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Front Street as arts destination
POULSBO — When Carrie Goller was diagnosed with cancer 12 years ago, she led a very different life.
“It woke me up,” she said. “It was a turning point for me.”
Goller dropped her job as a paralegal, and picked up a paint brush.
“I said, ‘I should be an artist,’ ” she said. “I started painting and I’ve been making up for lost time.”
Since then, she has gone from painting for friends and family to seeing her work featured in galleries from Poulsbo to Seattle. And like the natural success of her art work over the past 12 years, Goller recently came across another opportunity in April.
“A couple weeks ago, I didn’t even know I would be opening a gallery, but the opportunity presented itself and my husband said, ‘If you don’t do this, I will,’ ” Goller said.
“Carrie Goller Gallery features the art of one artist and that is me,” she said.
This month, the Carrie Goller Gallery was the newest addition to Front Street’s line up of art hot spots, and became part of an organically emerging arts scene attracting collectors from throughout the region.
An arts gallery on Front Street isn’t new. What has become somewhat of a novel sensation, however, is what the seven downtown galleries, three art-related shops, and the variety of arts-supporting shops and restaurants are collectively creating: a downtown Poulsbo arts district.
Whereas Poulsbo has previously been known as a boaters’ destination, shopping hub, and Norwegian-themed tourist attraction, it could be trending toward another economic field.
Now, visitors can visit Bluewater Artworks Gallery, Boatworks Gallery, Front Street Gallery, Liberty Bay Gallery, Verksted Gallery, Wide Mouth Frog Studio, and the new Carrie Goller Gallery. They can create at The Dancing Brush, Kitsap Mosaic, Wide Mouth Frog and the Bead Store. Then they can view more local art in downtown’s restaurants, pubs and coffee shops such as Hot Shots Java.
The downtown arts scene also includes Poulsbo-hemian Coffeehouse, which hosts poetry readings; Liberty Bay Books, which hosts authors for meet-and-greets and book readings; and Jewel Box Theatre, which produces live performances on stage.
“I would call it a boom,” said Karyn Cott of Liberty Bay Gallery. “It’s becoming more and more of an arts and cultural destination.”
Liberty Bay Gallery operated for years out of a 960-square-foot space on Front Street. But with support for the arts flowing into downtown, it was able to knock down a wall into the neighboring space, adding 1,066-square-feet to the shop. The gallery has since expanded its selection of art to fill the space.
Aside from the daily destinations, Poulsbo’s monthly art walk, held on the second Saturday of the month, has also become renowned for attracting visitors.
“We were noticing that this Second Saturday we just had, it was extremely busy,” Cott said, noting that at least 50 people flowed through her gallery within three hours.
“It was incredible the amount of people that came out,” she said. “Each time we have an art walk, more and more people come out to see art and meet the artist, have a glass of wine and a bit of cheese and chocolate.”
Further evidence of Poulsbo’s emerging scene is the crowds of enthusiasts making the trip to downtown from out of town.
“I bet 30 percent of our sales are from out of the county, maybe even the state,” said Christy Camerer of Bluewater Artworks. “We are bringing in good dollars from out of town.”
Camerer noted that art collectors like coming to an area where a variety of art work is available across many shops. She said that Poulsbo’s boating culture has contributed to the scene in an unexpected way.
“We ship art all over because of yacht clubs coming in,” she said. “As well as the cruise lines. Boaters have money and they shop for art. We just delivered a $5,000 totem pole to Seattle. They came over and bought this totem they fell in love with.”
It’s a scene that Goller is happy to expand upon. She said that the support from other galleries, as well as from locals, has been welcoming. She rushed to open her gallery this month, but plans to hold a proper opening event during May’s Second Saturday Art Walk.
In the meantime, the district continues to grow.
“We want it to be a destination for collectors as well as artists to place their work in town,” Cott said. “It just gives such a nicer flavor to downtown Poulsbo.”
She added, “There are still people out there that are buying art and they are buying it more and more. Poulsbo is going to be a major arts destination. Just give us a few more years.”