The Hannah Guzik
This First Friday will be the Nuwandart Gallery's last. The popular A Street gallery will strip the art from its walls and close its doors Sept. 5 because of rising maintenance costs.
"We've been open almost nine years and we've never broken even," said Johan Ziems, co-owner of the gallery. "It's always been a community service to keep it open. We're just running out of resources."
The Rogue Valley Media Exchange will move into the vacant space. The media exchange already occupies an upstairs office in the same building as the gallery.
Ziems and Rob Pendell, the other co-owner, don't plan to open a new gallery, but will continue to do local performance art shows in public spaces.
"I'm really kind of sad to see it go because it's been a really, really great thing," Pendell said. "But at the same time, I'm glad it's going to free me up to do more of my own art and promote more public art."
The economic downturn significantly contributed to the decision to close the gallery. People are reluctant to buy artwork right now, Ziems said.
"It's just time to move on and do something else. I think Nuwandart had its peak in Ashland and I think it will be remembered for showing some of the more renegade stuff," he said.
The gallery became known for its avant-garde art and political activism. Shows included "Buns Not Bombs," a nude peace protest, and "Skin Deep," where performance artists were hung from meat hooks.
"I've been really grateful to have this gallery in Ashland. I still feel like, even if we're closing, we're one of the only galleries that showed art for art's sake and not necessarily for profit. We're not like most galleries in this town that should have the title of 'gift shop,' not gallery," Ziems said.
"It's good to use a gallery as a tool to broaden people's perspectives."
Indeed, a character called "Nuwanda" in "The Dead Poets Society," a movie about shifting points of view, inspired the gallery's name. The film encouraged Ziems in his youth to pursue art.
"I've always just seen life as a canvas. I see day-to-day life on a canvas," he said.
The free First Friday event, which starts at 5 p.m., will be a "big surprise going away party" for the gallery, Ziems said, declining to reveal beforehand what kind of art will be on display, only that it will be "in unexpected proportions." As of this morning, the gallery walls were empty, awaiting the last art installation.
The closure will allow the Rogue Valley Metaphysical Library, which shares a suite with the gallery now, to expand its hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., the same hours the media exchange is open. The same company owns the library and media exchange.
Although the library will benefit from extending its hours of operation, library Operations Director Jordan Pease said he's sorry to see Nuwandart go.
"It's unfortunate that our community is losing that niche that they filled because they weren't looking for the commercial value of it all. I think Nuwandart has done great things for our community, especially because they've given so many new, up-and-coming artists a chance to show their work," he said.
Nuwandart no more
The Hannah Guzik