by Sheri Boggs
The Lorinda Knight Gallery is the kind of place Spokane has always needed, but we didn't know it until we saw how vital and accessible a contemporary arts gallery could be. And artist Lorinda Knight certainly didn't plan to become a gallery owner, at least not until a chance line in a newspaper article caught her eye and effectively changed her life.
"The impetus for opening a gallery like this was an article in The Spokesman-Review, it must have been around 1994," recalls Knight. "And it was about what was needed to turn Spokane into an arts-friendly town. And one of the things that was needed was 'a serious contemporary arts gallery that would be in it for the long haul.' And I realized, that's me."
Knight left a teaching career at WSU to open the gallery, the first step of which was finding a place. Looking around at the spacious, wood-floored, high-ceilinged and white-walled space that sets off Knight's monthly exhibits so well, it's hard to believe the gallery was once a pre-renovation nightmare. "When I first saw this place, it had bright red carpet, dark wood columns running through it and orange and green striped wallpaper," she laughs.
The entire process of finding a good location, attracting the artists, renovating the space and believing in the necessity of her dream was an ebb-and-flow period.
"It was that line 'in it for the long haul' that's made all the difference," says Knight. " And I knew I was seriously committed when I bought a large van in which to haul art. I'm not a van person, so when I made that rather large commitment, I knew I was really going to do this."
The gallery has developed a reputation for being one of the finest in the region, due no doubt to Knight's hard work, but also to the quality of the artists showing each month. Kathleen Cavender, Dean Eliasen, Lanny de Vuono, David Wharton and Beth Lo are just a few of the great regional artists who have shown their work at the gallery. And while the gallery shines with big city sophistication, Knight wants it also to be a place where people feel comfortable. To that end, she schedules an artist's lecture with each exhibit so viewers can learn about the art from the viewpoint of the artist, and she also keeps an extensive collection of featured artists' work in the back.
"I have work by more than 30 artists in the back. People don't realize they can go through the stacks. They're always a little hesitant to ask me, as if it's asking me to go out of my way, but I love doing it," she says, flashing a broad, contented smile.
Second place: Douglas Gallery
Third place: Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (MAC, formerly the Cheney Cowles Museum)