Smith & Vallee Gallery has functioned as a vital hub for regional art since 2006. In addition to carrying forth traditions established by 20th-century Northwest Mystics, the gallery is known for showcasing work that’s contemporary, relevant, and diverse.
Smith & Vallee Gallery is located in historic Bow-Edison and co-owned by Wesley Smith and Andrew Vallee. Camille Ireland is the gallery manager, and Vallee is the primary curator.
During his time at Western Washington University, Vallee attended group shows at the legendary Edison Eye Gallery. It was then that he began to tap into the deep roots of Skagit County’s art scene– and became fascinated by an old schoolhouse just down the road. Nearly two decades later, he and Smith restored the building to become Smith & Vallee Gallery.
“There’s always been a bit of a gravity towards the arts right here in Edison,” Vallee says. “My building specifically is a turn-of-the-century schoolhouse. It had many uses over the years, most of them industrial and lumber-based, like being a lumber sales outlet. It was a woodworking shop for a lot of years.”
Nowadays the venue is home to a main gallery, guest house, sculpture garden, and the Flex Gallery, which focuses on new or experimental work as well as favorites from past shows. Smith and Vallee’s other business venture, a residential custom cabinetry shop, is located across the street.
Shows at Smith & Vallee rotate monthly. Given the venue’s ample window space and natural light, they frequently feature mediums both 2D (such as drawing, painting, and printmaking) and 3D (such as bronze, clay, or glass). Most shows include between one and three artists, and group shows featuring upwards of 100 artists are held once per year.
The artists themselves tend to fall under three categories: Emerging, mid-career, or “Northwest Masters.” As a curator, Vallee looks for artists that belong to or follow in the footsteps of the Northwest School, mid-century art movement combining Pacific Northwestern nature scenes with Asian aesthetics. The group originated in Skagit County and was made famous on a national level by a Life magazine article, “Mystic Painters of the Northwest,” in 1953.
“There’s that element of mysticism that I look for,” Vallee says. “I show a lot of landscapes, but it’s got to be the right thing. I know it when I see it, and I know it when I don’t.”
Over the years, Vallee has had the opportunity to hold exhibitions for two of his biggest influences, Philip McCracken and Clayton James. An artist himself, Vallee has also shown his own wood and bronze sculptures at the gallery. He cites all these exhibitions as highlights of his career.
“The amount of quality artwork that I’m exposed to, and the amount of quality artists that I get to work with, has been an incredible learning experience for me,” he says. “When I show my own artwork here, I’m a fellow artist to the artists I represent. My work is aligned with the historical roots of the Northwest and my curatorial vision.”
The gallery’s March show, featuring work by Nicki Lang and Steve Jensen, runs from the 4th-27th. Work by Kat Houseman will also be on exhibition in the Flex Gallery. 5742 Gilkey Ave., Edison, 360.766.6230, smithandvalleegallery.com