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Barnworks collective reunites in a new venue
When the collaborative gallery Barnworks shuttered its doors at the end of 2012, it left a significant hole in the Vashon art scene. For over 30 years the barn situated in the field behind Sharon Munger’s house held biannual art shows, retreats, weddings and parties and became the site for sewing the annual Vashon Allied Arts community quilt. Yet while the venue may be gone, the spirit behind the artist collective remains. The group will hold a reunion show at The Hardware Store Restaurant, opening on Friday, Aug. 1, during the First Friday Gallery Cruise.
The end of an era was the general consensus about Barnworks’ closure for just about everyone except Rose Belknap. The artist, who joined Barnworks in 2007, found enjoyment in all aspects of working with the 11 members, from painting together to the critiques and shows. So Belknap not only held out hope for a Barnworks revival, she acted on it.
Belknap inquired with The Hardware Store Restaurant about hanging a Barnworks show. It took two years for the group’s name to come up — apparently reservations are tight not just for a table at the busy eatery, but also for the back room gallery — and now the collective will once again exhibit as a group.
“Two years ago the impetus for the show was so the group wouldn’t fall apart,” Belknap said. “They are wonderful people. I think the show gives them something to look forward to, a reason to get working.”
Unlike Belknap, Munger, who is in her mid-70s, was more than ready to call it quits after three decades of caring for the barn and managing Barnworks events. Even so, the energy of the collective continues to exert its pull on her.
“I’m really excited to see each other’s work,” Munger said. “Though I still paint landscapes in pastels, my work is different now than two years ago. It’s nice to look forward to showing as a group again.”
Debi Crawford also is happy to exhibit once again with Barnworks. She joined the group in the early 1990s when it was primarily a collection of watercolorists before it evolved to include mixed media artists. Crawford returned to Vashon last fall after having been gone, she said, for too long from the island.
“I would love to see Barnworks come back together again,” Crawford said. “It’s nice to be a group as we learn from each other and from sharing as a creative collective.”
Apparently they also spur each other on. Munger said one of the members had not been painting until he received an e-mail blast from the other artists telling him “to get going.”
But none of the group — Jerry Balcom, Donna Botten, Mary L. Hodgins, Dayl Holst, Geri Peterson, Jayne Quig, Hartmut and Ilse Reinmitz, Jon-Eric Schafer and Janice Wall — would be showing together, according to Munger, without Belknap’s initiative.
At Belknap’s Dockton home, with views of outer Quartermaster Harbor, four oil paintings hang on the living room wall, new work that Belknap plans to exhibit. Belknap said she always tries to keep a painting in progress. She believes in the power of creativity — how it helps focus the mind and helps one to see better — and experiences firsthand the healing aspect of art.
Shortly after Barnworks closed, Belknap began painting landscapes, those she’s seen and photographed. On a square canvas, a vibrant display of Snoqualmie Falls is one example of Belknap’s new focus. It’s also what she calls a gift from her son Ryan, who died in a car accident in 2013.
“I had been looking for something to paint,” Belknap said, “and came across this packet of photos Ryan took in fifth grade at Camp Waskowitz. It was a little gift as I’d been wanting to paint a waterfall.”
Belknap plans to set aside 10 percent of her sales for the Ryan Krug Memorial Scholarship, which awards six scholarships to Vashon High School seniors who letter either in cross country or soccer or have over 250 hours of community service.
The Barnworks show will fill the walls in the back room at The Hardware Store Restaurant. Each artist expects to hang three to four paintings, ranging from pastels to watercolors, acrylics and oils.
“I’m excited for the show,” Belknap said, “It is a great venue and should be a lot of fun.”