During the rainy days of winter with the economy in free-fall, Suzanne Etienne thought about what color she wanted for the awning outside the gallery she was planning to open on Fourth Street in Ashland.

During the rainy days of winter with the economy in free-fall, Suzanne Etienne thought about what color she wanted for the awning outside the gallery she was planning to open on Fourth Street in Ashland.

Gray was one option, but she recalled, "I decided what was really important was to be positive and carry on. I finally decided, 'Let's go with full-on color.'"

The result is a can't-miss-it awning of sunny yellow and white stripes that Etienne bought from a company next door, the Deluxe Awning Company.

Opened six weeks ago, the Etienne Gallery is also adorned with a landscape painting with a border of bright cherries that complements the rich red of the gallery's door.

Etienne said she is seeing bright colors popping up on other businesses around town — a situation that reminds her of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's staging of "The Music Man" this year.

In the musical, townspeople start out in drab clothing of gray, black and white. But under the influence of a man who comes to town selling instruments for a band, the residents embrace the arts and begin to wear colorful garb.

When one character appeared on stage in a yellow and white striped apron, Etienne said she started to cry.

She said the bright colors at her gallery and around Ashland show that people aren't giving up.

"It's like people are wearing patches of color. I believe in the future. I believe in America. We're in a new era. People are saying, 'We need color,'" Etienne said.

Although her gallery is still new, Etienne — who has lived in Ashland for three years and whose pioneer ancestors settled in the Rogue Valley — is rapidly building ties in town and the surrounding area.

The gallery showcases her own work, plus that of other artists and her daughter, Nicole Etienne. Her daughter is finishing a master's of fine art degree at the New York Academy of Art.

Suzanne Etienne submitted a slide of Nicole Etienne's oil painting of people enjoying a meal of steak, seafood and wine to the A Taste of Ashland poster contest.

Each year, a painting is chosen to be featured on a poster advertising A Taste of Ashland, a walking tour of galleries where visitors can see art and taste local food and beverages.

Nicole Etienne's painting was selected and now appears on the poster for the 2009 A Taste of Ashland event that starts this Friday night and runs through Sunday.

Suzanne Etienne said the painting is from a photo her daughter took while eating out with friends at one of her favorite New York restaurants. The large-scale painting hangs in the gallery.

"When I saw it, I wanted it for the gallery. It's a place where people relish being together," Suzannne Etienne said.

The gallery itself will become a gathering place for people to enjoy food and drink this weekend.

As part of A Taste of Ashland, the gallery is featuring mouth-watering selections from Morning Glory Chef Patty Groth.

"She is an Ashland treasure. She is one of the best things about Ashland," Etienne said of Groth, whose restaurant is known for its breakfasts.

Groth will serve couscous with Moroccan spiced meatballs. The meat comes from Saylant Family Ranch in the Applegate Valley.

There will also be made-from-scratch blue cheese shortbread with strawberry rhubarb chutney, as well as candied walnuts and lemon bars.

The family-run Devitt Winery from the Applegate Valley will be pouring several varieties of wine.

"I'm so thrilled to be able to showcase both of these families," Suzanne Etienne said.

With its mother-and-daughter art, the Etienne Gallery is a family business as well. Bob Etienne, Suzanne Etienne's husband, also helps out by doing the books, performing other chores and manning the gallery when his wife isn't working there.

Suzanne Etienne said she thinks the new gallery is finding its place in Ashland.

"The niche this gallery has is that there's power in positive thinking," she said.

Etienne Gallery, located at 270 Fourth St. where Gallery DeForest once stood before closing, is open from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and by appointment. For more information, call 482-1766 or visit www.etiennegallery.com.

Suzanne Etienne specializes in commissions, especially paintings of people's homes and businesses.

On July 22, Nicole Etienne will have a painting demonstration and class from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. The cost for the class, which includes lunch, is $45 per person. She will also have a First Friday opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. on August 7, with the gallery featuring her new works through the month of August.

A Taste of Ashland kicks off with a gala from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Ashland Springs Hotel featuring music, art, desserts, coffee, tea and wine. Admission is $10, or free with a ticket for Saturday or Sunday.

A ticket to tour 17 galleries and taste products from 17 restaurants and 17 wineries is $40 for Saturday, $30 for Sunday or $55 for the weekend.

Tickets are available by calling 292-2302, visiting www.atasteofashland.com or going to The Living Gallery, 20 S. First St., or The Crown Jewel, 130 E. Main St.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.