Tucked away in the resilient town of Toledo is a regional treasure, the Art Gallery 505 artist co-op, which is run by local artists, and showcases rotating displays featuring art from its members and others.
Located off Cowlitz Street, the humble storefront hides an interior rich with oil and pen drawings, weaved baskets and stained glass artwork.
Large paintings of birds hang from display racks, along with garments sporting signs urging patrons to try them on as bowls of varying sizes sit around the edges of the room on stands.
Mike Morgan and his wife, Di Morgan, opened the gallery around three years ago and worked it themselves until recently, deciding to switch to a co-op model.
“Now that we’ve got 13 of us, we can do it a lot better,” he said.
Before, he and Di had been working there four days a week, pulling four hour shifts on top of running the Morgan Arts Centre, which they started in the late 1980s. The Centre didn’t provide much of an opportunity to showcase local work, so they opened the gallery.
The couple are both retired school teachers and have been active in the community, promoting local art, including playing a key role in creating the ARTrails association.
The current display, “Flora & Fauna,” showcases the work of 17 area artists. Artists who are not in the co-op can be invited to show their work, while co-op members pay $20 and agree to work around two shifts a month, Morgan said. Their tenure runs for one year.
“It’s less of a time put-in for each person,” Morgan said.
Christine Chappel was one of the artists who joined the co-op. She said she got interested in art after she retired from her job as a school psychologist, where she used art as therapy and as a developmental assessment tool.
She started taking art classes at a senior center around 10 years ago, and was hooked.
“I guess the co-op’s just given me an opportunity to meet some other artists and try and market some of my things,” she said. “So far, I’m enjoying it.”
She currently has around 13 pieces on display, ranging from oil paintings of historic local barns, to baskets weaved out of pine needles.
She’s already sold some pieces, and said she hopes to help increase the co-op’s marketing power. She’s done a bit for an antique store in Centralia and worked online, but that may be besides the point.
“It’s a really great bunch of people, and it’s fun to hang out with them and do what I can to help promote art locally,” she said. “It gives me a good excuse to keep on creating new pieces.”
She also praised the Morgans for their work in the community, saying the couple have brought a lot of artistic expression and events to the town, which other towns may not have access to.
Art Gallery 505 is open Tuesday through Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and is located at 205 Cowlitz St. in Toledo. More information on the gallery can be found at www.artgallery505.com.