CLAYTON ON ART: SPSCC - the good, the bad and the meh

By Alec Clayton on January 8, 2013


I don't remember the exact dates but I know that for two or three years the Kenneth J Minnaert Center for the Arts Gallery at South Puget Sound Community College was by far the best art gallery in the South Sound. Their annual juried shows featured some of the best artists from Olympia to Tacoma and surrounding areas. I loved Steven Suski's one-person show, and I thought the two-person show featuring Ron Hinson and Barlow Palminteri was one of the best painting exhibitions ever. Other outstanding shows over the past five years included Betty Bastai and Shilo de la Cruz, Gail Ramsey Wharton, and an elegant installation involving bathtubs and salt called"Depletion 2009" by Amy Johnson, just to name a few.

And then in what I assume must have been a money-saving move, the college relinquished their arts center to the management of the Washington Center for the Performing Arts and its director, Cassie Welliver, was laid off, and the quality of their exhibitions went south. There have been times when I looked into the gallery with an eye toward possibly reviewing their shows and walked away shaking my head. The only things they have done since Welliver was let go that I thought worthy of reviewing were the Native American show in 2011 - some nice baskets, weavings and wood carvings, but the paintings were weak; the postcard show, "Wish You Were Here," a year ago this month - lots of clever and humorous stuff; and the more recent abstract painting show, "Drawn to Abstraction," with paintings by Laura Ahola-Young, Lois Beck, Becky Knold, and Mia Schulte.

They've also had student and faculty shows that say to me this may not be the place to study art. I hate saying that because there are some good art teachers on the faculty, but the quality of these shows has not been anything to brag about, and the student shows looked like high school.

But there is hope. The second installment of the postcard show opened this week. It's called "My Kind of Place...a Fine Art Postcard,"and I have high hopes for it being as good as the last one.This exhibit features more than 200 postcard-sized artworks crated by 58 local and regional artists. Postcards will be sold in a month-long silent auction beginning at 7 p.m. during the opening reception Friday, Jan. 11. The opening reception will take place from 6-8 p.m. Bidding ends at 7 p.m. during the closing reception on Friday Feb. 15.

On another hopeful note, the gallery is now accepting solo and group exhibition proposals. Established and emerging artists may submit proposals to fill two to three vacancies available September of this year through April 2014. Information on submitting proposals can be found at I'm thinking some of Tacoma's Foundation of Art nominees should apply, or maybe Olympia's Kathy Gore Fuss.

Kenneth J Minnaert Center for the Arts Gallery is open Monday through Thursday from noon to 4 p.m. and by appointment. It will be closed on Jan. 21 in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.