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Karen Dawn Dean | Next step: Season No. 4

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Photo provided Scott Bailey’s “Instant Landscape,” an immersive installation at Wenatchee Valley College’s MAC gallery.

Wenatchee’s arts walk started under the umbrella of artist and gallerist Charleen Martin, who believed that with art experiences, like potato chips and antique stores, one is never enough. When, in February of 2011, she published a list and map of which galleries were open on the first Friday evening of the month, what they were showing and where they were located; the art walk, dubbed Wenatchee First Fridays, was born.

The idea is a simple one. By joining many individual venues into an organized art walk, the collective effort magnifies our community’s interest and cultural awareness in the arts. The hope was to move people around town into different venues that offered different art experiences.

In the past three years, there have been more than 160 exhibitions and installations. I’ve been to most of them, and it’s interesting what sticks in my memory: three small Brad Brisbine canvases, segments of ’50s cars, all chrome and color I wish I’d bought; a loose, bold Ken Duffin watercolor, the memory of which continues to make me smile; an early group of Terry Johnson’s pots; a Majka Sadel oil painting, full of layers and textures; a fish necklace that now lives in Sara Lippert’s world.

Juxtaposed to the objects are the experiences: Kasey Koski on her vintage bike leading an art tour of cyclists, all kit out in their latest high tech equipment around the galleries; the couple who always stopped to dance wherever there was music; the Apple City Roller Derby women handing out our art walk maps; the conversations taking place over a glass of wine, amid art; and the stillness of people looking at, then finally seeing, the construct and intent of new ideas.

As we begin this fourth season, Friday’s art walk has installations that offer the opportunity to go beyond looking at art and enter the world of seeing and feeling it.

For the first time since 1988 there is a NCW Juried Art Show, sponsored by the Wenatchee Art Commission installed at the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Culture Center. Outside jurors were brought in and tasked with the job of curating a show. From 156 submitted works, they have chosen 21 pieces for this exhibition. Beyond looking to see who got in, we have the chance to try to get into the minds of the jurors, asking why these few pieces were chosen, rather than the others on display in an adjacent gallery.

A second show makes full use of WVC’s MAC Gallery mission as a teaching gallery where, “artists have license to be experimental … they are encouraged to challenge themselves and traditional notions about how a gallery can be used.” It is within this spirit that WVC Art Department Director Scott Bailey has installed “Instant Landscape,” using the simplest of materials to quietly transform the whole of the space into a virtual landscape we can enter. Here, he challenges our perceptions of art, gallery use and our experience of landscapes themselves.

Karen Dawn Dean and Kasey Koski (both artists) co-organize the art walk.

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If you go:

What: Wenatchee First Fridays Arts Walk

When: 5-7 p.m. Friday

Information: Complete listing of participating venues and printable pdf at wendowntown.org/events/first-fridays or wenatcheeworld.com/blogs/category/arts/

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