Downtown Port Townsend gallery to close: 'Stay tuned'

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — After running Artisans on Taylor for nearly four years, Anna Nasset is closing the gallery.

The sign in her window says “reinventing my life, stay tuned.”

Nasset, 33, is closing the gallery two years after moving it from 236 Taylor St. to a more visible location at 911 Water St.

She said a change in the market due to a poor economy and years of a deficit were fatal blows.

And city construction work on Water Street last year didn't help, she said.

“We all thought the move to Water Street would be a good one. My advisors all thought it was a great idea,” she said.

“Owning a gallery is an interesting game. One week, you sell a lot of $40 pairs of earrings when you really need to sell a painting for $5,000 and you keep waiting for that sale to walk through the door.

“It's a gamble, and it's one that I guess I lost.”

The gallery's last day in business will be Oct. 10.

The going away party will be earlier. It is planned for 5 p.m. Saturday, coinciding with the Port Townsend Gallery Walks.

Artisans on Taylor has long been the social epicenter of the monthly event.

That will continue this weekend with a DJ and, Nasset hopes, lots of friends and well-wishers.

“We will be celebrating 22 years of business,” she said.

Nasset took over the gallery from Teresa Verraes, now executive director of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, in 2009.

Andrea Guarino-Slemmons was the founder and prior owner.

“I've been selling a lot of jewelry, which has really kept the doors open, but we are in a time when people aren't buying big paintings the way they used to,” Nasset said.

“A lot of people came in and said they really like something but they don't need it.

“There was a time when people who wanted something could just purchase it.”

Nasset intends to stay in Port Townsend and create a new business.

She already has held two Artology Retreats, workshops that instruct and encourage women in the harnessing of their artistic muse.

Port Townsend, Nasset said, “is a great place to create art but not an easy place where you can sell art.”

Nasset said that the kind of businesses that survive will fill a need rather than satisfy a want.

“We don't have the commerce to keep us all open,” she said.

“A lot of people go out of their way to shop locally but there isn't enough business, so we need to look at the role of art in the community, what we are doing to keep galleries open and how we can support artists.”

Nasset said she has worked to maintain a positive attitude.

“It's been a huge lesson for me to stay positive and still let people know I'm struggling, although I couldn't tell the mass public that.”

Laurie McClave, owner of the Red Raven Gallery, agrees with Nasset that jewelry sales can keep a gallery afloat when painting sales are slow.

McClave said she is doing well in her new location. The gallery was moved last month from a narrow storefront on Water Street to a space in the Undertown, accessible by a sidewalk staircase at the corner of Water Street and Taylor Street.

She attributes her success to a cooperative model and an extensive online marketing presence, differing from the more traditional gallery model followed by Nasset.

“We are a bit edgier than a lot of places. There are no other galleries like theis,” said McClave, whose walls are packed densely with paintings as opposed to the airier design favored by upscale galleries.

“The artists here keep this town vibrant, people come here from all over to see art, music and theater that makes this town different and keeps it vibrant and viable.”

Christina Mace, co-owner of the Simon Mace Gallery in Nasset's previous location at 216 Taylor Street, said her gallery is doing well for herself and her husband Brad Mace. (Simon is the dog).

“Artisans on Taylor will be greatly missed,” she said.

“It has been an institution in Port Townsend for decades and an anchor for the arts community.”

“We would like to see more galleries downtown to grow Port Townsend's reputation as an art destination that would draw visitors and provide locals deeper exposure to art from here and away.”

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: October 01. 2013 7:13PM
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