Stevens Gallery continues to inspire artistic community

Jaime Fields, A&E Reporter

Although many art galleries remain inaccessible during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Stevens Gallery at Whitman College has found a way to reopen — although in a slightly different format than usual.

Elie Flanagan, a junior double major in English and art, is the curator of the gallery. She explained that she had already been involved in the Student Activities Office, and when the job to curate the gallery opened up on Handshake, she was excited to take it.

“I was interested in seeing if being involved in the art world was something I was interested in… Facilitating the consumption of other people’s work, turns out to indeed be fun,” said Flanagan.

She explained that because of the pandemic, the gallery has been forced to virtualize its space.

“We’re moving online. Basically what that means is that the gallery’s kind of a website for now,” explained Flanagan. “We also… put student work in the physical gallery, and that way we can offer virtual tours on the website for some of the shows.”

Senior art major Bailey Flinn’s paintings explore isolation and adjustment to COVID-19. Photo courtesy of The Stevens Gallery.

One of those students is Bailey Flinn, a senior art major and painter. Flinn submitted her art to the gallery at the beginning of the semester and received an email a few weeks later that she had been accepted for a show.

“It was really exciting! It was a pretty simple application process. Kind of daunting, though, because I was like, ‘wait, I’m one person and I have to fill a gallery!’” said Flinn.

Flinn started making art when she was young during an after-school program, but it wasn’t until she took up intensive oil painting at age 14 that she really fell in love with it. Although she has worked with other mediums, Flinn describes herself as a painter, and she bases her work on what’s around her.

“My art [comes from] working from the world around me. The pieces I have in the Stevens Gallery right now are sort of a response to COVID-19 and the isolation from it and new ways to interact with the world,” said Flinn.

Flinn also explained she was excited that the gallery was reopening, especially because it provides opportunities for students.

“I was really excited that Stevens Gallery was open, because I think it’s such a great resource for art majors who are looking to put on their resume that they’ve had a gallery show,” explained Flinn. “I’ve always loved going in there and seeing other people’s work.”

Junior rhetoric major Piper Toohey’s photos document quarantine. Photo courtesy of The Stevens Gallery.

Another student selected to show in the gallery was Piper Toohey, a junior rhetoric major. Toohey is a self-described amateur photographer, who started working in film when she received an old film camera from her aunt.

“I like film because it’s something that you don’t really have control over. You can’t see it until it’s already developed,” said Toohey.

Toohey’s photos, like Flinn’s paintings, are relevant to the current times.

“I took some photos around town after the quarantine had just started… because there were all these signs on every storefront that were saying, ‘Oh, we’re closed now’ or, ‘we appreciate your service’ or whatever,” explained Toohey. “I also just wanted to take photos of that time because I thought maybe they’d be useful. I’m excited the gallery wants to put them up.”

Jim Trumbull’s photos chronicle the emptiness of Walla Walla’s streets. Photo courtesy of The Stevens Gallery.

Jim Trumbull, a creative director who is currently branching out into creative strategy and photojournalism, is another photographer currently being featured in the gallery. Trumbull was struck by how Walla Walla had changed during quarantine while he was out walking with his wife.

“I started to realize that this was a time that may never come around again where the streets were completely empty—there wasn’t a soul, there wasn’t a car, and there were periods of time where literally for 45 minutes we wouldn’t see any life whatsoever,” said Trumbull. “So, I just kept taking pictures.”

Along the way, Trumbull realized he felt a certain responsibility to keep capturing images of this moment in time and to share them with others. A neighbor introduced him to Daniel Forbes, an adjunct professor of art at Whitman, who asked him if he’d like to show his work in the Stevens Gallery.

Although he’s been a creative director for many years, this is Trumbull’s first time showing his own work in a gallery. Recently, he’s been pursuing his own passion and work with encouragement from his son.

“I had my first camera when I was very young. Really I’ve been a creative director and standing behind the person taking the picture for many years professionally, but I’ve always had a camera with me… I’ve been taking pictures forever,” explained Trumbull. “Photography’s always been there for me.”

Artist Warren Pope’s work addresses social justice and redlining. Photo courtesy of The Stevens Gallery.

The other guest artist featured is Warren Pope, an artist who works primarily with 3-D canvases. Pope has featured in several major galleries, including an exhibit in the NW African American Museum in 2019. Some of this exhibit is also currently being shown on the Stevens Gallery website.

“[The work focuses on] social justice and redlining, which is a claw in my side that I feel we’ve always been very slow at addressing and coming to terms with being honest about how much damage that we’ve done,” explained Pope.

His page on the Stevens Gallery website also features some of his artwork surrounding environmental issues. Pope explained that he gave Flanagan, who he met through a neighbor of his, “free rein” with how his art was featured.

“I thought she did a really good job… It was refreshing to see how she put it together and… I’m impressed with what she did,” said Pope. “I have… passion about what is showing there.”

Pope also explained that he’s grateful to the college for giving him this opportunity in the first place.

“I’m really thankful to [the college] for even entertaining and putting the show up–I thought that was pretty cool on Whitman’s part,” Pope said.

The Stevens Gallery can be found online here, and the artists can be found on Instagram @warrenwpope,, @jimtrumbullstudio, and @bitchidiotfilm.

Elie Flanagan is an illustrator at The Wire.