After almost three years and 29 gallery shows, the Blindfold Gallery on 1718 E. Olive Way is closing its doors in December of this year. Situated in a unique two story building in the heart of Capitol Hill, the Blindfold Gallery is Scott Burk, Laura Hajme, and Sara Long’s project to bring exposure to talented local artists deserving of gallery representation.
“I consider Blindfold Gallery as an art project in itself,” Co-owner Scott Burk said. “It was formed in Fall of 2011 when I had met Laura Hamje upon showing her work at my gallery, and we I started a discussion on the steps to form a new gallery, along with her friend Sara Long.”
After its early foundations were established and the space was secured in November of 2011, the Olive Way space was renovated and opened in April of 2012 as the Blindfold Gallery, featuring the works of local painter Kimberly Trowbridge. From the beginning and through today, Blindfold has been a community art space.
“The idea was to represent emerging artists, who didn’t have gallery representation but we thought were deserving of gallery representation,” Burk said. “It’s something we all started with a strong idea bent towards presenting or showcasing deserving artists or emerging artists.”
While Burk believes the artistic mission of the gallery has been met, he notes that the gallery is closing due to sales not being able to support it.
“I found the lease to be very reasonable; it wasn’t that we were priced out of the neighborhood, though we don’t know what the renewal cost would be,” Burk said. “I would say that we don’t yet have a concentration of galleries on Capitol Hill, like in say Pioneer Square, that attracts art collectors and buyers because of the efficiency of being able to go gallery to gallery. In order for people to come to the Blindfold Gallery, people need to make it a destination.
Blindfold is one of few art galleries in the Capitol Hill area, as the neighborhood has been developing into an arts district in recent months in efforts to save neighborhood arts. Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michael Wells believes that the closing of the Blindfold Gallery has large-scale implications.
“There are lots of conversations and arguments happening around the Hill about what an arts district would look like and what the benefit would be to the community,” Wells said. “Blindfold is a fantastic gallery and they have done great work and been involved in the community. I don’t know a lot about the business of running galleries, but I know it’s complicated. I think they gave it a really good go, but it’s not an easy business.”
Wells believes that along with rising venue prices on the Hill, housing price increases have a large impact on the success of arts spaces.
“The arts spaces on Capitol Hill all have very different models, from galleries like Blindfold to spaces like Vermillion, which is a bar, performance space and gallery all in one,” Wells said. “Talking about an arts district means finding a way to support different artists and venues. If we price artists out with high rent and they can’t live here, we are losing out.”
Many of Blindfold’s events and exhibitions were key in attracting local artists. Along with monthly rotating exhibitions showcasing local artists, Blindfold notably hosted Strange Coupling 2013, the 10th anniversary of a Seattle artistic tradition that pairs University of Washington art students with local professional artists. The space has also hosted a number of poetry readings and artists’ talks and continues to do so, including a reading by Linda Russo, Nico Vassilakis, and Deborah Woodard, this Friday, August 8, and an artists’ talk on Wednesday August 20 featuring Sue Danielson and Emily Gherard.
Between now and the end of the year, the gallery has several exhibitions lined up, including Painting and Collage by Sue Danielson opening August 14; 3D imagery and installation by Kathryn Lien opening September 11; painters Emily Gherard, Stephanie Pierce, and Kimberly Trowbridge opening October 9; painters Sara Long, Leanne Grimes, Peter Scherrer opening November 13; and a final show to be announced on the closing date, projected for December 13.
“Each one of us is still very strongly committed to arts in Seattle, and we all live on Capitol Hill,” Burk said. “We are pleased with what we did with the space. It’s not so much of a feeling of walking away with disappointment; it’s much more that we did this great project and it’s time to move forward and do other things.”
Burk and his cohorts hope that the space continues to serve the art community in the future.
“There might be another group that might want to continue the space as an art oriented space.” Burk said. “We want to put it out there to encourage and open the possibility for a group that was interested in keeping the space as an art space.”
Wells believes that the closing of Blindfold is a reminder that preserving art on the Hill is becoming more important than ever before.
“Every time an arts venue like Blindfold closes, it’s really sad, but with the arts district we are trying to create a framework to support all of those people,” Wells said. ”There are lots of big questions to be answered, but Blindfold closing highlights that we need to provide neighborhood support.”