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Spokane Artists Go Back To An In-Person, Socially-Distanced, Show

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Another casualty of the Covid pandemic: regional in-person art shows. Many have been cancelled during the last 18 months.

Last September’s Little Spokane River Artist Studio Tour was moved online. But this year, the committee that sponsors the tour was determined to hold it in person.On Friday morning, Spokane pottery artist Gina Freuen welcomed several guests to her front yard. They were artists erecting tents and displays for Saturday’s Little Spokane River Artist Studio Tour.

“I know several artists that are going to be here that travel nationwide show circuits and they had a whole year cancelled out. So we decided that we really needed to do it this year," Freuen said.

There were about 50 artists in all, split among five venues near Little Spokane River Drive. Their tents were spaced several feet apart. When customers arrived the next day, they were asked to join the artists in wearing masks.

Many artists brought plenty to show and sell, works created and stored during the last 18 months, due to lack of display and selling opportunities. Painter Lisa Marie Brown was hanging a few landscape paintings and portraits of flowers. She showed me two works in which she combined two paintings, cutting them up and weaving them together.  

“So basically you take one painting and, with an exacto knife, every half inch, I’m slicing it. And then with the second painting I’m cutting into strips and weaving it one at a time and snugging it up with my hand," she said.

Much of Brown’s work is in black and white and shades of gray, a color scheme she likes, but says she didn’t consciously plan. It was more a product of her pandemic moods.

“Depression and the isolation. I tried to do yoga and I didn’t get into the studio as much as I’d like to, but certainly that was a therapy for me," she said.

The monochromatic aspect of Brown’s paintings is in contrast to the colorful yard art created by Ritzville artist Terry Cody.

“I’m retired from pottery and I had 500 pounds of clay to use up and that’s how I used it. Plus having fun going around, getting old kitchen utensils at garage sales and a lot of spray paint," she said.

She used rebar to string ingredients together into eclectic pieces. Cody says she has sold her art online and wholesale during the last year-and-a-half. She was glad to be back at a live show. So was Gina Freuen.

“As artists we love the feedback that we get from the patrons and we need it. We’ve been starving for an event like this, a lot of us," she said.

Last year’s online version of this show wasn’t a total bust. She says artists, in general, made about half the money they normally would.

“I would say that I sell half of my year’s income at this event. That’s hard to give up like we did last year," Freuen said.

Whether artists had a good financial weekend, we don’t know. But the weather was nice and, according to the tour’s Facebook page, people who came and browsed had a nice time, glad to be able to see art in person again.