Landing Art Gallery in Port Angeles changes hands, but with some bitterness
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Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News
Sky Heatherton of Port Angeles, seen here with a painting by Pat Starr, is the new owner of the Landing Art Gallery. Heatherton is organizer of the annual “Embracing Life Through Art” show at the Landing mall in Port Angeles.
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Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News
Manager Jeff Tocher will leave Port Angeles’ Landing Art Gallery, along with his paintings, at the end of the month as new owner Sky Heatherton takes over.

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Sky Heatherton is over the moon about buying the Landing Art Gallery, one of the North Olympic Peninsula's largest showcases for local artists — but the gallery manager is less enthused.

Heatherton, who will take over the gallery inside The Landing mall on Port Angeles' waterfront Feb. 1, plans to change the name and is taking suggestions from community members through this Friday via 360-461-6546.

The person who submits the winning name will receive a prize of dinner for two at Smugglers Landing, the restaurant beside the gallery.

Meanwhile, Jeff Tocher, manager of the Landing Art Gallery, is calling the ownership change a broken promise.

The gallery, like The Landing mall, was owned by the late Paul Cronauer, a real estate developer who loved art. Cronauer lost his fight with cancer in August 2012 and left the gallery to his daughter, Jill Cronauer of Seattle.

At that time, artist Sharon Shenar of Sequim was gallery manager. She'd written a proposal for an art gallery and pitched it to Paul Cronauer years before.

At Paul's memorial service, Shenar recalled his delighted response: “Where have you been all my life?” he'd asked, sealing the gallery plan with a hug.

Last May, Shenar retired as manager and turned the gallery over to Tocher, who updated its floor plan, brought in new artists — some 43 display works there now, he said — and hosted opening parties for new shows during Port Angeles' Second Weekend art walk.

Tocher said Sarah Cronauer, Paul's widow, told him she wanted him to continue running the gallery. More than once, Sarah indicated he would be its operator, he said. And so, with gusto, Tocher devoted himself to the Landing Art Gallery, hanging new shows and doing publicity.

Tocher said that on the day after Christmas, he received a letter notifying him the gallery had been sold and he'd no longer be manager.

Sarah declined to comment on the sale, saying it is a complicated situation.

The seller, Jill Cronauer, wrote in an email to the Peninsula Daily News that when her father died, she kept the gallery open because it was important to him and her family.

But “I could not sustain this potential risk,” Jill wrote.

“We are grateful Sky stepped forward to take on the responsibility, and the gallery will remain open.”

Heatherton, for her part, declined to comment on Tocher's job and would not give the gallery purchase price, saying she had signed a confidentiality agreement with Jill Cronauer.

The organizer of “Embracing Life Through Art,” an exhibition of works by cancer survivors for the past three Octobers at The Landing, Heatherton said she is thrilled to become a full-time gallerist.

“It's almost like full circle,” she said.

The Landing mall itself has been for sale since last summer; the asking price for the building, which houses businesses including Downriggers restaurant and Wine on the Waterfront, is $4.4 million.

When asked if there have been any bites, Jill Cronauer said only that “there is no change in ownership.”

Tocher, along with Shenar and Mike Pace, a Port Angeles painter, are removing their work from the Landing Art Gallery in the coming weeks.

Tocher said he'll have a show in February at Olympic Cellars Winery and look into other venues, while Pace is marketing his paintings via his Barky's Dog House Art page on Facebook.

Shenar said she's also removing her handmade jewelry and other belongings.

Tocher, though saddened, said he's ready to move on.

He'll continue another of his roles in the community, as coordinator of Second Friday Art Rock, a live-music-art-making party held at Bar N9ne each month. The next 2FAR, as it's known, will be Feb. 14.

And Heatherton will host a Second Saturday party at her gallery Feb. 15 — also her 69th birthday.

________

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 21. 2014 6:57PM
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