PORT TOWNSEND — Before opening the black box, Peggy Smith-Venturi put on her white gloves.
She then released the multimedia sculpture inside: a charcoal landscape with licks of orange flame and, in the center, a resplendent gold and green bird.
“The Phoenix” is just one of 20 scenes in “Unwrapped,” Smith-Venturi’s show at the Jefferson Museum of Art & History. The museum at 540 Water St. reopens Friday after a year when it was closed, on and off, for 10 months.
“The Phoenix” is a kind of symbol among Smith-Venturi’s works on display in the Ferguson Gallery: a new beginning while the fires are not yet extinguished.
The museum, open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays through Sundays to start, has two more new exhibits. Just inside the entrance is “Dear 2020,” a display of postcards people across the North Olympic Peninsula wrote to that transformational year.
In another gallery are five pairs of life-sized “jeans” made of paper. Artist Karen Lené Rudd sewed them from Port Townsend Paper Mill kraft material, complete with rivets and labels depicting workers.
The jeans, on display through May, are made to evoke mill work, logging, natural resources and human resources in the Pacific Northwest.
Museum admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $1 for children ages 3 to 17, while Jefferson County Historical Society members visit free; memberships start at $40 for an individual.
More information can found at JCHSmuseum.org or by calling 360-385-1003.
Visitors must wear face masks and practice physical distancing from others outside their households; the museum will keep its capacity at 50 percent of normal.
Admission transactions are touchless, exhibits are marked to encourage one-way foot traffic, and the museum is cleaned nightly, said Shelly Leavens, historical society executive director.
Earlier this week, Smith-Venturi, a Detroit-raised artist who lives in Port Townsend, spoke about “Unwrapped,” which will stay on view through July.
It’s an exhibition about reality and hope, she said. The devastating 2020 wildfires in California inspired “The Phoenix,” while she tackles global — and personal — ills in “Are We Safe Yet?” and “Walking Away.”
Along with Smith-Venturi’s dioramas, videos showing her creative process will be screened in the gallery, added curator Stephen Yates.
The pieces in “Unwrapped” come from 12 years of work in the artist’s studio.
Smith-Venturi uses an array of skills, “from woodworking and model-making to quilting, doll-making, sewing, embroidery and painting. She learned some of her sewing skills as a child at home,” according to notes in the “Unwrapped” catalog, available in the museum store.
The “Dear 2020” exhibit, to stay on display through April, surprised the museum staff with its positivity. Many of the 160 postcards that came in after the museum distributed them in local stores and post offices last December point out good things that came out of the year.
“Maybe you taught us to value our homes and simple living more,” one postcard reads.
“Maybe you taught us to enjoy a walk outside. Maybe you taught us to be more careful with each other.”
Later this spring, Leavens hopes, the Jefferson Museum of Art & History’s hours will expand.
She urges local residents to check JCHSmuseum.org for updates on new programs both virtual and in-person, including walking tours and the possible reopening of the 1868 Rothschild House, the 1904 Commanding Officer’s Quarters and the historical society’s Research Center, all in Port Townsend.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]