abstract artwork as well as photography. In the past, the store has displayed work by artists like Laurie Fairbanks, Steve Miller, Rachel Blakley, Carol Cole, Leslie Palota and Laci Cole.

Though the Patisserie’s art is for public viewing, Cain describes her selection process as a personal one.

“It really just comes down to my own taste,” she said. “It’s my building, you know, I’m gonna be looking at it for two months, [so] I really have to love it.”

Credit: Allie Felt

Cain is an avid art appreciator, visiting art shows around town to find artists as well as perusing artists’ portfolios online.

Because of the focus on a single artist at a time, the artwork often centers on a single theme or idea, bringing a sense of unity to the work displayed on the walls. For example, Cain described her admiration of Fairbanks’ series of wood-printed silk-screened hearts with juniper berries, a project that was inspired by Fairbanks’ father’s heart surgery.

Blakley, a mixed media artist who displayed her work after seeing another artist’s work in the shop and talking about it with Cain, discussed her appreciation of the Patisserie’s role in local arts.

“I feel like the Patisserie is a unique venue in Walla Walla in that it’s really a part of the community,” she said. “The local art helps to create such an interesting atmosphere.”

Credit: Allie Felt

Cain also discussed the general atmosphere of the Patisserie. Cain’s husband, co-owner David Christensen, selects the music playing in the store.

“It really is all for our own amusement,” Cain said with a chuckle. “It’s great that, hopefully, everybody else likes it too.”

The couple’s previous experience in food service has helped them to create a pleasant, dynamic atmosphere at the Patisserie. Cain formerly owned the Weinhard Café in Dayton, Wash., while Christensen worked as a pastry chef at the Whitehouse-Crawford Restaurant in Walla Walla.

“I like having that sort of environment around me. It’s a familiar atmosphere to me, so I definitely try to create that [here],” said Cain.

So the next time you’re grabbing coffee or a piece of cake at the Patisserie, take a moment to take in the surrounding art––you’ll be glad you did.