Artist co-op planned for Elsinore Framing & Fine Art Gallery

Brent Allen’s art gallery might be one of the better-kept secrets in Salem.

As the general manager at Elsinore Framing & Fine Art Gallery, Allen has spent the past eight years curating monthly showcases from artists and hanging paintings and sculptures across the rooms in their downtown storefront at 444 Ferry St. S.E.

It’s the major part of his work, but Allen said people don’t always realize the shop’s involvement in Salem’s art scene, which includes showcasing up-and-coming artists and hosting themed shows annually.

“We’ve kind of been viewed as a frame shop with a gallery,” he said. “The majority of the frame shop is really used for artwork.”

Starting in March, the shop is partnering with Artists in Action to open a new co-op gallery. 

The Salem nonprofit has been around for over two decades, supporting artists through gatherings to share techniques, critiques and public events and shows, with about 68 active members. 

But they’ve never had a space to call their own.

“I talk them up all the time because they’re a helpful group,” Allen said. With a dedicated space, he’s hopeful they’ll be able to raise interest in their work and have a stable source of revenue to support their operations.

Art on display at Elsinore Framing & Fine Art Gallery on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Co-ops are a common gallery structure, said Diane Trevett, board member with Artist in Action, but there are few spaces locally for Salem artists to share in the running of a gallery.

Allen said their work is a perfect fit for the gallery space he’s built.

Elsinore Framing used to focus more on selling art prints, but Allen said the market became saturated when publishers began overproducing, leading them to drop in value. 

The shop switched away from selling prints about eight years ago and refocused on being a gallery displaying original art. They renovated their space with comfy couches and colorful walls to make a more welcoming, less sterile atmosphere than many galleries.

“We had so many requests from artists to show in the gallery,” Allen said. It took him only six months to fill the new space.

Artists in Action hopes to get at least 22 artists to sign up for the co-op initially. Participating artists pay dues or $35 to $50 per month that include the cost of an Artists in Action membership. Applications are on their website.

Commissions are split between the artist, the gallery and Artists in Action. Artists keep a greater share of their proceeds if they sign up to sit in the gallery during open hours, talking to patrons.

“It kind of gives the Elsinore Gallery … a more consistent flow of artists, and bringing northwest art to the forefront in Salem,” Trevett said.

Their minimum commitment for a co-op member is six months, and they allow guest artists so people who can’t commit to a full membership can still participate occasionally.

“We’re trying to offer some more options and flexibility for the Salem art community,” Trevett said.

Artists in Action’s events include the summer Paint and Write the Town, where artists and poets converge on outdoor locations to paint, write and chat with the public about their work. A show featuring artwork from the summer is typically on display at the Elsinore gallery in October, and they host several other themed shows throughout the year.

A consistent gallery space will give their artists more options to sell their work, Trevett said. Many use their own websites or Etsy shops, as well as displaying at events like the Salem Art Fair.

“It’s just another clientele that come in there,” she said of the gallery. “I have good hopes for it.”

A sign at Elsinore Framing & Fine Art Gallery advertises plans for an Artists in Action co-op gallery on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.