(Alki Arts co-proprietors Tom Wyrick and Diane Venti, photographed on AA’s 2nd anniversary last year)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
After three years of brightening up the beach with art and music, gallery/event venue Alki Arts has been notified that its “temporary lease” will end September 30th.
That’s according to proprietors Diane Venti and Tom Wyrick, who took over the space at 2820 Alki SW in July 2010, after a pet shop closed with time left on its lease.
In those ensuing three years, not only have they shown and sold a wide variety of art, they also have hosted a wide range of events – ones they planned themselves, such as musical performers on days/nights both quiet and not (Art Walk, Pirates Landing, Summer Streets) and privately booked events (even weddings).
Via e-mail, Diane tells WSB, “We have HIRED (I don’t believe in free music) 90+ musicians, sponsored at least 40 donated events for schools, and local nonprofits, and made friends in this community for the rest of our lives. We have shown art for over 100 local ‘working artists’ and sold over 1/2 a million dollars of original art during a recession! Who knew!!!”
She also reflected:
“I feel a twinge of sadness and a bit of anticipated identity loss when contemplating my life as a non-business owner in West Seattle…but I feel only gratitude to all of the ‘powers that be’ that allowed us to inhabit the space in the first place at a fraction of the ‘real’ rent for so long. First, Susan Moss of All the Best Pet Care was our benefactress for 2 1/2 years, allowing us to sublet at 1/3 of what she was paying each month and then when that sublet ended, the Polls (building owners) graciously allowed us to remain through the summer as a kindness to our business and the beach community before embarking on their next project.
“I am mostly though grateful to the ‘neighbor friends’ as I have called them for 3+ years…the people who have supported us by purchasing local original art from us, or just being kind by dropping off off lunch or cookies, delivering coffee, waving as they walked dogs, sitting at the gallery while I picked kiddos up from school, talking with me, encouraging me, consoling me, inspiring me …
“I cannot count the ways that we were loved and supported during 3 years and 3 months of existence while I made a living while bringing my kids to work with me. Artists tutored Tony while he homeschooled the first year, Enzo hung out in the back room on the computer, Summer worked at the gallery until we opened the downtown space (also temporary) for her to manage. Roman learned about community through this adventure. My kids have been ‘imprinted on’ by Alki and West Seattle.
“I am really OK with the change as I kinda feel I need my nights and weekends back now that the older two are on their feet and the younger two are teens and needing my time. We will keep on with the Harbor Steps space as long as those landlords let us stay.”
So why is the Alki Arts lease being ended? Diane says, “The owners of the building are very committed to the project with Cassis restaurant and I believe that is what will go in our space.”
She’s referring to this – news that started circulating in January that Jef Fike, who formerly ran the well-regarded restaurant Cassis on Capitol Hill, would revive it at an unspecified location on Alki. We finally heard from him in April, at which time – as noted briefly here – he said he was still working on the plan and hoping to open by July 4th.
At the time the Cassis news originally broke, several WSB readers pointed out that Fike’s LinkedIn page listed 2820 Alki – the building that houses Alki Urban Market and Cactus as well as Alki Arts – as its future address. That listing is no longer visible online; we’re working to find out the current status of the restaurant project, whether it’s this address or another.
Meantime, one last musing from Diane:
“Who knew that a spur-of-the-moment brainstorm while looking for a job and passing by an empty storefront would lead to all this goodness over 3 years ago?”
Again, their lease doesn’t end until September 30th, so go see them at Alki all you want between now and then, and look for event announcements via the AA Facebook page. Their Harbor Steps location downtown is at 55 University (its FB page is here).