Bead weaver Shari Thompson works on her projects in her free time during her shifts at Penn Cove Gallery. (Kira Erickson / Whidbey News-Times)

Bead weaver Shari Thompson works on her projects in her free time during her shifts at Penn Cove Gallery. (Kira Erickson / Whidbey News-Times)

Whidbey’s Penn Cove Gallery celebrates 25 years of co-op art

The cooperatively owned gallery in Coupeville has been a hub for Whidbey Island artists since 1994.

Nestled in the historic downtown waterfront of Coupeville, Penn Cove Gallery has been a hub for Whidbey Island artists since 1994.

The cooperatively owned gallery displays local works in all different mediums, from pottery to paintings to jewelry to stained glass to wood carvings. Artists take turns running the gallery, eager to share their work with locals and visitors alike.

This year, the gallery is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

“We almost forgot about it,” gallery Vice President Gary Leake said with a laugh.

They commemorated the actual anniversary — the shop opened for business Nov. 2, 1994 — last month with refreshments and raffle prizes from the artists themselves, such as painted cards and earring sets. Nearly 125 art lovers attended the anniversary celebration. Leake credits social media with drawing in a few tourists.

One visiting woman didn’t even know she was on an island.

Unlike most galleries, Penn Cove is unique in that it allows artists to pick which works to display. Artists are not chosen for the co-op gallery because of how many awards they have won or for their schooling. Instead, many of the 26 artists at Penn Cove have never previously displayed in a gallery before, and they often balance their art with families and day jobs.

“We judge your art, not your bio,” Leake said. “This is an entry into the art world for many artists.”

Since each artist is required to work at least one day per month behind the desk at the gallery, this allows them to forge connections with fellow artists and interested collectors.

“If there’s a success to this gallery, we’re very careful in picking art and people that will fit the group,” Leake said.

New member Shari Thompson brings intricate bead work to the gallery’s display. She her fellow Penn Cove artists have inspired her.

“It’s been fun,” she said. “It’s interesting getting to know everybody and everybody’s work.”

As a woodworker, Leake said he has learned so much from the wall artists about color composition and other techniques.

Another displaying artist was surprised by the outpouring of support he received through Penn Cove Gallery. During a year when he was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer, they took turns covering his shifts at the gallery.

Penn Cove Gallery has been at its current location at 9 Front St. NW since 2000. Some may remember the empty lot where a farmer’s market was staged in the movie “Practical Magic” — this would be the future home of the gallery.

The gallery has endured the 2008 recession and more. When it suffered an estimated $25,000 in losses from a robbery back in 2011, the local community showed its support by spending thousands of dollars in gift shopping during the holiday season.

Artists keep 90 percent of profits from the sale of their work. The remaining 10 percent goes toward gallery marketing and advertising. Leake said most galleries tend to take a higher cut from sales, such as 50 percent.

Annette Hanna is the featured artist of November. An award-winning artist, Hanna works in pastels — what she calls a forgiving medium — to paint portraiture and landscape scenes. She is a signature member of the Northwest Pastel Society and a master pastelist of the Pastel Society of America.

If you go

Penn Cove Gallery, at 9 NW Front St., Coupeville, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 360-678-1176 or go tp www.penncovegallery.com for more information.

Want to join? To become a gallery member, interested artists must submit three samples of their work and be interviewed as part of the application process.

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