The Art of Compromise

This month’s post was contributed by Waterstone Gallery.

Waterstone Gallery is turning 20! That means twenty years of dedication to artmaking, twenty years of sharing our passion for art with the Portland community, twenty years of fostering that passion in the next generation of young artists at schools from kindergarten through university, and twenty years of combining the diverse visions of 16 individual artists into one harmonious whole.

Waterstone is proud to be a cooperative gallery owned and operated by its artist-members. In our society, too often people confuse the Art of Compromise with a lack of conviction or purpose. Nothing could be further from the truth.  It takes a tremendous amount of conviction to work together towards a common goal. It also takes the skills of listening, talking clearly to articulate your point, and accepting the good faith of someone with an opposing point of view. The creativity needed to bring about consensus in a large group is every bit as powerful as the creativity it takes to bring a work of art into being. A group of people working together IS a work of art.
Balance is the key to the success of a cooperative gallery.  The individual needs or wishes of any one artist-member are balanced by the needs and wishes of the group as a whole. In Portland three cooperative galleries have flourished for decades based on the strength of their ability to understand this basic principle of balance: Blackfish, Gallery 114 and Waterstone. Each one has a slightly different structure, but they all offer the support and camaraderie of artists working together to promote each other’s work and to advance the presence of art in our community.

In many ways a cooperative gallery operates very much like a traditional commercial gallery. They both represent artists, emerging or established, who are working to grow their careers. A gallery’s primary jobs are to promote its artists by supporting their visions, and exhibiting and selling their work. Both types of galleries recognize the importance of building a knowledgeable and supportive environment for the arts in the community and are committed to working with other arts organizations to make that a reality. And finally, they both share a love of art and an unwavering belief that art makes us better as human beings.

At Waterstone, all of our business and aesthetic decisions are made by the group of artist-owners through consensus, usually by majority. Since we have no paid employees, the artists also share equally in the workload. By its very nature, Waterstone is a resource for the community. Because we are an artist-run gallery, our visitors know that there will always be an artist working at the gallery when they come in.

Fledgling artists and art students take advantage of this, coming in to discuss techniques and technical questions. Local high schools bring their classes by on First Thursday and on many occasions one of our artists follows up with a visit to the school, hardly surprising since many of our artists are educators. Five have taught college classes in our community, and three of those five have taught all levels from kindergarten through post-secondary. In addition, most members have taught community workshops and classes. One of our members co-founded an alternative elementary school!

Locally, Waterstone gallery members co-founded Art in the Pearl, the nationally recognized fine arts and craft fair, which takes place in the North Park Blocks every Labor Day weekend. In 1997, five of our artists joined with 7 artists from the Oregon Potters Association and 3 artists from other guilds to start this wonderful art event that has become a much-loved staple for the Portland community. Waterstone continues to be involved with Art in the Pearl to this day, contributing both time and sponsorship.

Waterstone Gallery offers its clients a wide range of artistic expression, from representational to non-objective. We work in a variety of media including sculpture, metalwork, textile, mixed media, oil, acrylic, watercolor, drawing, collage, encaustic and printmaking. The artwork of Waterstone artists features prominently in private and corporate collections regionally, nationally and internationally. Our work is included in public collections and museum collections on every continent except Antarctica.

Our gallery opened its door in 1992 as Artisans Cooperative Gallery in the Artisan Building at the corner of Everett and Eighth. The building was filled with artists’ studios, with a little café and our gallery anchoring the ground floor. Eventually the Artisan Building was sold for condos and in 1999 we moved to our current location at 424 NW 12th Avenue.
To begin our 20th anniversary celebration we have invited 3 of our founding members, Stan and Gail Beppu and Deb DeWit, to join us in our annual group exhibition this month. Our anniversary year will end in December with another group show that will include work from all of our past and current members. Please come by and experience the diversity of voice and media that is Waterstone Gallery. We would love to get to know you!

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Filed under PADA Galleries, Resources for Artists, Resources for Educators, Waterstone Gallery

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