Group hopes to save Olympia gallery known for artwork using reclaimed materials

Contributing writerMarch 7, 2014 

  • MATTER GALLERY'S CAMPAIGN

    What: Eight artists are becoming part owners of the gallery dedicated to art created from reclaimed, recycled and sustainable materials. The online fund-raising campaign will help the artists fund the purchase.

    When: Through March 16

    To donate: kickstarter.com/projects/2055665944/matter-gallery-art-and-sustainability-hanging-toge

    More information: 360-943-1760; matteroly.com

Matter, Olympia’s gallery of art created from reclaimed, recycled and sustainable materials, is itself in the process of being reclaimed.

Jo Gallaugher, who opened the gallery four-and-a-half years ago, is moving to Seattle to be near family (and to take a high-powered job at the University of Washington), so the gallery is in transition.

A core group of eight artists, all of whom show their work at Matter, is in the process of taking over. They’ll run the gallery day to day, working retail shifts, using their own gifts to do curating, publicity, Web design and more, and they’ll co-own the gallery with Gallaugher, who will continue to be involved after her move at the end of March.

The artists have some new visions to add to what the gallery already offers. They want to match artists and artisans with people looking to do green building and gardening projects, host more events and offer a studio tour.

All that will happen – if Matter’s Kickstarter project is successful.

The artists are investing their own money in the gallery, but the $22,000 the group is hoping to raise on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website, will make up the difference. The artists have given themselves until March 16 to hit the goal.

Earlier this week, they hadn’t hit the halfway mark yet. The project will be funded only if they meet their goal by 11:59 p.m. March 16.

“It’s very likely if this doesn’t work out that the gallery would close,” Gallaugher said. “I don’t want to make it sound dire, but I want people to realize it’s urgent.

“We all just saw the toy store close,” she added. “There’s so much potential downtown, but people need to take responsibility for supporting their local businesses.”

Roxanna Groves, one of the artists buying the gallery, put it this way. “If this is an art town, you need to own the fact that this is an art town. We’re looking for people who want to be patrons of art much as they would have done in a 17th-century court.”

But Matter is about more than art, of course, and that’s one of the reasons Gallaugher didn’t want to sell it outright. She wanted to make sure the gallery continued to offer work by artists with environmental consciousness, a vision shared by the artists who have teamed up to keep the gallery on course.

“I really believe in what Matter is doing, which is showcasing art from sustainable, green, recycled materials,” said artist Diane Kurzyna, also known as Ruby Re-Usable. “I’ve dedicated my life to making art from recycled materials.

“Our missions are basically the same.”

Art made sustainably is good for the environment on more than one level, she said. “This kind of art needs to be seen, to educate the public about environmental issues,” she said. “The medium is the message.”

Groves, who’s coordinating the gallery’s day-to-day operations, also sees Matter as more of a mission than a business. “This is not something we’re going to get rich doing,” she said. “If we are sharing the profits of a small gallery, you know we’re not going to make a living doing this, but we all believe that what we’re doing is so important that we’re willing to make the time.”

The other artists teaming up to run the gallery are Mian Carvin, Cha Davis, Bil Fleming, Jude Manley, Steven Suski and Pat Tassoni.

Many other artists who show at Matter also will offer support, and the gallery will continue to show art by about 100 artists, said Gallaugher, who will help with curating and submissions. “And I’ll come to the parties,” she added.

Those should be something to see. At last Saturday’s Kickstarter campaign launch, the gallery was filled with artists, customers and well-wishers admiring the art, such as Tassoni’s Space Needle-inspired lamps and Davis’ paintings of chickens. They also were donating to the project, sipping champagne, and eating snacks catered by Dillinger’s Cocktails and Kitchen.

While pulling together a team to work cooperatively at first seemed like a daunting task, Groves is optimistic about the direction Matter is headed.

“Everyone is really invested in making sure we succeed,” she said Monday. “I’m very excited now. A week ago, I was a little on the terrified side.”

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