The purpose of the Tacoma Gallery is to promote and feature Tacoma-related artwork and artists, provide art education, and sell finely crafted limited-edition Tacoma merchandise and art at an affordable price.
Tucked away in the vacated KeyBank building on Tacoma’s Hilltop is a space being repurposed into an art center by a husband and wife who want to give back to their city.
The new Tacoma Gallery is run by Jason and Jane Sobottka. “The Tacoma Gallery is not so much a place, as it is a way to bring Tacoma-related art to the people,” Jason said. The idea for the space was born out of their own necessity when they decided to downsize and move into a tiny house. “Every working artist needs a studio,” Jason said. Three years ago, they purchased the domain name Tacoma Gallery, and were astounded that it was available.
The nondescript doorway off the side parking lot next to the alley outside the Tacoma Gallery is easy to miss. Inside, a hallway displaying colorful paintings of Tacoma landmarks and scenery, relief prints, animals, magical creatures, and more greets you. Through the doorway to your left, in a bright sunny room, you may find artist Jason working on his latest creation or teaching a class on drawing, print-making, or painting, to seasoned artists or first-timers.
The purpose of the Tacoma Gallery is to promote and feature Tacoma-related artwork and artists, provide art education, and sell finely-crafted limited-edition Tacoma merchandise and art at an affordable price.
Jason and Jane are Tacomans, and proud of it. Jason was born in Tacoma, and Jane came as a teenager when her father was stationed at McChord. Both earned art degrees in college. Most of the art gracing the walls was created by Jason, and he does most of the teaching, but you will find Jane’s work as well. She also manages the business.
The Sobottkas noticed that most museums bring in outside art for exhibits, and most art shows they were attending weren’t showcasing local art. “Tacoma has come into its own — let’s celebrate Tacoma art and artists,” Jane said.
They wanted to change the art scene, and highlight the talent around them. “One of the most satisfying parts of being involved in the community is meeting people and helping each other out,” said Jason.
So the space became more than a place where they could do art. Now it is a classroom — one of the most popular classes is where people can come and paint their own pets’ portrait. During the course, they learn about the value of contrast and techniques, and they get to leave with a stellar pic of their beloved Fluffy, or Rex.
Jason also teaches visual arts at Lake Washington Institute of Technology. He said art is a shared interest that can bring people of all ages and from diverse backgrounds together. He has had a high school art student and a medical professional in his 60s in the same class.
Next the couple hopes to partner with local businesses to provide scholarships for teens who are aspiring artists and might not otherwise have the opportunity to take classes.
Unlike a traditional gallery, Tacoma Gallery is designed to be a collaborative effort to bring art — particularly local art — out into the open. “Art shouldn’t be a luxury; it should be accessible to everyone. People should be comfortable looking at it and making it,” Jason said.
Earlier this year, Tacoma Gallery partnered with Alma Mater Tacoma to use their space to showcase the work of several Tacoma artists in a show entitled, “For Tacoma.” They also hope to collaborate on another event showcasing female artists, featuring illustrations, graphics, comics, narrative drawing, and more. Jason and Jane want to help cultivate art in inactive spaces and set up pop-up events in various locations throughout the city to bring art to places one might not normally see with the ultimate goal — getting more art to more people.
Whether you ascend the hidden staircase or find it in a new space, or at a collaborative pop-up event, Tacoma Gallery is not so much a place as it is a celebration of Tacoma, its community, and its artists.
Tacoma Gallery is located at 1120 S. 11th St., Studio 203, Tacoma. The entrance is on the left side of the building. There is plenty of free parking. More at tacomagallery.com.