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Essentially Ashland

Contemporary art gallery with long downtown history

I had just finished meeting with some friends downtown — and was getting ready to head home when I felt with nagging concern that — I was missing something important. I checked my pockets, leafed through — my yellow legal pad, then looked at the front page of the Daily Tidings. — It was Friday's edition and this was the first Friday of the month.

Silly me. I had almost missed the First Friday Art Walk — that allows me an excuse to enjoy some conversation and walk to many of — the fine art galleries around town. My mind now in mirth mode I took a — short jaunt to Judy Howard's den of delight, where visuals are always — enticing. Judy defines the artistic level to which we all strive to attain, — so the visit only served to remind me that I should drop by with greater — frequency, lest I find myself some day, devoid of the still sensitive — nature I once possessed, wandering amidst alley dumpsters while wondering — what is sacred and what is sacked.

In the monthly festival that the First Friday Art Walk — has become, no tour of Ashland's myriad top-quality art galleries is complete — without a careful inspection of all the contemporary fine art offered — at the Hanson Howard Gallery at 82 N. Main St., just downstream from the — Plaza.

Judy Howard, whose maiden name is Hanson, worked for the — Medford School District from 1966 to 1978, first teaching art then becoming — the director of the art curriculum for the entire district. In 1979 she — moved into the E.V. Carter House, located next to the new fire station, — which shares a common driveway with Cucina Biazzi. Her business partner, — Glen Northcross, remodeled the house and soon Judy opened the Hanson/Howard — Gallery in one half of the first level, sharing the balance with Bloomsbury — Books, which later moved downtown in 1983.

Judy partnered up with Marie Baxter in 1985, then moved — downtown to her current location in 1987, which formerly housed Casa Del — Sol, a pottery studio and gallery. The building was being renovated to — accommodate both Judy's gallery and another Beasy McMillian creation, — Thai Pepper. Renovators Lloyd Haines and I figured out how to legally — exit the back deck onto Blue Bird Park and incorporated the stairways — and walkways to accommodate the Rogue Brewery and above it, Lithia Creek — Arts.

Over time Sue Hart became a partner, then in 1999 Barbara — Tupper came onboard, becoming a driving force in the constantly changing — look that makes the gallery so fresh and inviting. The space in white — and open, which drives the eye to the pieces on display.

"We're able to choose art that has a lasting quality," — said Judy, "though often with a sense of whimsy."

Judy is surrounded by art and people that she cares about — as confirmed by her smile and twinkling eyes. Her energy is seemingly — endless and has extended into serving on the Oregon Arts Commission. Her — opinions are sought, her friendship cherished.

I walked out of the gallery and stopped to look at the — creek that churned, slapped and frolicked below, thinking of the years — of renovations decades ago. I reflected upon how the town had changed — over time and what pressure and stress will be placed and flexed to convince — us all that we have become Carmel, Calif., this to our great distress — and regret. With the historical perspective resolved, I went back home — and looked at some exceptional paintings hanging on my walls, this from — purchases at Judy's gallery over time. I poured a glass of wine and opened — my mind to the prospect of how Ashland will grow while keeping true to — it's history.

Stay tuned.

You may reach the gallery by browsing to www.hansonhowardgallery.com — or calling (541) 488-2562. Upcoming exhibits are as follows:

Future columns will focus on many downtown businesses — that have helped make Ashland unique. Nimbus, Alex's, Brothers and American — Trails will lead the charge from decades ago to lend perspective to the — revival of the Downtown. Send your favorite remembrances to: lance@journalist.com. — Drop by my blog and help me

figure things out: http:essentiallyashland.blogspot.com/