After 40 Years in Olympia, Future Is Uncertain for The Artists’ Gallery

By Molly Gilmore

Although it’s a large space with big windows, The Artists’ Gallery in west Olympia is easy to overlook. It’s at the mall, but not in the mall, nestled in between Italia Pizzeria and Massage Envy in the Capital Mall Promenade. And over the past year, the cooperative gallery — featuring a wide array of media by 16 artists — has been unable to host the events that filled the space with art lovers and gift shoppers.

Like so many arts organizations after more than a year of living in a global pandemic, the 40-year-old gallery, which moved from a space on Legion Way to its current location seven years ago, is struggling. “People need to know we’re alive and well in west Olympia,” said gallery member Robert Hunter, a painter and mixed-media artist. “A lot of people are surprised when they find out we’re here. They say, ‘I thought all the galleries were downtown.’ I think we have the distinction of being the one and only gallery on the west side.”

The 2,000-foot gallery is one of the largest galleries in Olympia, Hunter said. The art, rotated throughout the space every few months, is given plenty of space. “I think that’s an advantage,” he said. “I’ve walked into galleries where you get claustrophobic.”

The Artists’ Gallery has remained open all year — though its hours were reduced for a while — but business has been significantly slower than normal. “As Covid spiked, you could see the traffic falling off,” Hunter said. “People were really reluctant to come into places.” Too, it was not possible to host the events that used to draw 40 or 50 people.

“We had jazz musicians come in,” Hunter said. “We had wine pourings. Most of the artists were there. That would happen every few months, and it really boosted sales. That had to stop.” He’s looking forward to events resuming, he said, and meanwhile, art seekers don’t have to come to an event to meet an artist. The 16 members, whose work is evaluated by a jury before they’re admitted to the cooperative, staff the gallery, so one of them is always there.

The gallery offers a wide variety of pieces — paintings, photography, prints, fabric art, ceramics and jewelry. “Many of the artists are multitalented,” Hunter said. And the artist members all contribute their talents to creating and designing the space as well as running the gallery.

The work on display includes freshwater pearl necklaces by Jackie Brennan; paintings, sculpture and jewelry by Suzanna Bulatovic; nature and travel photography by Paula Glaser; wooden bowls by Kim Hoover; jewelry, ceramics and watercolors by Paula Kerr; watercolors by Jane King, who’s been a member of the gallery for 33 years; furniture, cutting boards and wood accessories by Bill Koss; jewelry, including enamel and copper, by Michele Marshall; fabric art by Susan Pavel, a Salish weaver; prints by Neil Peck; mixed media and fabric art and jewelry by Mia Schulte; paintings by Heather Simons; pastels and ceramics by Julie Szten; acrylics and fabric art by Debbie Tracey; and paintings, ceramics and more by Laraine Wade.

Hunter, whose work is mostly abstracts and landscapes, joined the gallery four years ago. “I’d been here for 10 years, and I’d done Arts Walk,” he said, “but I hadn’t gotten to know many other artists. I was really gratified to learn about this and get to know these people. The most worthwhile thing to do as an artist is to collaborate and share experiences with other people.”


The Artists’ Gallery


11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday;

Noon-5 p.m. Sunday


2505 Fourth Ave. W, Suite 105, Olympia

(In the Capital Mall Promenade)



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