From near oblivion to celebration

Rebounding economy, loyal customers help State of the Arts Gallery mark its 20th anniversary

rboone@theolympian.comFebruary 4, 2013 

State of the Arts Gallery, one of the oldest art galleries in downtown Olympia, celebrates 20 years in business this month after almost closing about 18 months ago.

Owner Deb Moody has marked the milestone by asking past artists who have shown their work in her gallery to produce art — in the medium of their choice — incorporating the number “20” into their work. Several of those pieces were raffled off to customers at a recent anniversary event, which included an appearance by local musician Holly Gwinn Graham.

Graham also performed when the gallery first opened, Moody said.

But what a difference 18 months makes.

In June 2011, Moody was debating whether to close the longtime gallery at 500 Washington St. SE, hoping that a “save our gallery” sale would do the trick. Up to that point, the recession had hit hard, with business falling by 20 percent every year since 2007, she told The Olympian that month.

That news story, an accommodating landlord and a slowly rebounding economy have helped keep the gallery going, Moody said Sunday.

“I couldn’t have lasted without his support,” she said about landlord Rick Panowicz.

She also said some of her past customers have given up waiting for the economy to improve and are spending money again, and she has stepped up her game on Facebook, posting more frequently about her business. Moody also has joined Pinterest, an image- and information-sharing website, she said.

Bitsy Bidwell, an artist, a gallery employee and a longtime friend of Moody’s, added Sunday that business is steadier and more predictable now, avoiding the violent ups and downs in business during the worst of the recession. “It doesn’t feel like that anymore,” she said.

Business was certainly steady with customers Sunday, including Sly Boskovich and her niece, Nevaeh Brewer, 11, who were visiting from Tacoma.

Nevaeh, who is set to move to Olympia, was being shown around downtown by her aunt, including a stop at State of the Arts.

Boskovich, who often visits downtown Olympia, praised it for its farmers market, coffee shops and fun, relaxing, casual environment.

“I like the downtown area,” she said.

Moody said she couldn’t thank her customers enough.

“Without them we wouldn’t be here,” she said.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403

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