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An end to The Living Gallery

The economic downturn is claiming another Ashland gallery.

Heidi Grossman, owner of The Living Gallery downtown, is closing her gallery in the fall after 12 years in business.

"It's with mixed feeling that I decided to close," Grossman said. "I've wondered how long I would be in business. Economically, it's been such a bear. All along economically it's been tough. These days, it's really tough."

She said she hasn't picked what day she will close, but it will likely be during September.

Her future plans are still up in the air, but Grossman said she plans to do some traveling and to volunteer with local organizations.

Grossman, who is not an artist herself, said owning the gallery has been a way for her to express her creativity through choosing artists and hanging their work.

The Living Gallery represents 47 artists and sculptors.

Jhenna Quinn Lewis, whose luminous paintings of fruit, birds, pottery and draped cloth long have been popular at the gallery, said Grossman has eclectic taste and her gallery has been an integral part of Ashland.

"It's very sad," Lewis said. "The more galleries there are with more differences, the better. Each gallery has a unique personality and draws more people in."

The former owner of a gallery in Ferndale, Calif., Lewis said she watched as the closure of galleries there changed the face of that town.

"One by one, the galleries went — and so did tourism. Then the cafés and restaurants went," she recalled.

Although Lewis is represented by galleries across the nation, she said it's important for artists to have local representation so they are known in their communities.

"Now people won't know who I am. They won't call and ask me to donate art," said Lewis, who has donated her paintings to raise money for a variety of causes, from a battered women's shelter to the family of Dave Marston. Marston, a well-known local musical director, died on June 22 after falling ill with a rare brain disease.

For now, Grossman said she will be working to get the pieces by the artists she represents into people's homes before the gallery closes.

To that end, she will be offering 10 to 40 percent discounts on about 80 percent of the items in the gallery.

Despite the financial struggle of running a gallery, Grossman said she hopes the closure of her space will not discourage others.

"There's such a part of me that wants people to believe that selling art or making it or being involved somewhere in the business is enormously important," she said. "I feel it has a place in Ashland. Ashland is still a perfect place to have an art business. I haven't lost my confidence in Ashland and the art world here."

Grossman said she doesn't know what new business will occupy the space after her gallery closes.

Although many galleries are hurting during the recession, the new Toni Renee Gallery is scheduled to open Friday on A Street.

At the site of the former Gallery DeForest, the Etienne Gallery opened in spring.

For more information on The Living Gallery, call 482-9795 or visit the gallery at 20 S. First St. or online at www.thelivinggallery.com.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

An end to The Living Gallery