Parklane anniversary show features 38-plus artists

Parklane Gallery, once described as "Kirkland's best kept secret" with its self-described eclectic collection of fine art at affordable prices, will be showcasing all 38 artists in February. Each artist has his/her own wall space.

Kirkland's only artist-owned gallery was formed in 1991 by a small art club group as a venue for showing their work and contributing to the community. One of the gallery's original members, Ross Nicoll, has been actively involved in its transformation.

One thing that hasn't changed since the gallery's inception, according to Ellen Williams, one of the gallery's artists and its public relations/marketing person, is the continued focus on community service. "We do a lot of teaching in grade schools, volunteering, donating pieces for charity," she says. "The gallery has evolved into a business but we still focus on community service."

The gallery typically features two artists per month, but during January and February, Parklane features all of its members. The Annual Juried International Miniature Art Show takes place in May, which draws entries from around the world.

Due to popular demand, this year the gallery is continuing its salon-style - borrowed from the original "Salon de Paris" - from January. The salon style of hanging dates back to the 17th century, when the French Academy of Art set artistic standards for artists and sponsored an annual show, known as the Salon de Paris. The show became so popular that in order to show all the paintings entered into the show, the art had to bthe paintings entered into the show, the art had to be hung from ceiling to floor with very little space between paintings. Thus the phrase "salon style" was coined. Parklane's salon show will continue through March 5.

The all-artist reception will be Feb. 9 from 6-9 p.m. The gallery is having its customer appreciation day, complete with refreshments and drawings for gifts, on Presidents Day, Feb. 20, from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Michael Reagan

Michael Reagan is an internationally-recognized portrait artist who has completed more than 10,000 portraits over the past three decades, including the past six presidents, the pope and 137 Playboy bunnies. He jokes, "I am the best little round circle drawer that you know."

Reagan, who draws in colored pencil on black illustration board, has raised more than $10 million for charities by donating celebrity drawings to their auctions. His stature has enabled him to ask celebrities to sign blank illustration boards for him to illustrate at a later date and then donate. "Harrison Ford signed 10 and gave four to charity. Not one has sold for less than $5,000. And," he adds, "he doesn't sign autographs."

Reagan, who now lives in Edmonds, got his start doing celebrity portraits at the Cirque Dinner Theater in downtown Seattle (along the current monorail line) in the late 1960s. "They were aliased celebrities, two times removed from the list - Imogene Coca, Smothers Brothers," he remembers. "I ate more bisque than I really want to talk about and more food that jiggled. They paid me a small amount and fed me."

Honoring fallen soldiers

Reagan's current pet project is "Fallen Soldiers in the War Against Terrorism," where he is offering custom portraits free of charge for families of servicemen and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. To date he has done 225 drawings of soldiers and credits his ability to do this gratis project to his fame from the thousands of celebrity drawings.

The project's seed was planted after a woman in Boise asked how much he'd charge to do a portrait of her husband who died in the Iraq War. "After I sent it to her [at no charge], she emailed me and said how healing it was," he remembers, adding that he soon will be traveling to Camp LeJeune, N.C., for a big presentation.

"I've got people all over the country who want these portraits," he says. "This is the most important thing I've ever done in my life."

He tells a story of a woman who flew in from Tennessee, after finding out that he's up through the wee hours of the morning completing these portraits. "She spent two-and-a-half months crocheting me an American flag blanket and came out here to deliver it," he remembers. 'I hope that it keeps you warm when you're cold,' she said. Clearly, he is moved. "I'm not gonna forget them," Reagan avers. "It's about love and respect, there's no politics involved."

Reagan, who joined Parklane about 18 months ago, just closed his studio in Edmonds after three years, saying he "had no choice. The resources I was spending on it would've impacted my ability to do free drawings." He is now painting at his home.

Reagan is a former Marine and is very proud of his relationship with the president and Laura Bush, as well as the president's parents. In 2002, Reagan was asked to draw a special piece to commemorate President George W. Bush's election and the First Lady. When Reagan asked Bush to presign the illustration boards, Reagan recalls: "He said to me, 'This is the scariest thing I've ever signed. I'm signing a blank board; you could do whatever you want on here.'" The artist notes this was all in jest, as he had already established a relationship with the family.

Reagan recalls that the president and First Lady wanted to thank him personally - and got a day's notice to receive the honor. "They [George and Laura] were in Anchorage on their way to Japan in February 2002. I got a letter on a Friday that said they wanted to meet with me on Saturday. We ended up at the Petroleum Club. I had a private meeting with them; they signed some lithographs for charity."

That same year, Reagan participated in an auction for Seattle's Children's Hospital. "George and Barbara [Bush] had donated some lithographs for an event. I said to my wife, we're going to have to buy these," he said, thinking there may be a paucity of Republicans at a Seattle event. Turns out they were sold for $12,500. The buyer? None other than former Seattle Mariner Edgar Martinez. You just never know, even in Seattle.

Reagan openly and laughingly admits that, "I'm probably the only guy who voted for both Jimmy Carter and George Bush." Once again, proving his previous statement: when it comes to charity, it's not about the politics.

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Parklane is located at 130 Park Lane, 827-1462,

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