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New owner keeps Art & Soul Gallery going

Peter Stone’s love of Ashland has its genesis in a student trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival when he was 15 years old.

Nearly 35 years later, Stone, 49, finds himself in Ashland again, and this time it is to stay. He is the new owner of Art & Soul Gallery at 247 E. Main St.

The gallery was established in 1998 by a group of artists looking for a place to display and sell their art. At its 20th anniversary party last fall, the owners announced their retirement and the Nov. 25 closure of the business. That decision opened a door for Stone, who owned a framing shop in Half Moon Bay, about 30 miles south of San Francisco.

“I discovered that it would be available just before it was scheduled to close,” Stone said. It was an opportunity he couldn’t ignore.

He and business partner Kevin Yell of Portland negotiated a deal with the owners, who agreed to stay on for a transition period. Stone took over in December, and the gallery never did close. It now also offers framing services.

Art & Soul is not a collective, but it functions like one. Twenty-seven artists currently exhibit at the gallery. Each artist agrees to work a four-hour gallery shift per month, and in return they get 4 feet of wall space, floor to ceiling, to display artwork.

“The gallery was a little bit on the decline when we bought it,” said Stone. “There were only 18 artists represented. But in four months, we were back up to full capacity, and now we even have a waiting list.”

Stone is a musician and a composer of musical theater. He brings music to the gallery with “Chanting & Chai” sessions ($10 drop-in fee) from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Sundays, and morning mantra meditation ($5 drop-in fee) from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

He brought his restored Baldwin grand piano to the gallery, and he often plays for First Friday art walks and other events.

“Songs I Wished I’d Written” is the title of a project he has been working on, and he plans to premiere some of the numbers in a special piano performance next October.

Stone is the managing partner, and Yell, who has business interests in Portland, is a silent partner but contributes ideas. The two have been friends for 20 years.

“In fact, Kevin made an offhand suggestion that some of the paintings should be titled to relate to Shakespeare,” Stone said. “That led to an idea for a promotion we’re running for the month of June. I’m terribly excited about it.”

Stone recalled a “Where’s Waldo” business promotion in Half Moon Bay that was designed to build store-to-store traffic, and they came up with a tweaked version for the gallery.

“Where’s William” will challenge customers to find paintings in the gallery that relate to Shakespeare, with an opportunity to earn prizes for their efforts.

Exhibiting artists have been encouraged to rename some of their paintings, even if only temporarily, in a way that has a connection to one of Shakespeare’s works.

“We’re going to have three tiers of competition,” said Stone. “Children 12 and under will try to find 10 or more Shakespeare paintings, those over age 12 will look for 20 or more, and a top tier will be challenged to find 25 or more and answer some bonus questions.”

There will be prizes for every successful competitor in each tier. Top tier winners will receive an artist’s notecard, a yoga music CD, a framing discount coupon, and a free pass to a Chanting & Chai session. An original painting will be given away as the grand prize.

Stone thinks Ashland has a unique art scene.

“There is abundant beauty in this valley, and that attracts artists,” he said. “They take it as a point of inspiration.”

He acknowledges that a lot of art is sold on the internet these days. While Stone plans to use his own website to complement gallery sales, he believes there is value in having a physical space.

“When it comes to original art, you look for a visceral response. Nothing will replace that experience,” he said.

When considering a new artist for the gallery, the first thing Stone considers is whether the work elicits an emotional response. He wants to be moved. Stone also will consult with gallery artists about the quality of the work and whether there is a good fit with the gallery.

His advice to artists searching for gallery representation is to be well prepared.

“Their art will speak for itself, but they should have a good presentation packet,” Stone said. “They should be well organized, as well, bringing a professional résumé, and a number of well cropped digital images.”

Galleries want to know if artists are prepared to help market their art, he said.

Art & Soul features an eclectic collection of art in all types of media — oils, acrylics, pastels, watercolors, sculpture. The gallery sells originals costing from $200 to $4,000, as well as prints and notecards.

“Our motto is, ‘Original art for every wall for every budget,’” Stone said.

The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. You can follow them on Facebook and Instagram at artandsoulashland. For more information and to see featured works of art, go to artandsoulgallery.com.

Jim Flint is a retired newspaper editor and publisher living in Ashland. Reach him at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

Jamie Lusch / Ashland TidingsPeter Stone recently purchased the Art & Soul Gallery in Ashland.
Jamie Lusch / Ashland TidingsPeter Stone recently purchased the Art & Soul Gallery in Ashland.