Closing up shop: Ave to lose arts proponent with gallery closure

In its short time occupying the storefront of 5270A University Way N.E., The Peanut Gallery and its owner have become a rallying point for the University District's art world and the Ave community.

Purchasing the space, owner Segue Fischlin never anticipated opening an art gallery on the Ave in front of her building permit and drafting business in the back of the store.

"In fact, I hadn't decided to open a gallery until I had built the space," she said, gesturing around at the crisp white walls and large window front. "But it just felt right."

However, without enough sales and the space's high rent, Fischlin can't keep her doors open. She will close them forever this Saturday, Sept. 24, with a party from 3 to 8 p.m., in conjunction with the Upper Ave Block Party.

Closing the gallery and selling the entire space was the only logical choice, she said of her six-month stint as a gallery owner.

"I had no idea how much of my time would be devoted to planning, advertising and coordinating these events, and I am still running it in the negative," she said.

The U-District art community

Living in the University District since the mid-1990s Fischlin has always found herself in the company of local artists - whether they were travelers just passing through or they came out of the Ave's predominate street culture.

"I wanted a place that would help instill a sense of community back into the U-District," she said of her gallery.

Between safety concerns, politics and construction, Fischlin said, much of its community and creativity have been destroyed.

Inspired by her earliest memories of her time in the U-District, which was spent at coffee shops such as the Last Exit, which also doubled as community centers, Fischlin organized the University District Artwalk through her gallery. The art walks began last April and continue to take place on the third Friday of every month.

The art walk features local artists and their work at businesses throughout the district. Since April, the event has grown to include not only traditional galleries such as Fischlin's but coffee shops such as Café Allegro and Sureshot Espresso.

The event also has drawn in bars like Tommy's and restaurants such as the Wayward Café and Star Life on the Oasis, which usually pair live music with extra food and drink specials.

Traditional galleries such as the Kirsten Gallery, the Scooter Gallery and The Peanut Gallery offer a variety of hors d'oeurvres and drinks while entrepreneurial artists chat up patrons roaming through the galleries.

Despite facing her own gallery's closure within the next week, Fischlin remains committed to successfully keeping the University District Artwalk running. She said solemnly, however, the art walk itself is facing termination in the next six months after the grant money is exhausted.

She sees hope, though, in seeking out new, talented volunteers to fill upcoming positions and keep the program running.

"The fact is," Fischlin said, "we haven't gotten enough positive response from permanent residents here. Sure, your friends and family come, but without sales and benefactors, the art walk won't be able to continue."

'An unfortunate event'

Gayle Nowicki, owner of Gargoyles Statuary farther south on the Ave and a co-sponsor of the art walk, said that she regarded the closure of The Peanut Gallery as an unfortunate event on the Ave.

However, she added that she was happy with the leadership Fischlin has provided and hopes that the art walk will continue to grow.

"[Fischlin] has done what people like me, who own full-time businesses, couldn't," Nowicki said. "We need her type of continue to pick up the positive energy, which will draw people into the area."

The closure of The Peanut Gallery may go unrecognized by the ever-revolving door of mainly student residents and the occasional visitors who mingle along the dirty sidewalks and vacant street front shops.

But to Fischlin, it is a clear reminder of how fragile business is along this street and how vacant the sense of community has become in the once vibrant district.

[[In-content Ad]]