A community gallery

Family owned business moving from PDX to Camas

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A family owned art business of more than 40 years has found a home in Camas.

On Jan. 8, the Attic Gallery, currently located in Southwest Portland, will officially open its doors at 421 N.E. Cedar St.

It’s a big change, going from a busy, metropolitan area to a small city, but it’s one that Maria and Tommer Gonser are embracing. They run the gallery with Maria’s mother, Diann Faville, who started the business in the attic of her Southwest Portland home in 1973.

Maria was 5 years old at the time.

“I remember opening night very well,” she said. “It was all very woodsy and earthy, lots of ceramic bowls with wine.”

At the time, there were only three other fine art galleries in all of Portland. Now, there are several in the area that compete for business.

“There used to be a real feeling of community, but it isn’t there anymore,” Maria said.

When the gallery was given a notice by its landlord that it needed to vacate within 30 days or pay four times the rent, the Gonsers knew it was time for a change. They’d moved to the Washougal River area two years ago, and thought it would be nice to locate the gallery closer to home instead of having to endure the commute into Portland.

However, it was a challenge finding a space that worked for their vision of the gallery and budget. One night a few months ago, Maria was searching Craigslist for potential spaces, and one in Camas popped up.

“We looked at it the next day and fell in love with the space,” Maria said. “When we found out Elida Field (a Camas artist) had used the space before, it just seemed like it was meant to be.”

Since leasing the property, the Gonsers have been busy renovating it to prepare for the grand opening. Going from 6,500 square feet to just over 2,000 has required some creative use of wall space, so Tommer built a freestanding structure with reclaimed wood to hang paintings. It will be used for “mobile exhibits,” which each last two months.

“This enables us to have enough wall space,” Maria said. “With a gallery, it’s all about the walls.”

Although it has been challenging to close the gallery and reopen it in a smaller space, the Gonsers are excited about the possibilities in Camas. They are also hoping to feature some local artists.

“We are trying to bring all of our customers out here to support us and the other local businesses,” Maria said. “We brag about Camas and tell them all about the nice restaurants and shops. The merchants here are just great and really support each other.”

Tommer is excited about customers being able to have free parking, something that is not available in Portland.

“I can’t wait to open,” he said. “We already have people coming in to check it out.”

Maria is excited about the opening as well.

“I am looking forward to being a part of a community again,” she said. “Portland used to have that in the 1980s and I loved it.”

A majority of the Attic Gallery’s artists are from the Pacific Northwest, including Mike Smith of Camas. He will be one of three featured in the rotating exhibit on opening night.

The gallery will continue to feature a full-service, custom frame shop on the premises.

“Before I met Maria, I used to think ‘art’ meant a Jim Morrison poster on the wall,” joked Tommer. “Now, I create my own original art and know the difference it can make in a life. It opens doors to other opportunities. I couldn’t have a better job than the one I have now, and am looking forward to being in the Camas community.”

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