Cloverdale Comments - September 2011
A Gallery Of Great Lessons!
90 minutes of laughter and inspiration. Life-affirming lessons in love, vision, courage, art--even micro-business success! That’s the unexpected gift the subjects for this column recently gave Roz and me.
But then, we were talking with two remarkable people: Terrie Spenst, the innovative Proprietor of a new fine art and craft gallery that recently opened in the uniquely enchanting building complex that’s been wowing visitors on the Boulevard for decades, and the vibrantly talented Ann Gillis who, at 91 this month, is Tower Gallery’s oldest Master Artist (the youngest being 20) as well as one of Cloverdale’s most popular citizens.
But I’m getting ahead of the story…
Let’s start at the beginning when, in the 1980s, developer Tom Dean raised a Victorian 13 feet higher to fashion a colorful, whimsical edifice distinguished by pointed copper roofs and twisted brick chimneys.
Terrie and John Spenst then purchased Copper Towers in 1988, completing its renovation into a small medical and business complex whose design couples distinctive storybook charm with modern amenities.
With the economy dampening rentals, these same visionaries who saw potential in that original project saw its affinity with the fertile creativity out of which all our arts-related enterprises have grown to form a core element of Cloverdale’s 21st century economy and community “brand”.
Terrie contacted friend, fellow visionary and respected mixed media artist of photography and collage, Cathy Thomas, who came aboard as Director of a new cooperative members art gallery.
A Brave Step. An Inspiring Success...
With a mission that includes encouraging community-wide education, appreciation for, and participation in the visual arts, as well as providing artists with great exhibit space, the Towers Gallery was profitable within two months.
Although you’ll spot familiar names from the Cloverdale area’s growing colony of Master Artists, in accord with a guiding principle of the business side of art, all artist selections result from “juried” submissions.
Each bright, oak-paneled Tower hall and room boosts its own personality to best display paintings, photographs, sculptures, jewelry, clothing and other wearable art plus special edibles from local food artisans. (Insider tip: I love Monty Monty’s “assemblages” created from discarded objects. Magic!)
Themed shows, often linked to community traditions or events, appeal to a range of tastes and are changed quarterly. The current “Cruising’ the Towers” ties beautifully into our fabled “Classic Car/Motorcycle Show”.
G-Ma’ Moses? Big deal. OUR G-Ma’ Ann also gives HUGS!
Any week I need to feel better about life, which is most of them these days, I get in line at Friday Night Live for one of Ann’s sweet hugs. (Ultra-Insider Tip: If you’re in extra need, Cloverdale’s “Hugging Grandmother” will give you two hugs.)
Ann’s been creative all her life. With artists on both sides of their Italian family, her mother probably wasn’t surprised when a first grade teacher noted the potential in the little girl’s earliest crayon drawings.
Yet, with all her talent, Ann describes herself as “the average person’s artist” who gets pleasure from our pleasure and so prices her work that we can all own and enjoy it.
Although she stopped counting at 3,000 and just sold her first painting at the Towers Gallery, I think Roz and Terrie would agree with me that Ann’s greatest work of art is her life.
“Love.” “Happiness.” “Beauty.” “Passion.” “Faith”. Ann’s talk about every subject--her art, her family, even her grueling bout with stomach cancer--is filled with words of joy, receptiveness and gratitude, all mingled with a ready wit and kind humor. You just cannot be in Ann’s presence, or that of her work, without feeling happier.
She “can not resist” painting the natural beauty she sees everywhere. Bold brush strokes. Delicate ones. Exquisite colors. Surprises. Ann’s style and technique vary with her subjects and feelings.
So, When You Go To Towers Gallery…
Take your time. Get to know each piece. No velvet ropes here. No outlandish prices. No snobs. Just you, the architecture, the art and the artists.
Towers Gallery: 240 No. Cloverdale Blvd. at 3rd St., Su. 2, 894-4331, Reg. Hrs: Fri-Sat, 11am-8pm/Sun., 11am-7pm. “Crusin’…” Exhibit thru Oct. 31st, Recptn. 9/10, 5-9 p.m. re: “18th Classic Car/Motorcycle Show & Sock Hop”