When a longtime member passed away last March, her colleagues at Whidbey Allied Artists couldn’t let her 50 years worth of artwork just sit in her basement.
Helen Ryder joined the nonprofit in 1993 when she moved to the island and taught art classes at the Oak Harbor Senior Center.
Whidbey Allied Artists will feature Ryder’s work from Sept. 21 to 23 at the Coupeville Recreation Hall.
After she became ill and died on March 29, her friend and fellow member Dottie Sanders offered to help Ryder’s husband with her art-related items.
Sanders found three rooms in the Ryders’ basement full of paintings, prints, framing materials and other art supplies.
“It’s just immense,” said Penny Holland, who is now organizing the September show.
Holland took up the project after Sanders unexpectedly died in June.
Ryder taught Holland how to cut mats and frame work and the two were friends.
“She was an excellent teacher and just a generous person with her knowledge,” said Holland.
After going through all the watercolor landscapes, still lifes and some abstract works, Holland and a team she assembled decided to sell them at the annual WAA September show.
There will be between 18 and 20 pieces by Ryder, who had been featured in multiple galleries in California and Washington state and won several awards.
“She was good,” said Holland. “We were just amazed when we started looking at all her paintings.”
Her husband Charley said he doesn’t want to make any money from the sales of her work. Instead, proceeds from the show will go toward a golden memorial leaf at the Oak Harbor Senior Center and additional money raised will be donated to WAIF Animal Shelter.
Charley Ryder said he and his wife both loved dogs, which is why he chose the animal shelter.
The two met in Long Beach, Calif. At the time, Helen was Charlie’s upstairs neighbor.
They married in 1963 and moved to Whidbey Island after they retired.
The large space in the basement for a studio was a large part of the decision to move in for Helen, Charley said.
He said he would watch her paint occasionally and was surprised at how she would spend so long just staring at the blank paper or canvas, planning what she was going to do.
“You could see the gears turning,” he said.
He was always impressed with her work, but he most admired her transition into abstract work after benign familial tremors caused her hands to shake too much for watercolors.
Some of Charley’s favorite works out of the many hanging in their home on Penn Cove were abstracts images of color with some three-dimensional aspects.
Holland and other Whidbey Allied Artist members chose and categorized the paintings that will be for sale at the show, including both water colors and abstract pieces.
She said she will price the paintings and prints at about half what they would normally be at.
“I would just like people to have her art,” said Holland.
“I already know I’m buying one.”