Potlatch Gallery closing after 25 years, may go online only

Janet Dowling explains some details of Irene Klar’s Native-themed etchings Wednesday at Potlatch Gallery. The gallery is closing after 25 years. - Richard Walker
Janet Dowling explains some details of Irene Klar’s Native-themed etchings Wednesday at Potlatch Gallery. The gallery is closing after 25 years.
— image credit: Richard Walker

POULSBO — Potlatch Gallery, 18830 Front St.,  has long specialized in Northwest Coast art by Indigenous and non-Native artists.

Exhibit openings are as well-remembered as the artists’ works: Evy Halvorsen-Holstein’s acrylics and mixed media, Max Hayslette’s dreamy landscapes, Irene Klar’s etchings of Northwest Coast Native themes, Brett Varney’s oil pastels, Beki Killorin’s watercolors.

Steve Eichenberger’s raven sculptures peek playfully from a wall, as if ready to snatch something shiny from your hand.  Works by Acjachemen Nation artist Linda Silvas are here as well, the most unique being a pine needle interpretation of a Northwest Coast Native cedar hat, a tribute to her culture and the culture of her adopted Northwest home.

Voters in the North Kitsap Herald’s annual poll gave Potlatch Gallery the Best Gallery Award in 2008, and the gallery was nominated for KING 5s Best of the Northwest.

But diversity and honors and memories couldn’t fend off the economic uncertainty of the day. And so, owner Janet Dowling is closing shop at the end of March. Her “retirement sale” begins Saturday.

“My master plan was to retire in 2012 anyway, but I decided to do it sooner because of the uncertainty we’re all facing,” Dowling said. “The scary thing for me is it’s so unpredictable,” noting that sales have ranged from $20,000 one month to $7,000 the next. “Sales have been up and down and all over the map,” she said.

Dowling calls the gallery’s closure “a sad day for Poulsbo,” and that may not be hyperbole. The gallery has been a Front Street fixture since 1985. Dowling, the gallery’s third owner, has owned it since 2002 and expanded it when she acquired Olympic Inn Artworks.

In 2009, with the Great Recession in full force, Dowling did a trial listing and got one offer, but the deal fell through. Come March 31, there will be another vacant storefront on Front Street unless Dowling can sublet the space. Dowling expects to sell all of the art in her gallery, but is considering an online gallery.

She has few regrets. In an announcement sent to customers, she and her husband, Bill, wrote:

“Our years in Poulsbo have been a  wonderful experience and we have accomplished all we set  out to do.

“From bringing the finest Northwest and national contemporary crafts and fine art to Poulsbo to introducing new jewelry and decor items, it has been both exhilarating and exhausting … Our relationships with over 120 artists and vendors has been very rewarding, as well as the relationships we have cultivated with the Poulsbo community and surrounding areas.”

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