Scanlon Gallery in downtown Ketchikan is celebrating its 50th year in business this year, and welcomed special guest artist Barbara Lavallee to town for the October Art Walk on Friday evening, and a special Saturday afternoon celebration.
Scanlon Gallery first was opened in 1972 in a location near where The Plaza Mall is now, gallery owner Susan Peters said in an interview Thursday at the gallery. The gallery then moved inside the mall for a while before relocating downtown to Mission Street.
Marlene Scanlon was the first owner of the gallery, and Peters said that Scanlon planned to be in attendance at this weekend’s events with her family members who operated the gallery with Scanlon over the years.
Peters and her husband, Michael Peters, bought the gallery from the Scanlon family in 2004, and the Peters now also own Arctic Spirit Gallery, which is connected to the Scanlon Gallery building.
Scanlon was the first to open a large, full art gallery in town.
Susan Peters said that Scanlon not only focused on selling artwork, but became known for her framing skills as well. The gallery still offers the same services, and still stays open year-round to serve locals as well as seasonal visitors.
Peters said that Scanlon also was active in working with the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council.
“She was part of the ones that started the Art Walk along with the Arts Council,” Peters said.
Peters said that Lavallee was invited to the gallery’s celebratory weekend, as Lavallee was a “real special, instrumental artist” for the gallery.
Scanlon Gallery focuses on local, regional and statewide artists, Peters said. As she pointed out different artwork covering the gallery walls, she listed the names of some of the artists represented: Jon Van Zyle, the official artist of the Iditarod; Mark Bartlett of Sitka; Brenda Schwartz of Wrangell; and local artists, Melanie Burns, Ole Gunderson, Carlos Rojas and Sandy Wade.
Peters said that she enjoys working with new artists, as well, and assisting them with learning how to work with a gallery.
“It’s different from selling your own art on Etsy or anything,” Peters said.
When asked what their biggest challenges have been over the years, Peters mentioned the recession of 2008 and the shutdowns during 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic as the toughest times for them.
“Art takes the first hit,” she said. “Kind of scary times for everybody.”
She said things have been improving this year, and she fully expects next year to be even better. She mentioned her hopes that finding enough employees also will improve.
When asked what has motivated her to operate the gallery year around for so long, Peters said, “There’s nothing more wonderful than to be surrounded by art.”
She said that her husband Michael feels the same way, and operates the Arctic Spirit Gallery next door.
“There’s just something special about it, you know,” she added. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”
Peters said she purchased the gallery after she retired from a 26-year career as a nurse anesthetist, explaining that the nursing job is why she came to Ketchikan initially. Michael Peters previously was a harbormaster for the city.
Owning and operating the Scanlon Gallery is “just, you know, an accomplishment,” Peters said. “We’re the oldest existing gallery in the state of Alaska also. … Scanlon Gallery has been well-known throughout the whole state. It’s really an honor, actually, to be part of it.”
She added that it’s been a joy to have the “opportunity to represent artists and to have a venue for people to show their art and, we have huge talent in this town — the whole state.”
Scanlon Gallery will be welcoming guests for the 50th anniversary celebration from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the gallery, which is located at 318 Mission St.
Lavallee plans to be in attendance from noon to 4 p.m., and will have new originals, as well as old and rare sold-out editions of her art, along with other new releases.