• Artists join forces to create co-op, take over Ptarmigan
By Randi Somers
As of May 31, Ptarmigan Arts now belongs to 28 Alaska (mostly Homer) artists. They formed a cooperative corporation, each buying in with enough to pay for the shop.
Many of the artists have taken turns hosting the gallery throughout the years, and now they’re buying it from Karen (Jewels) East who has owned it for nine and a half years.
Jewels is credited with making a number of significant improvements to the look and direction of the gallery. She said she is moving away from Homer in the fall with plans to travel extensively around the world.
The newly organized co-op elected their officers last week, including Ellen Halseth, president; Susan Oesting, vice president; Ted Heuer, treasurer; Joanne Thordarson, secretary and Dan Fischer, manager.
Artists forming the co-op include Dave and Caryl Christy, Gary Lyon, Cynthia Nelson, Ellen Halseth, Joanne Thordarson, Kathleen Drew, Beverly Macy, Carol and Chris Beverly, Don Pitcher, Seymour Fine Arts, Richard (Toby) Tyler, Dan Fischer, Peggy Fischer, Alice Thaggard, Janaan Kitchen, Linda Skelton, Aleda Yourdon, Paul Dungan, Mossy Kilcher, Lauren Isenhour, Mary Mathes, Jean Steele, Renee Jahnke, Kathie Baldwin, Ruby Haigh and Ted and Beth Heuer.
Each member was able to select one of three levels of membership, with fees ranging from $150 to $600. Every level has the same rights and privileges, but pay a different sales commission to the gallery.
The membership fees are used for general operation of the gallery, as well as overhead expenses, Heuer said.
Ptarmigan Arts Gallery started as a place for artists who lacked home studios to display and sell their artistic creations.
According to Gary Lyon, “The genesis of Ptarmigan Arts came when a group of artists wanted to create a co-op, but couldn’t come up with a plan. Sharon McKemie stepped forward to renovate Otto Kilcher’s old machine shop into the new gallery. She became the gallery’s owner, den mother and business manager for the next 20 years.”
Lyon talks fondly of the gallery’s early years.
“We had humble expectations, but did very well,” he said. “Ptarmigan was the only gallery in Homer then. It was a heady time, with wealthy crab fishermen, slope workers, and the occasional Princess cruise ship bringing busloads of tourists to the gallery’s doors.”
The artists gathered on Friday for a private party to celebrate the transition.
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