Beloved gallery to reopen under new ownership during First Friday Artwalk
By Julie Raefield for Ashland.news
An iconic Ashland art gallery has found a new guardian and visionary in artist-become-business-owner Kathy Morawiec, who has retooled and is about to reopen what was the Art & Soul Gallery as Art & Soul Ashland.
Readying for the rebranded gallery’s grand opening, Morawiec invites the entire community to come celebrate with her and 21 other Southern Oregon artists she represents. “Almost all our artists will be here in person to meet and greet visitors,” said Morawiec.
The gallery’s name change reflects Morawiec’s desire to “honor the past owners who put their souls into this place,” while also adding on the Ashland tag “as a nod to how special this community is.” In addition to the new name, Morawiec has completely refurbished the interior of the gallery.
The new interior design reflects Morawiec’s mission to present a sleek, clean, contemporary space focused on helping clients “slow down, take it in and connect with the artwork” that she carefully curates. At the grand opening during the First Friday Artwalk on April 1, visitors will be encouraged to relax, enjoy live music by singer-guitarist Norman Fletcher and nosh on hors d’oeuvres from 5 to 8 p.m.
A notable change to the space is Morawiec’s decision to use black, free-standing display panels, creating an enhanced sensory experience of each visual artists’ work. Media benefiting from the backdrop-boost include oils, acrylics, pastels, watercolors and pottery. Morawiec hopes to soon add sculpture, glass and other media to the array.
Taking her color ideas from a recent tour of cutting-edge galleries in Scottsdale, Arizona, Morawiec enlisted the help of her husband, John, to match the black panel idea with fresh white walls, and an eye-popping burnt sienna interior store marquee. New flooring and remodeled baths also enliven the space — a now-far cry from the building’s history as a former JC Penney store.
“It was John who encouraged me to take this over,” said Morawiec, when asked how she transitioned from being an artist with works on display to becoming the gallery proprietor. After learning that the previous gallery owner, Peter Stone, was calling it quits in December 2021, Morawiec felt it was “heartbreaking that Ashland was losing another gallery.” So, after some careful business planning, she stepped up.
Morawiec began painting professionally about eight years ago, and shared that she “truly loved this gallery and didn’t want to see it close.” But it was her former career as an accountant that helped her evaluate how the business model might work for her new vision.
Retooling the co-op model that once operated in the space, Morawiec works with artists who she will represent, asking them to commit to some gallery hosting time in addition to the normal commission and display space rental costs they share in. “I’m happy to say that six of the original gallery co-op founders, who inspired me, are continuing to exhibit here — and they are all wonderful artists.”
A reflection of Morawiec’s vision, the gallery is already a hub of community connections as visitors and neighboring shopkeepers buzz in and out amidst the wonderful, varied artworks, awaiting their turn to be hung.
Artist Suzanne Leslie, a pastelist and oil painter, dropped in to share her thoughts on the new space. Excited to be one of the newest Art & Soul Ashland gallery artists, Leslie notes that she always “loved the old gallery and the wonderful diversity of art and the quality, which is superb! But now, Kathy has done wonders with this space!”
Morawiec has some exciting ideas planned for the gallery that will generate fresh perspectives on the space and artwork and keep the community well-engaged. Monthly, Morawiec will provide special focus on one of the gallery artists — offering expanded, store-front placement for their work. Artists will be holding master classes for would-be artists, and the 2,040-square-foot gallery will become available for event rentals.
According to Morawiec, there is room for another eight artists to enter the gallery fold. In addition to more visual artists, she said she “would be happy to consider sculptors and glass artists. We might even consider jewelry artists as well.” Each candidate would go through a process of evaluation — first with online photos and then an in-person meeting — to ensure a good fit.
For those who wish to view and buy works from the Southern Oregon artists represented, Art & Soul Ashland is at 247 East Main Street, Ashland. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays.
For details, call Morawiec at 541-880-4100.
Rogue Valley resident and freelance writer Julie Raefield has extensive experience as a journalist and communications professional. Email her at RaefieldJulie@gmail.com.
March 27 update: Gallery address corrected.