Are you into art? Then I bet you have been to one or the other museum. Maybe you have been passing by galleries and been window shopping. Maybe you even have one or the other real artwork at home. But have you ever been to a gallery opening night? If not, you are missing out on something that is a true eye opener.
I hail from a family that writes art in capital letters. A great-grandfather of mine was a renowned German painter and lithographer, exhibited in the greatest German art museums. I grew up with books about Rembrandt, van Gogh, and Feininger. In my childhood, one of the best treats when I had finished another year in school successfully, was coffee and cake in one of my hometown’s finest cafés … and a visit to the Stuttgart State Gallery. I was fascinated by movie scenes featuring gallery opening nights also known as vernissages, but I never knew how to go there. I had no clue that you could become one of the art connoisseur scene quite easily. You just go!
My very first gallery opening happened on the bright Sunday morning of March 27, 1994. Why this date has been standing out in my mind? It was my very first day as a freelance journalist, and I had been sent to report about it for a small daily newspaper affiliated with one of the biggest Stuttgart daily papers. I had no clue what was expected. I had read art reviews, of course, but a lot of it sounded like gibberish written for those priding themselves of living in ivory towers; I knew I wanted to write differently. Also, I was daunted by the elegance of the affair. Even though it was noon, people had dressed up. The champagne was flowing, finger food was offered on trays. The artist was introduced, then she explained what her specific creations meant. After that, the audience was left to their own devices. To browse, to inspect, to buy, to meet the artist, to see and be seen.
This was the first of countless further vernissages, most of them on weeknights. Within a couple of months, invitations rolled in that were actually addressed to me, and they kept rolling in long after I had found work as an editor with a trade magazine that also dealt with arts and crafts, but on an industrial level. My visits to gallery opening nights decreased until they simply stopped due to a lack of time.
Recently, a friend of mine, Lakewood-based creative artist and writer Jennifer Chushcoff, posted on Facebook that she had one of her artworks exhibited at Gallery Row in Gig Harbor. That was a great opportunity to revive the experience of a gallery opening night. So, on Friday May 3, my husband and I drove across the Narrows Bridge to participate in the gallery event and to support my friend.
I had passed by Gallery Row as often as I had visited Gig Harbor in the past – this was the first time we went inside. It is a spacious gallery with all kinds of incredibly imaginative exhibits, from paintings to carvings, from pottery to jewelry, in all kinds of sizes and for all kinds of budgets. The gallery personnel were welcoming without pressing themselves onto you. There already was a friendly crowd, and I realized that some of the visitors must be regulars as well as exhibiting artists. It didn’t take long, and I was in conversation with a number of fun visitors, a painter, the gallery owner, and a painter/writer. There were sweet and salty snacks on a table as well as sodas and wine, but I hardly had time to grab any – there was so much to explore and to talk about.
Of course, the highlight was when my friend Jennifer showed up with her husband, a very sophisticated and witty author, and with a befriended children’s book author. And then everybody listened up as some artwork was bestowed ribbons. There were photo opportunities. There was lots of laughter and none of the snobbishness we know from vernissage scenes in the movies.
Just to see what beautiful creativity is out there and to mingle with equally appreciative people was a very rewarding experience again. I just wonder why it took me that long to remember. In other words: Thank you for the reminder, Jennifer Chushcoff!