Arts and Entertainment

BAC gets its Wings

Sixty-year-old Winslow Gallery endowed with massive gift and

due vindication

at ‘exactly the

right moment.’

At a point when the United States economy has painted a financially grim picture for almost every sector of the country, staunch colors are shining brightly at Bainbridge Arts and Crafts.

Smiles, sighs of relief and excited energy abound at the Winslow Way art gallery as the picture of the organization’s financial future got a bit brighter with the release of some big news at the beginning of the month — a $1 million gift to establish an endowment which should keep the gallery’s operations up and running well into its next 60 years.

At the tail end of June, a friend of BAC, who wishes to remain anonymous, invited the nonprofit organization’s executive director Sally Jackson out for lunch one afternoon and surprised her to tears with the gift.

Jackson and other BAC members and employees note the donation as an incredible, reaffirming show of support for the work they do and what they’ve accomplished. Almost vindicating. It’s the biggest gift the 60-year-old gallery has ever received.

“Unfortunately, the donor’s wish for anonymity prevents us from publicly expressing our gratitude with parades and mariachi bands and champagne,” Jackson stated in a press release announcing the donation.

But you better believe there were more than a few bottles of champagne to be uncorked behind the scenes on Winslow Way.

“The bumpy economy had recently forced (BAC) to cut payroll by 20 percent,” President of BAC’s Board of Trustees, Ellin Spenser, noted. “So this astonishing gift came at exactly the right moment.”

The million dollar endowment, a lasting and reliable restricted funding source, should solidify the nonprofit organization well into future. The principal million will be permanently maintained while the interest accrued from its investment — estimated as roughly six percent of BAC’s current operating budget — will go into the gallery, giving BAC its proverbial wings.

The gift also came at “exactly the right moment,” in that regard, as the gallery is currently filled with its artists’ many different takes on the concept of taking flight in the July show — Wings.

I was not entirely surprised by the number of birds in the show but the creative minds that take up artistic residence at BAC spread their artistic wings to include other flights of fancy, as well.

Bainbridge sculptors Joe and Elda O’Brien feature brightly colored, whimsical bird heads seemingly coming out of the wall, sans wings, while mixed media artist Sandra Hurd displays wall-hanging cutouts of WWII-era mechanical birds. There are also the inevitable portraits of roosters, gamehens and that sort of thing.

But you can’t always judge a bird by its portrait.

In the back half of the gallery stands a small exhibit of seemingly simple, uber-realistic bird statuettes by carver Don Templeton. Nothing about Templeton’s birds grabs the attention right away (like the massive metal bird bath in the middle of the room does), that is until you examine the detail with which the artist has labored. Carved of tupelo wood, the life-size hummingbirds and swallows almost look as if they came from the taxidermist. But actually they came from blocks of wood in Templeton’s Montana studio.

“It’s something that not many people do because it takes such a large amount of time,” Templeton said, talking with What’s Up by phone from his home in the shadow of the Continental Divide.

Following a 30-year career in teaching, Templeton found the time to carve birds in retirement.

He says laboring over the detail of these works allows him a certain feeling of freedom.

“The idea of wings, whether it’s birds or me being a dreamer, it’s just like that whole idea of freedom of the aesthetic life, if that makes sense,” Templeton said. “What I do with these birds kind of gives me the freedom to do what I want to do.”

A fitting sentiment for the BAC show, given that the $1 million endowment recently bestowed offers the gallery that same kind of liberty.

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