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Howard/Mandville Gallery hits the 20-year mark
As galleries in Kirkland have been steadily closing, the Howard/Mandville Gallery still stands on Park Lane after 20 years.
A sign on Central Way near the gallery on Park Lane indicates that the art gallery district is near, but what remains of the district is only four shops — Howard/Mandville, Parklane, Lakeshore and Blaubak Gallery of Modern Art.
Marne Jensen, who volunteers at Parklane Gallery and also has art displayed there, estimates that Kirkland used to have about 19 galleries. The numbers vary: Howard/Mandville Gallery owner Pat Howard suggested 13 galleries and Lakeshore Gallery owner Georgie Kilrain thought there were around 15.
When people thought of art, they thought of Kirkland.
“It used to be much more of an art community, but not so much the case anymore,” Jensen said.
Still, Howard/Mandville Gallery has held its own for two decades and remains the largest gallery in Kirkland with 4,000 square feet of floor space. The gallery’s rooms are filled with the work of about 60 artists living in the U.S. and Canada who regularly display their work. The gallery also has featured shows like last month’s 20th Annual Small Works Show, which featured paintings 11-by-14-inches or less from 100 artists.
Howard originally opened Howard/Mandville Gallery in Edmonds, and later opened a second location in Kirkland. “We chose Kirkland because of its similarities to Edmonds,” Howard said. “We liked the small-town charm and feel of the community.”
The Edmonds branch of Howard/Mandville Gallery was closed about 10 years ago.
Regardless, the Kirkland branch is successful, which Howard attributes to a number of things. “One of the reasons is because we have been here so long, and we have a diversified clientele and we have custom framing,” she said.
Howard’s unerring interest in art doesn’t hurt either. “It’s just something that’s our passion,” she said. “We love art. It’s a very positive, enjoyable business to be in. We enjoy working with the artists, we enjoy working with the customers. And it’s constantly changing, we always have new things.”
One of Howard’s latest ventures includes the Pondera Winery she and husband, Dan, launched in 2008 in Woodinville. The couple runs the winery with three other family members and has used the space to feature new artist series for their gallery.
Other Kirkland galleries
Kilrain opened Lakeshore Gallery in August 1983, making her gallery the oldest in Kirkland.
She recalls the time when Kirkland galleries were the center of downtown. “Gosh, when we had the Art Walk we’d have hundreds of people downtown here,” she said.
“One by one they (the galleries) started leaving,” Kilrain said. “For a lot of them the rents were too high, customers complained all the time about a shortage of parking, and over the years the foot traffic just declined down here.”
Although Kilrain has enjoyed a loyal following since opening her shop, she’s noticed that her long-time customers are not being replaced by new customers with the same desire to own original art.
“I have to give serious consideration to whether it makes any sense to go forward if the economy doesn’t improve,” Kilrain said. “We’re all struggling down here.”
Still, Kilrain plans to wait at least a couple of years for downtown Kirkland to recover. She hopes once the new buildings are finished, retail in the area will improve again.
Perhaps the business model of Parklane Gallery is a solution to Kirkland’s retail decline.
Parklane, a contemporary-art gallery that opened in 1991, is operated on a volunteer basis by the 40 Seattle-area artists whose art is displayed there. Each artist works two shifts in the gallery each month and based on a rotating schedule, two artists get a special feature display in the front of the store each month.
This month features digital mixed-media artist Henk Dawson and painter Laurie Wattier Nykreim with their shows “Capturing the Moment” and “Home on the Range,” respectively.
Janelle Kohnert is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.