Twenty years ago, a group of local
artists, who’d long met in the living rooms and public libraries of
the county to discuss their craft, made a bold
decision. They formed a co-op art gallery that has
become a staple of downtown Bremerton.
Collective Visions, at the
corner of Fourth Street and Pacific Avenue, survived what was
arguably the downtown’s worst years in the mid-90s and has
cultivated an arts community that has continued to churn out works
of the best artists in Bremerton and around West Sound.
“We have persisted,” said artist Alan Newberg, one of
four remaining original members. “And we’re proud of that
On Friday, the gallery will open its doors for the
event that many would argue it started as one of the first in the
state: the art walk. It is one of many ways — and perhaps the most
prominent way — that the gallery has helped its surrounding
“We see ourselves as community builders,” Newberg
The gallery actually began as the Washington Avenue
Art Gallery, on that street, a few blocks away, in 1994. But just
two years later, the co-op moved into its current location after
McBrides Hallmark packed up and left downtown. They couldn’t beat
the initial $500 a month in rent there, Newberg recalled.
There was a lot to do to convert the building,
constructed to be a bank, into an art gallery. The orange shag
carpet had to go. And the 20-plus artists within the co-op weren’t
told initially that there was even a downstairs to the building. It
had been covered up, so the artists peeled back a makeshift floor
to find a beautiful staircase.
“It was a dark dungeon down there,” remembered
Barbara Mills, another original artist in the gallery.
The gallery now includes some 3,400 square feet of
space to showcase all its members, one of the bigger art galleries
in the state. The room allows the cooperative to feature
prominently one of its artists every month. (This month’s exhibit
comes from Michelle Van Berkom (pictured), whose watercolor
paintings take the viewer on a tour of some of North Mason’s most
pastoral settings). They all pay dues to keep the gallery going but
that allows for lower commissions on art sold there.
The gallery also takes center stage in the state art
community each year during its annual CVG
show. In its ninth year, Newberg said the even has served its
purpose: “create an event that would be on the cultural
calendar of the county and beyond.” (Deadline for the 2015 show is
Nov. 17, by the way.)
The gallery has played host to more than just art on
its walls, though. They’ve had more than 100 concerts. Bremerton
Mayoral Candidate Louis Mentor held his campaign kickoff there.
They also started “Ars Poetica,” a show in which area poets would
submit a poem to be paired with an artist, who would illustrate
But it all comes back to the art that has kept it
going. The gallery has roughly as many artists now as it did when
it started. Ages range from early-20s to mid-90s. They’ve seen many
businesses and even art galleries come and go downtown. But they’ve
“The gallery has been a major success story,” said
Ken Lundemo, another of the original artists. “I haven’t heard
of an equal in my life that has stuck it out, have so much talent
come and go. It’s going to go on.”