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For the week of May 31 through June 6, 2000

Gallertainment

Ketchum galleries, like museums, strive to entertain and educate


"Something wonderful happens when you’re around wonderful art or anything of beauty. It enriches your life and expands it. So why shouldn’t galleries be used for that purpose? Galleries certainly shouldn’t be about isolating art from the rest of the world."

- Barbi Reed, Owner, Anne Reed Gallery


"The goal is to encourage people to have a longer experience with art. They shouldn’t feel like they have to buy something. It’s about exposing people to artists."

- Gail Severn, Owner, Gail Severn Gallery


By HANS IBOLD
Express Staff Writer

Mention "art gallery" to most people and the words conjure an austere, all-white space that could easily be mistaken for an interrogation room. What’s more, art galleries are where many people expect to find snooty, sneering art professionals.

It’s a fair stereotype, unless you’re talking about art galleries in Ketchum.

Gail Severn

Gail Severn opened the doors to her spacious new gallery in Ketchum on Saturday. The gallery, she said, is as much about making art exciting as it is about selling art. Express photo by Willy Cook

 

Here, gallery owners are going out of their way to offer galleries that are user-friendly, entertaining and educational. They do this by creating spaces that entertain, by hosting monthly gallery walks—which could be more aptly called "gallery parties"—and by enticing the public with a wide range of multidisciplinary programs.

Make no mistake, the galleries in Ketchum, like all art galleries, are out to sell art. But beyond retail, many of the galleries here have a museum-like mission: to enrich people’s lives.

Of course, any art gallery would claim to serve this educational and entertainment function and would deny that a gallery’s business is merely retail. But in Ketchum, gallery owners are putting their money where their mouths are.

Consider the Gail Severn Gallery, which recently opened its new and grand space on Fourth Street and First Avenue.

"I wanted the space to be open and airy so you can go from room to room and not get stuck," said owner Gail Severn, just hours before opening the gallery’s gargantuan 22-by-18-foot door for gallery walk Saturday.

"People have a tendency to feel uncomfortable when they walk into a gallery. I wanted this space to be open enough so that they can flow freely and not dead-end somewhere."

It’s also supposed to be the kind of space that stimulates contemporary art appreciation, not just consumption.

"The goal is to encourage people to have a longer experience with art," Severn said. "They shouldn’t feel like they have to buy something. It’s about exposing people to artists."

The size and scope of the three-story building—it is 25,000-square feet, has multiple rooms with 22-foot-high ceilings, an outdoor courtyard, office suites and underground parking—allows Severn to go beyond just showing contemporary art.

"I look forward to holding special events here," Severn said. "I love the possibility of different community groups being able to use the space. Again, the goal is to do what it takes to get people to have a longer experience with art."

Is this approach unusual in Ketchum? Not at all.

One block south of Severn’s space will be the future home of the Anne Reed Gallery, which is currently in the Walnut Avenue Mall.

The gallery’s owner, Barbi Reed, is approaching the new gallery almost as if it was a museum.

"I want to have the flexibility within the space to do a variety of exhibitions and to have the space to be used by the community for things like dance, lectures, music, slide presentations and fund-raisers," Reed said.

Reed went so far as to hire Los Angeles-based design consultant Joseph Coriati, who has consulted for museums such as P.S. 1 in New York City and Bergamot Station in Los Angeles.

 

Reed said she hopes Coriati’s ideas, together with Ketchum architect Peter Ripsom’s design, will make the space feel "community friendly and accessible."

Why all the effort?

"Something wonderful happens when you’re around wonderful art or anything of beauty," Reed said. "It enriches your life and expands it. So why shouldn’t galleries be used for that purpose? Galleries certainly shouldn’t be about isolating art from the rest of the world."

That user-friendliness is nothing new on the Ketchum gallery scene, but it’s hard to come by in urban areas, Reed said.

"Galleries in Ketchum have always been more accessible and user-friendly than ones in urban areas, and we’re representing the kind of work that you might find in an urban center," Reed said.

It’s an approach that reflects what’s happening in museums across the U.S. and in Western Europe, according to Kristin Poole, artistic director of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts.

"Museums are thinking of themselves in entirely different ways," Poole said. "They’re changing from dark, dusty storehouses where scholars work in semidarkness to spaces that open their doors for a variety of uses, some art-related and some not.

"Galleries here are in step with that phenomenon. They’re making a constant effort to engage people, and they’re very generous and compassionate about their commitment to the community."

The Sun Valley Center, a nonprofit educational arts organization, has community outreach as its primary mission. When its gallery exhibits fine art, it is almost always in conjunction with a multidisciplinary program.

A center exhibit that opens July 14, for example, will feature artists who chronicled the American West after Lewis and Clark made their original journey. In conjunction with the exhibit, the center is holding lectures, slide shows and classes for adults and children.

"It’s our not-so-hidden agenda to not just explore a theme in depth, but to attract interest, to attract people," Poole said. "We sell very little art. It’s not just about generating numbers. It’s about exposing people to art and to multiple points of view, because we believe art enriches our lives."

With the Sun Valley Center and Ketchum galleries focused on entertaining and educating the public about art, aesthetic adventures abound.

"This valley is tremendously unique with its lively cultural community," Poole said.

It is a culture that is going to continue to thrive, according to Severn.

"The audience is allowing galleries to take broader steps," Severn said. "Because our audience is so supportive intellectually and financially, we’ve been able to create bigger spaces and we can continue to push the envelope."

 

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