Arts and Entertainment

A gallery welcomes everyone to show their art, and Islanders respond

Two gallery-goers check out the all-Island show at VALISE. - Elizabeth Shepherd/Staff Photo
Two gallery-goers check out the all-Island show at VALISE.
— image credit: Elizabeth Shepherd/Staff Photo

For the past month, a small Island gallery has hosted an exhibit that proves the creative spirit is alive and well on Vashon.

The show, “Vashon Jam/Slam/Glam All-Island Art Show,” opened at VALISE Gallery, an artist-run cooperative gallery, on July 2, and gallery members said it has been their most well-attended and talked-about show ever.

“Five times as many people as usual have come to this show,” said Elizabeth Conner, a VALISE member.

The show started to garner attention even before it opened, because it was based on an unusual and ecumenical premise — any Islander who wanted to have their artwork shown in the exhibit could simply bring it to VALISE and have it displayed.

Islanders of all ages showed up in droves, with colorful quilts, carved sculptures, vibrant photographs, paintings of every kind, tiny collages, meticulous tiled works and even a few Dada-esque installation pieces.

Children came, too, bearing precious drawings framed by their doting parents or imaginative doodles and cartoons scrawled on notebook paper.

In all, 124 Islanders brought work to be included the show, and it took VALISE members 10 hours to install the show in the clean, white gallery space.

Conner, who helped hang the show, said the installation process was exciting.

“We wanted everything to look as great as it possibly could,” she said. “What were the conversations that could get started around groups of pieces?”

But Conner also recalled that that as she watched artists bring their work into the gallery, “There were times I just wanted to go into the bathroom and sob. The work that was brought to us was very heartfelt. I think, on a certain level, this is the most serious and sincere show we’ve ever done.”

VALISE, which has nine members, has been open for about a year and a half, and in that time, the gallery has become a fixture on the Island’s art scene, with monthly exhibits showcasing art by gallery members and guests.

The gallery’s name is an acronym for Vashon Artists Linked In Social Engagement, and in keeping with the moniker, past exhibits have included thought-provoking installations that touch on political and social issues. But the gallery has also mounted more traditional exhibits of paintings, sculpture and photographs.

“The difference in this gallery is that artists can show whatever they want and it doesn’t have to be for sale,” said Gay Schy, a gallery member. “We have the luxury of creating things that are more experimental and ethereal.”

“Since the beginning this has been a place to take risks and stimulate and involve the community,” said Carol Schwennesen, another member.

The all-Island exhibit, said Schwennesen, has done just that, by not only providing an all-inclusive welcome to new and emerging artists but also by raising important questions that touch on the mission of VALISE.

“What is talent?” she asked. “On what basis does an individual say, ‘I am an artist?’”

As Schwennesen stood in the packed gallery last Saturday and greeted small groups of curious Islanders and tourists, she added that she hoped the show would have a lasting effect.

“I hope this will open people’s eyes enough to come in and see other people’s work and be less afraid,” she said. “This is an embodiment of what we’re doing.”

“Vashon Jam/Slam/Glam All-Island Art Show” will run through July 31 at VALISE, located at 17633 Vashon Hwy. S.W. Visit for gallery hours. There will be a free music performance from 7 to 8 p.m. Friday, July 30, featuring Island musician and artist Chris Phillips. Phillips will play a solo electric bass improvisation, creating a palette of tones with silence, texture and duration, to augment and celebrate the exhibit.

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