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More than pretty faces

The Vetri and Traver galleries actively support and promote young and new glass artists

Traver Gallery, helping broaden glass art opportunities for those without eye patches. Photo courtesy Traver Gallery

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The Vetri and Traver galleries are located next to the Museum of Glass on Dock Street in Tacoma. The original Traver Galleries were founded in Seattle about 35 years ago, and the Tacoma versions have been around for about eight years. What the general public may not know is that these fancy schmancy galleries are more than just pretty faces - they actively support and promote young and new artists getting a foothold in the intimidating world of glass art where so many falter when they ponder the likelihood of success without an eye patch.

Both galleries feature high-caliber glass artwork, but have very distinct feels in their separate yet attached spaces. Traver puts on full artist shows and focuses on fewer artists at a time, where Vetri has a rotating inventory of smaller and often more accessible pieces. While Vetri does feature established artists as well, including production pieces by such artists as Dale Chihuly, part of its mission is to give new artists a forum.

"Vetri also acts as an incubator for some of these younger artists," says Sarah Traver, daughter of the founder of the galleries and the current director. "We're able to establish a relationship with them early in their careers and frequently they are able to graduate from Vetri to Traver."

While Traver wants artists to have a body of work with 20 or so cohesive pieces, Vetri will display a smaller group of artwork for an artist, which is a good thing.

"Financially it is a near impossibility for many younger artists to get started in glass," says Traver.

The truth is, getting started as a glass artist is freaking expensive. It's not like you can go down to your local drugstore and pick up the supplies. I checked. Even Michaels doesn't carry glass art supplies, so that puts me totally out of the loop.  

Vetri also reaches out to one of the best places to find young and upcoming glassblowers - the Hilltop Artists. After being invited by the Hilltop directors to come and check out what the kids in the program were doing, Vetri extended a hand ... or better yet, a metaphorical glassblowing pipe ... with a glowing hot ball of glass on the end.

"The vocation of glass in the Northwest is really becoming an artist and working on teams, and a huge part of that is understanding how to work with galleries, sell your work and get it out there to an audience of people who are interested," says Traver, who also pointed out that most artists are not taught how to manage their work or approach galleries in art programs.

Traver generally works with Hilltop Artists quarterly, striving to help the current students in the program learn what it means to be professional artists. "The kids can submit a portfolio, earnest statement, a résumé and images of their work for review and we do a group critique with them. We then select two to four of them to show at Vetri. A large portion of the sale proceeds goes back to support Hilltop," says Traver.

Beyond this, both Traver and Vetri have a very open-door policy to just about everyone, but especially to student groups, classes and new artists. Both the Seattle and Tacoma galleries welcome school groups, despite the fact that the  galleries are filled with glass. The management staff at the galleries also makes it a priority to talk to new artists who come to them for information on how to approach galleries and where to start.

"The biggest thing is that we just really try to keep an open mind," says Traver. "We recognize that the way we want our gallery to work is to represent established artists who are doing really exceptional work at a really high level and who are collected. That being said, we don't only want to do that. We want to have younger artists in there to broaden the context of what we're doing. Younger artists see things differently and are approaching the world in a different way that's unexpected and new. To have that in the gallery is really important to us. We want to keep that freshness on our agenda."

Vetri Tacoma

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday
noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
1821 E. Dock. Sr. #101, Tacoma

William Traver Gallery

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
1821 Dock St., Tacoma

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