Local painter sets up his own island gallery with a twist

Tristan Ruegamer working on an ink painting in his new studio/gallery and bike shop. - Sarah Low/Staff Photo
Tristan Ruegamer working on an ink painting in his new studio/gallery and bike shop.
— image credit: Sarah Low/Staff Photo

A professional artist for 18 years, islander Tristan Ruegamer recently opened his own gallery, a spot that will offer visitors more than just art.

The mysteriously named Skunk Works will not only be a storefront for Ruegamer’s paintings, but will also function as a bike shop, selling vintage bikes that the artist has customized and restored, as well as servicing bicycles for islanders. All will happen in a small space in the building that also houses Shear Magic, across from Green Ginger on Bank Road.

“I’ve always wanted to work (artistically) on bikes,” said Ruegamer, who has shown his paintings in Seattle and on Vashon. “Everything just happened to line up well to get this going now.”

The everything that Ruegamer  references includes both the right space becoming available in town as well as the recent closure of Vashon Island Bicycles.

“We felt like people were still going to need the bike service, and Kriss Stoddard will continue to provide that through Skunk Works,” Ruegamer explained, as Stoddard used to service bicycles for the recently closed shop.

The new business will also provide a place for Ruegamer to sell the giant dahlias that he grows at his island home.

“I have about 150 plants in my garden, and I plan to sell the flowers when they’ve bloomed,” he said.

As for the name, Ruegamer says that Skunk Works is the official alias for a Lockheed-Martin development group that has worked on several famous aircraft designs, including the U-2 , SR-71 Blackbird  and F-117 spy planes.

“The name implies covert intelligence and interesting operations,” Ruegamer said with a smile. “That’s kind of how I feel about this.”

Islander Nicole Vanator, the unique venture’s manager, said that an online store is also in the works. While there are quite a few galleries and another bike shop already in town, the two say they believe they’ll still be able to appeal to a large market.

“Between the art, the bikes, the service and the flowers, that covers a lot of bases,” Ruegamer said.

Skunk Works is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays and will also be available to host First Friday showings for local artists. Visit for more information.

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