With Labor Day approaching on Monday and the tourist season winding down, this First Friday could be the last art walk this year for galleries to attract a large number of out-of-town visitors.

A stallion will grace Ashland's sidewalks as local galleries stay open into the evening for the First Friday Art Walk this week.

Sue Springer, owner of Illahe Studios & Gallery at 215 Fourth St., said the well-trained horse will be outside the gallery on Friday from about 5 to 6 p.m.

"It's something to liven things up and to do things differently," she said.

Most galleries in town will stay open until 8 p.m. for the free art walk that takes place each month.

Illahe is displaying paintings of horses by Danna Tartaglia inside the gallery during September, along with Shan Lollis' bold India ink and acrylic drawings of scenes from Venice and other picturesque locales.

With Labor Day approaching on Monday and the tourist season winding down, this First Friday could be the last art walk this year for galleries to attract a large number of out-of-town visitors.

"It's definitely been a down year, but I feel like things have been picking up — especially toward the end of the summer," Springer said.

She said she has adapted to the recession by branching out with more workshops, demonstrations and other events to pull in visitors.

Across the street at Etienne Gallery, owner Suzanne Etienne is taking a playful approach this month with a group exhibition titled "Into the Woods."

The inspiration for the show came when she visited local artist Jim Robinson's studio, where she saw a canoe and his bear sculptures. Since Etienne creates large-scale paintings of bears, along with a variety of other subjects, she decided to put together an exhibit of her own work, Robinson's sculptures, landscapes by Charles Waldman and charming wooden birdhouses by Walter Henning.

"It's going to be great fun," Robinson said last Thursday afternoon, as he helped bring in art to the gallery in preparation for First Friday.

Etienne, who opened her new gallery at 270 Fourth St. in early spring despite the recession, said the summer has gone well, with sales of giclée prints, small pieces and even several large paintings.

Ashland Art Works, a collection of galleries and working studios located at 291 Oak St. next to Ashland Creek, will feature Meera Censor's life-like bronze busts of people who have worked for peace and justice in the world. Subjects for her sculptures have included Chief Joseph, the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other famous and lesser-known figures.

In downtown Ashland, Hanson Howard Gallery at 82 N. Main St. is preparing to celebrate its 30th year in business later in the fall.

Co-owner Judy Hanson Howard said the summer had its ups and downs.

"It was sporadic," she said. "It seems like there were lots of people in town. There have been lots of visitors. We're so happy to hear that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is doing well. That's good for us, too."

OSF recently reported that ticket sales were running ahead of last year, despite the recession.

Hanson Howard said visitors to the gallery have been attracted to the clay and metal sculptures of husband and wife team Robin and John Gumaelius. The gallery has sold 17 of the couple's 30 pieces, but sales of wall art by other artists have been slower.

"We haven't sold a lot of canvases," she said. "People have been coming here and supporting us for 30 years. Maybe they have bought sculptures because their walls are full."

The Gumaelius sculptures are kept on display near the front of the gallery, while at the rear the featured artists for September are painter Pamela Kroll and sculptor Nelson Davis.

Davis has won critical acclaim and a following of collectors for his sculptures that blend masterfully carved wood with found pieces of metal.

"I found some old ice tongs in Cannon Beach in an antique store. I made birds out of them," Davis said, explaining how he used the curved hooks of the tongs meant to lift large blocks of ice to form necks and beaks for bird sculptures.

One of the most powerful pieces on view during First Friday and the rest of the month will be Nelson's sculpture of a seated figure with a human-like body and an elk head. The figure gestures at a tiny doll that stands perched on stairs, listening like an innocent child.

Nelson said he created the sculpture, titled "The Explanation," along with another sculpture, on commission for a 40th wedding anniversary present for a husband and wife. The couple chose the other sculpture, which was light-hearted and not as intense as "The Explanation."

Nelson said the husband had always known he was adopted, but his wife didn't find out that she had been adopted herself until her mother died a year ago. The elk figure is trying to explain the concept of adoption to the child-figure and thinks he is explaining clearly, but to the child, the explanation is complex and hard to understand, Nelson said.

"It's two ways of looking at the same thing," he said.

Pamphlets that include descriptions of more September exhibits, as well as maps of gallery locations, are available at local galleries. The September pamphlet is also available at www.ashlandgalleries.com/library/monthlymap09.09.pdf.

For more information about exhibits in Ashland, visit www.ashlandgalleries.com.

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