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For the week of April 18 through April 24, 2001

Southern art

Blake Thornton opens a fine arts gallery in Hailey

Express Arts Editor

Think of fine arts galleries and Ketchum comes to mind. With 29 galleries—the number fluctuates depending on what one counts—this town of 3,003 has its fair share of venues for artists. Ironically, there is a large art community in the south valley—both artists and lovers of art—and no fine arts galleries.

Until now.

Blake Thornton, a resident artist, graphic designer and illustrator, has this week opened on Main Street in Hailey the Blake Thornton Fine Arts Gallery. In the space previously occupied by Christopher and Co. and next to Shorty’s Diner, Thornton has opened up shop. Given the wealth of artistic talent and interest in the south valley, the idea of a fine arts gallery has seemed imminent for years, yet just now the idea is being realized. Last week I spoke with Thornton about his latest project.

The new Blake Thornton Fine Arts Gallery in Hailey is open for business. Express photo by Willy Cook

Curiously enough, the snowball of an idea began with the success of a web design company called Tramark, located upstairs from the new gallery. Thornton, who runs a very successful graphic design and commercial illustration business, was sharing space with them. Tramark was growing and asked Thornton if he would consider moving to another office. It just so happened that the Christopher & Co. space was opening up. Though the rent was higher, Thornton went for it.

As he was moving his office downstairs, it occurred to him he could exhibit some of his own oil paintings in the space. Then it dawned on him that this would be a good opportunity to exhibit the art of other artists as well. And so the plan was hatched.

Blake Thornton

Thornton went about cleaning up the space: He removed a false ceiling to open the place up, added a nice lighting system and did some painting. With the giant window onto Main Street and the high ceiling, the gallery has a big, open feel to it.

In addition to the computer equipment he uses for his graphic design business, Thornton has installed a pulley system and special lighting that will enable him to paint in the gallery. He paints large landscapes with oils and graphite, almost exclusively of south valley locations. Thornton, who is an avid fisherman and always packs a camera, said the scenes of his paintings are "based on driving to and from fishing spots." Many of his works are of the Gannett Road area, Silver Creek and along the southern stretches of the Big Wood River. Often he will return to a place several times photographing and then painting it to reveal "what light does at different times of the day and in different seasons," Thornton said. He has "always loved the south valley and its colors. They are more subtle. The whole atmosphere is laid back."

Thornton envisions showing and representing several artists in his gallery. He hopes to feature anywhere from two to four artists and exhibit their art for a month at a time. "I want it to be more cutting edge stuff. I am going to try to find people who are breaking out and trying new things," Thornton said. He hopes to put some free-standing sculptures in the gallery and even some jewelry.

As for his own art, he anticipates going in a new direction as well. For the past year he has been working on eight, "very detailed, large and involved landscapes." When that project is completed he will start some more "contemporary and abstract pieces."

Thornton has a large family, a wife and four children aged 14, 10, 7 and 5, all of whom he would like to include in the business. Thornton is hoping to have his wife manage the gallery and get his children involved on the weekends.

It seems an ideal setup: a gallery for Hailey residents to view and buy new art, a lovely place to paint, albeit a public one, and an office where Thornton’s family can come and go.

"I’m excited," he said, "I’ve been in business for 30 years. This was a long time in coming."





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