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The Art Salon at the Library: Ashland’s newest art venue

Painters, videographers, photographers and visual artists of all varieties now showcase their work at the Art Salon at the Ashland Public Library on the last Sundays of the month.

At the library’s recently inaugurated monthly Art Salon, the cool, comfortable space of the Gresham Room is transformed into a visual gallery of creativity. The Art Salon at the library began in January, and has since featured an unconventional array of artists thanks to Esther Mortensen’s vision for the project. The Ashland Public Library reference librarian who organizes the series says featured artists have included painters who use a variety of media and portray both abstract and realistic subjects, an art quilter and even an art therapist.

The Art Salon series features established artists with a body of work and give the artists an opportunity to talk at length about their work and show images of their art. Some artists also bring artwork to their presentations.

”You can see not just what they’re showing right now, but their history,” says Mortensen. "You learn how they became artists, see the artists’ work over their career and how the focus of their art has changed.”

The new Art Salon series is a chance to really get to know an artist and their work and is a very different concept than the popular Friday Art Walk. The Friday Art Walk showcases an artist’s work in an informal, conversational setting, often a studio or art gallery. It can be difficult to see the art and speak with the artist at any length because of the crowds.

Mortensen envisioned the Art Salon as a re-invention of the informal artists’ salons of the early aughts, held around town. At first the salon was in a large home, then for a while in sculptor Kevin Christman’s studio and later at Nuwandart on A Street across from Ashland Hardware. Ashland visual artist Jackie Miller ran the informal salons for several years before she relocated to British Columbia.

“I missed it in the community when it fizzled out,” Mortensen notes.

Ann di Salvo is a long-time Ashland artist who puts together the annual Ashland Gallery Guide. She remembers the earlier iteration of Ashland’s Art Salon as spontaneous and never structured enough to get into the gallery guide. “One place would work for a while and then it wouldn’t. It hard to organize, letting people know,” di Salvo says. “It was back when everybody used real slide projectors.”

The Ashland Public Library is an ideal location for the new Art Salon series because the library is centrally located, is a well-known community space and has the needed support. Di Salvo loves the idea, saying, “You’ll see a lot of the artists’ work and hear their stories, how they think about their art. You can give the artist who is speaking your full attention and ask questions.”

June's salon features artist Michael Gibson at at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 24 .He has painted all his life and taught art history for over 30 years.

Upcoming salon artists are Denise Souza Finney on July 29, Ann di Salvo on August 26 and tattoo artist, Mori Samel-Garloff on Sept. 30.

The Art Salon is sponsored by the Friends of the Ashland Public Library. For more information, call the Ashland Library at 541-774-6996 or go to jcls.org.

The Ashland Branch of the Jackson County Library System is at 401 Siskiyou Blvd. at Gresham Street. Artists interested in participating in the Art Salon series can contact organizer Esther Mortensen at the Ashland Branch of the Jackson County Library System at 541-774-6994.

Email Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at mbattistellaor@gmail.com.

"Red Poppies" by Denise Souza Finney, the featured artist at the Ashland Art Salon on July 29.
"Lambent" by Ann DiSalvo, who will be the featured artist at the Ashland Art Salon on Aug. 26.