Gallery Calapooia is planning a special five-year anniversary party this Friday, and the public is invited to join the celebration.

The event will be a First Friday reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, at the gallery, 222 First Ave. W., in downtown Albany.

At least 16 downtown businesses plus the Albany Regional Museum will remain open late for the First Friday event, offering refreshments, special displays and live entertainment. A downtown trolley will be available for transportation, transporting attendees from Water and Hill streets to First Avenue and Washington Street, then Ninth Avenue and Lyon Street.

Linda Herd, a founding member of the gallery, came up with the late-night, First Friday reception idea. 

"My background is in urban design and city planning. I really felt that if we had more than one reason for people to come downtown … it would introduce people to what Albany really has to offer in the downtown core," she said.

Even after five years, people come into Gallery Calapooia and are surprised to find it there, she said — and they don't necessarily know anything else about the downtown, either.

"People are sort of amazed that there’s stuff to do downtown," she said. "(We thought), why don’t we ask people to join us in the celebration, and try to continue it, and see if it has any legs?"

Organizers weren't sure what they were getting into when they first started talking about creating a cooperative art gallery back in the summer of 2013. They knew they wanted a central location to showcase their work and support local art and artists. And they knew they wanted that location to be a cooperatively run establishment, with space for each artist to display work for both admiration and purchase.

Several Albany-area artists worked together to rough out a set of cooperative rules, asking all members to pay a monthly fee and work at the gallery a couple of times each month. In return, members receive display space (which rotates throughout the gallery) and everyone can sell, with a percentage going back to gallery operations.

Flinn Block owner Marc Manley helped the fledgling gallery secure a permanent location. Gallery Calapooia opened its doors for the first time in July 2013 with a grand opening that September. 

Nineteen members call Gallery Calapooia home. Among them are eight of the original founders: Herd, Melissa Saylor, Rob Robinson, Sharon Poppleton, Pat Spark, Anna Harris, Bill Thompson and Cheryl French.

"We held a lot of meetings to try to decide how to do things," French recalled, "and finally we just got tired of talking about it and did it."

French remembers the gallery had to formally define its purpose to become a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization. That, members decided, "was to increase opportunities in Albany to experience art, to increase artists' opportunities to show and sell their work, and to create a community of artists."

A downtown gallery for local artists was exactly what Albany needed, the founders agreed. A permanent location celebrates art as a profession as well as an avocation. It showcases the abilities of local residents and invites the public to both admire and acquire their work. Just as important, it gives artists a place to meet, collaborate and become inspired by one another. 

"It makes you work more, being a part of this gallery," Saylor said. "Because most of the time we work by ourselves."

"We inspire each other," Herd agreed.

Added Saylor: "We also support people by buying each other's work." 

Having a gallery provides a goal for people who are drawn to creating artwork but may not have done much more than dabble, said Nancy Anderson, who joined the cooperative shortly after its founding. 

For instance, she said, Gallery Calapooia has begun a "Big Show of Little Art" each February. The free, nonjuried, community art show invites local artists to submit up to two pieces that each measure no more than 8 inches by 8 inches (or 8 by 8 by 8 if three-dimensional). 

The opportunity may be just what fledgling artists need, Anderson said, to nudge them from showing their work only to family and friends to putting it on public display. From there, they may realize they can take their art to the professional realm.

"I feel like the gallery plays a role in helping people take that next step," she said.

These first five years, Gallery Calapooia has been focused on getting established, Anderson said. Now, the plan is to work hard at getting even more art into the community.

Gallery members are working on an art map, listing galleries up and down the Interstate 5 corridor as a resource for travelers. They're also holding a fundraiser to place a piece of sculpture in the downtown.

In the meantime, however, they'll continue to display their work, hold demonstrations and other opportunities, and encourage visitors to spend time downtown each First Friday of every month.

And, they'll celebrate their successes so far.

"We are just thrilled to have the support from Albany that we've had," Herd said.

"I'm just amazed that we made it for five years," Thompson said. "We'll be celebrating our 10th before long."

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