Group Effort 

The Sun Valley Gallery Association celebrates 25 years with arts forum

Cooperation, collectivity, camaraderie--these are not words that would usually be associated with fine art galleries working in the same town and competing for the same business. Yet it is precisely these ideas that come up over and over when speaking with the members of the Sun Valley Gallery Association.

"Not a week goes by that I don't hear from one of the other Gallery Association members who has space in a truck going to L.A., or an opportunity to share an ad in a major magazine, or something to offer me as a fellow gallery owner. That is the way we build each other up and support each other," says Andria Friesen of the Friesen Gallery. "The sense of community among our gallery owners is unheard of in the art world."

What began as an organization intended to raise awareness of the existence of art galleries in Sun Valley celebrates its 25th anniversary this summer. The eight current member galleries--Anne Reed Gallery, Boloix Fine Art, Broschofsky Galleries, Friesen Gallery, Gail Severn Gallery, Gallery DeNovo, Kneeland Gallery and the Sun Valley Center for the Arts--have banded together to plan a grand event marking the association's anniversary.

They're calling the celebration the Sun Valley Visual Art Forum, and it's scheduled for June 23 through 25. Over the course of the weekend, the Sun Valley Gallery Association will present talks by three internationally known luminaries in the art world: Barbara Guggenheim, Steve Wynn and Francoise Gilot. There will also be an outdoor sculpture exhibition and special shows at the SVGA galleries. "It's going to be a great, big, swanky party," says Friesen.

Friday, June 23, will be an evening with famed art collector and Las Vegas entrepreneur Steve Wynn. His collection, now housed at his namesake Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, includes such artists as Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Brueghel, Monet and Matisse. Wynn will speak on his own passion for collecting art, and will then introduce Francoise Gilot. A formidable painter in her own right, Gilot is well-known as Pablo Picasso's lover and the mother of his children, and also as the wife of Dr. Jonas Salk, discoverer of the Polio vaccine. Her romantic connection to two of the most well-known men of the 20th century has sometimes overshadowed her accomplishments as an artist, and at the forum, Gilot will speak on her life as an artist.

On Saturday, June 24, world-renowned art consultant Barbara Guggenheim, of Guggenheim, Asher Associates, will speak. "Barbara has been very active in advising people how to collect," says Kristin Poole, director of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts. "She has worked with everybody from high-powered New York entities to the average Joe. She is going to speak about how to collect wisely and how to follow your eye--which is the easiest and also the most complex advice to give a collector."

Guggenheim has been to Sun Valley many, many times. "It's simply beautiful," Guggenheim says. "In Sun Valley, look out any window and there is art." The high-profile Guggenheim has been advising art collectors for 25 years. "To make a wise decision to buy art takes time," she says. "People are interested in beautifying their lives and art is a big part of that."

"The first thing I tell people to do is ask questions in galleries; don't be intimidated by them. The second thing is to travel and to see exhibitions," explains Guggenheim. "The point is to go to galleries and museums and look and look until you identify an area that you like and then you find out everything you can about it."

"I think it is very symbolic and celebratory that the Sun Valley Gallery Association is turning 25," says Poole. "It is evident that we have moved from an entity that talks about itself to one that has matured into an organization that looks at what we can do for the community. With events like the Visual Arts Forum, it demonstrates that we can provide a service to others."

The idea to start a gallery association was born out of the desire to put Sun Valley on the art world map. "I can remember Barbi Reed of the Anne Reed Gallery and Gail Severn and me sitting around, trying to figure out how to keep the arts in Sun Valley alive and present and slightly forward," says Poole, one of the association's founding members. "Part of it was based on trade and economy: we wanted to add to the attraction of Sun Valley as an arts destination."

Gail Severn of the Gail Severn Gallery started her gallery 29 years ago, and was a founding member of the SVGA back in 1981. "We started the association to promote camaraderie among the galleries," she says. "Groups like this tend to form to build visibility and that's what we did. We started the gallery walks, promoted our shows together and pooled our resources to benefit each other. We talked about things as simple as where you advertise and what shippers you've had success with. We'd buy supplies together; things like that. Now, we have a real sense of camaraderie."

The gallery walks provide a way for the community to explore the galleries during special evening hours and have been a staple activity of the SVGA for the past 25 years. There are nine walks scheduled per year, and the SVGA plans them to coincide with the openings of new shows.

"The SVGA has been a very positive thing," says Severn. "When we first started out, we we'd be lucky to get 30 or 40 people at an opening. Over the years and by doing things in tandem with other galleries, we have hundreds of people for an opening now. The Gallery Association has shown the success you can have when you cooperate, by doing things such as not double-booking events. We've shown how the arts community can pull together and have been a model for the cultural arts to work cooperatively."

"As a group we are able to have a voice on issues that affect our community and businesses," says Minette Brochofsky of Brochofsky Galleries. "More than anything, I feel that the arts have come to define our community and make it unique to other resort areas."

"The art scene in Sun Valley has grown immensely in the last 25 years," says Severn. "What is most exciting for us is the selection of galleries that show work you could see in any urban area but in an intimate setting. It's quite phenomenal, the caliber of artists in the various galleries. It's very exciting to know that we have artists represented in our galleries who are at the very top of what's going on in the international art world."

"Being a gallery owner is a lot of business but the main demand is that you are an art lover and that carries through in just about everything you do," says Brochofsky. "When you are around fine art continually, you expect a certain aesthetic wherever you are. It's like an addiction--without it, you start to feel incomplete."

As with any good tale, setting plays an important role. "We are able to dangle the most beautiful carrot; Mother Nature has done so much for us here," says Friesen. "Here, when people are in a place of natural beauty, they are in a place in their head and heart which puts them in a place to look at art. They are able to truly receive what the art has to offer. All I can say is: thank you, Mount Baldy."

"People in Sun Valley take great pride in their homes and do lots of entertaining in them," says Guggenheim. "They have an interest in their homes; many of them are built from scratch and they build their collections from there. They really have time to think about things."

Severn explains that the SVGA is poised to expand its activities. "The gallery association felt that our 25th anniversary was an opportunity to provide something more than our retail galleries can offer. We wanted to have a world-class art event here, to educate our community and to bring in an international audience."

With the stellar line-up that has been booked for the inaugural event, the Visual Arts Forum promises to be an exciting opportunity for collectors and art lovers to hear from some of the biggest names in the international art world.

The growth of the art scene in Sun Valley and its emergence as a destination for art aficionados is due, in part, to the cooperative efforts of the members of the SVGA. A spirit of camaraderie, passion for art, cooperation for the good of all--the success of the Sun Valley Gallery Association's first 25 years is truly something to celebrate.

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