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.
On Nov. 2, the gallery celebrated its 25th anniversary.
“We almost forgot about it,” gallery Vice President Gary Leake said with a laugh.
The day was commemorated with refreshments and raffle prizes from the artists themselves, such as painted cards and earring sets. Nearly 125 people attended the anniversary celebration. Leake credits social media with drawing in people unfamiliar to the area.
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.
Joined this past summer, newcomer Shari Thompson brings intricate bead work to the gallery’s display. She has enjoyed the other artists for being so inspiring. The people she has met in the Whidbey Island art community told her about joining the gallery.
“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 from the others at Penn Cove Gallery. During the year he was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer, they took turns covering his shifts at the gallery.
Penn Cove Gallery has been in its current ADA-accessible 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 August 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 marketing and advertising for Penn Cove Gallery. Leake said most galleries tend to take a higher cut from sales, such as 50 percent.
To become a gallery member, interested artists must submit three samples of their work and be interviewed as part of the application process.
Randy Emmons will be present at Penn Cove Gallery on Nov. 16 as the featured artist of November. His paintings bring to mind the coastal images of Whidbey Island so familiar to everyone, in a whimsical watercolor format.