Gallery celebrates 25 years as Douglas’ creative hub
When a potential member is interviewed by the artists in the East Fork Gallery cooperative in Gardnerville, usual inquiries arise about experience, body of work, other interests.
"But we have a couple of other questions," charter member Lynn Kelly said.
"We ask them, ‘How are your hors d’oeuvres, and are you willing to clean?’ "
For 25 years, the cooperative has operated a gallery, bringing original art to residents of Carson Valley. Three charter members, along with the gallery’s 12 other artists, will be on hand Sunday for an anniversary celebration from noon to 5 p.m.
"We started in an old building in Gardnerville. There were vacant lots on both sides," said James Lawrence, 94. "We had quite a few would-be artists around, and we decided to see if we could make a gallery. It just kind of grew."
The artists have been homeless twice.
The first time was in January 1995 when an arsonist torched the block of historic buildings that housed the gallery.
The second was in August 2000 when the gallery’s lease at the new Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center was not renewed, and the artists were forced to find a new address.
"That turned out to be a blessing," said Kelly, 80, pointing out the features of the spacious, well-lighted gallery.
The cooperative moved to its latest location in the Record-Courier building in downtown Gardnerville. The gallery is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., browsers welcome.
"Everything on the wall is original," Kelly said. "We’re very proud of the gallery. I bring friends in here. They are just awed."
Prices at the gallery range from $3 for original greeting cards and magnets to paintings at more than $1,000. Other items include jewelry and pottery.
Some work of nonmembers is accepted on consignment.
Each member is required to work at the gallery two or three days a month, greeting customers and handling sales.
The members set up new shows and take care of housekeeping duties. Artists are featured at quarterly receptions, and everyone pitches in with refreshments.
New members must be approved unanimously.
"That’s probably why it has worked so well," said Elfriede Short, 67. "You don’t have friction with new members. We have to be compatible, willing to work and supportive of the other members."
Kelly said quarterly art shows and receptions inspire the artists.
"When there’s a show coming up, you get busy," Kelly said. "We all feel we have grown artistically. When you are around galleries, you get better."
Short said members of the co-op don’t expect to get rich.
"This isn’t Raley’s or Scolari’s where everybody goes to buy their bread and butter," Short said. "I tell myself, ‘It’s my hobby, it’s is my love.’"
Some days, no visitors stop by the gallery, but Short said she uses those occasions to paint or create her hand-decorated Easter eggs and Christmas ornaments.
"It’s our contribution to the community," Kelly said. "We love to see our old customers. They come in to tell us, ‘Hey, we’re still around to support you.’"
Both women said they didn’t give much thought in 1979 to the future of the East Fork Gallery.
"We just took it for granted that we would be here," Kelly said.
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