February First Friday focuses on Chocolate, Art, Love

Galleries throughout downtown Camas to host artist receptions, showcase local talent

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Local artist and wildlife activist Gary Watson holds one of his elephant paintings at his Vancouver home. Watson will be the featured artist throughout February at the Camas Gallery in downtown Camas. (Post-Record file photo)

Visitors to the Downtown Camas Association’s February First Friday celebration may have a tough time choosing which event to take in first.

From 5 to 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 1, downtown Camas businesses will be sampling and selling chocolates and other Valentine’s Day appropriate treats for the Downtown Camas Association (DCA)’s “A Chocolate Affair to Remember” themed First Friday.

Art galleries also will celebrate the beginning of the new month with art receptions at Attic Gallery, Camas Gallery and Second Story Gallery from 5 to 8 p.m., Feb. 1.

The “Chocolate Affair to Remember” First Friday activities will include: a “guess the candy jar amounts” contest at participating businesses to win Valentine’s Day-themed prizes; crafts and games for children at the DCA tables inside Journey Church, free dance lessons at Lisa Le’ Properties; free hair flair at The Wild Hair, a kissing-themed photo booth at the Artful Attic and free chair massages at Arktana Shoes by Therapeutic Associates-Camas.

The First Friday fun also will include a first-year wedding anniversary celebration for Tami Weidert and Nick Calais, the couple who were married by former Camas Mayor Scott Higgins at the Liberty Theatre in downtown Camas — and hosted a wedding reception for the whole community — during the 2018 Chocolate Affair to Remember celebration, featuring free cupcakes and opportunities to have a photo taken with the happy couple for a chance to win a romance-themed basket.

No First Friday celebration in Camas would be complete without a variety of artist receptions taking place throughout the city’s downtown core.

Throughout February, art lovers can discover new works at three different galleries in downtown Camas, including:

Attic Gallery, 421 N.E. Cedar St.

If you haven’t yet heard of world-renowned artist Mike Smith — a 1960 Hudson’s Bay High School grad who now calls Camas home — make sure you check out the Attic Gallery during the month of February.

The gallery will feature Smith’s brightly colored watercolors, which tend to feature horses, his dog, Maddie, and scenes from his own neighborhood as well as from his travels around the world.

“Mike Smith began his artistic career as an abstract painter, but for a number of reasons he began to abandon ‘schools’ of thinking and painting, and his subject matter became the objects of his life, family and the neighbors and town that he lives in,” states an artist biography on the Attic Gallery’s website. “In this portrayal of his small section of the world, Mike’s artworks have captured hearts around the globe, finding their way into collections in almost every country.”

Collectors of Smith’s artwork include the actor Ed Asner, former Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg and Antoinette Kuzmanich, the wife of former United States Sen. Mark Hatfield.

The Attic Gallery will host a free reception for Smith and artist Leslie McMillian, who will be showing her silver- and gold-leaf jewelry created in the Japanese style of Kanazawa at the gallery, from 5 to 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 1. For more information, visit

Camas Gallery, 408 N.E. Fourth Ave.

The Camas Gallery will feature works by Vancouver artist Gary Watson throughout the month of February.

A former business executive turned fiction writer turned artist and wildlife activist, Watson has blended his passion for creating unique, often abstract artwork with his desire to end the elephant slaughter currently happening across Africa.

In 2015, Watson and his wife, Deborah, herself an award-winning quilter, founded a nonprofit advocacy organization called Art for the Life of Elephants (ALE) that pulls writers and artists together with one common mission: to raise money and awareness for the Elephant Crisis Fund and save the African elephants.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, formerly the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), despite a ban on ivory trading, tens of thousands of African elephants are slaughtered each year for their ivory tusks. Demand for more land to accommodate the growing human population and droughts also threaten the elephant herds.

The Watsons have donated proceeds from their own artwork and from Gary’s books to the fund, and have found other artists who want to contribute their art and time to help stop the slaughter of the African elephants. The couple chose the Wildlife Conservation’s Elephant Crisis Fund because, as they state on their website, “ALE trusts in the fact the ECF joint venture project can accomplish its sole mission: to stop the killing of elephants.”

The gallery will host a free artist reception to celebrate Watson’s show from 5 to 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 1. For more information, visit Gallery or, or email Watson at

Second Story Gallery, 625 N.E. Fourth Ave.

The Second Story Gallery, located on the second floor of the Camas Public Library, will host “From the Heart,” a show featuring 24 artists — one of the largest groups in the Second Story Gallery’s history — during the months of February and March.

The artists, who are all members of the Southwest Washington Watercolor Society, include Patricia Armstrong, Rita Bingham, Lynda Raven Brake, Leslie Cole, Nathun Finkhouse, Mary Griffin, Carolyn Gunderson, Jean Hauge, Barbara Hope, Judith Howard, Takako Ito and Fay Kahn. Also showing are Mary Jane (MJ) Larson, Gilda Li, Corinne McWilliams, Pratima Misra, Marian Neumann, Katey Sandy, Nona Scheurer, Joan Turley, John Turley, Margaret Webb, Hank Weber and Tao Zhou.

“The group is made up of a variety of painters, some who began as children, some who started in retirement, and some who have made art a lifelong career,” states a press release about the upcoming “From the Heart” art show.

The gallery will host a free reception, with music by Brad Jensen, chocolate refreshments to match the chocolate-themed First Friday celebration and a chance for the public to meet the “From the Heart” artists from 5 to 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 1.

The gallery is open during regular Camas library hours: from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Wednesday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday.

For more information, visit