An installation view of Nichole DeMent's Future Memory, which was the last show in 4Culture's gallery space back in March 2020.

Image: Joe Freeman

Tomorrow, May 5, Gallery 4Culture returns with its first First Thursday in more than two years. Many people don’t even know that King County’s agency for cultural funding maintains an exhibition space just down the way from Smith Tower, says gallery manager Andy Le. 

But for local artists that aren’t represented by a commercial gallery, it’s a vital proving ground for their work, “a space to dream,” where they can experiment and push boundaries, as Le puts it. Gallery 4Culture, formerly known as the King County Arts Commission Gallery, was founded in 1979 and is a longtime keystone of the Pioneer Square Art Walk, which has been running the first Thursday of every month since 1981. The gallery is, like 4Culture as a whole, publicly funded; there’s no fee at the door (out-of-towners foot the bill whenever they stay at a King County hotel thanks to a lodging tax instituted in 1967).

The work of Vashon Island–based painter and sculptor Nate Clark will usher in the gallery’s in-person return, with an exhibit of his hand-looped nets and yellow cedar sculptures that was deferred from April of 2020 (for reasons requiring no explanation). Clark is a descendent of colonial settlers, an uneasy legacy which he is deeply invested in exploring and acknowledging through his work. In an artist’s statement for Squinch, he writes of the duality of the net as a technology that can be used as easily for trapping and ensnaring as it can for supporting and safeguarding, with the intent of its creator and user the only real distinguishing factor—a commentary on technology as a whole, and the way we choose to use it, Clark insinuates.  

Nate Clark's Orange Cube, woven from mohair and silk yarn, hangs suspended from the trees in Isle Royale National Park. 

Image: Nate Clark

Clark is part of the cohort from Gallery 4Culture’s 2019 and 2020 season that will exhibit in the coming months, with a showing of the multimedia etchings of Sarajevo-born artist Tatjana Pavićević scheduled to follow Squinch in June. Le estimates that the agency receives around a hundred applications from King County artists each season, which are evaluated by a panel that includes gallery alumni and a curator or other arts administrator who is deeply familiar with the local arts landscape. 

Also launching Thursday is a publication entitled Remark, which includes contributions by a hundred Gallery 4Culture alumni and layout design by Jayme Yen. Work began on it during the “weird purgatory standstill” that followed the gallery’s closure, says Le, and it’s intended as a gift back to the community to commemorate the more than 40 years Gallery 4Culture has been open to the public.

The May 5 reopening, worth noting, is a soft one; the gallery will be accessible Thursday and Friday 10–5 for the foreseeable future, until staffing allows for a return to a pre-pandemic five days a week.

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