East Fork artists moving out of cultural center

GARDNERVILLE - After five years of displaying the work of local artists, the Carson Valley Historical Society will not renew the East Fork Gallery's lease for space in the museum and cultural center in Gardnerville.

Mechele Johnson, who is a member of the artists' cooperative, was staffing the gallery Friday. She said the gallery pays $250 a month rent and a percentage of art sales to the historical society for its space in the museum.

The gallery has been in a small room in the museum since it opened at the old Douglas County High School in 1996. The gallery's former location, next to Adaven Hotel, burned Jan. 26, 1995.

Johnson said she believes the museum will suffer a loss of visitors when the gallery moves out Aug. 1.

They will lose "a lot. That's why it was such a shock," she said. "The last time I sat, we had over 28 people come in, in just one day. And we have four open houses a year, and then it is into the hundreds."

Johnson said the artists voted to have a committee actively look for a new building they could afford, but have been unable to find anything in the two weeks since the historical society board of directors sent the letter which stated the lease would not be renewed.

"We're hoping. We're looking," Johnson said.

She said if the gallery doesn't find a new home by August, the artists will be forced to put everything in storage.

Marlena Hellwinkel, president of the historical society, said the decision came down to space.

"We've had a very good relationship with the gallery and feel very bad it has to come to this, but it just comes down to space," Hellwinkel said. "We need the space for exhibits."

She said the museum, which is in the renovated high school building at 1477 Highway 395, welcomes more than 4,000 visitors a year and doesn't think losing the gallery will affect those numbers.

"I'm sure the exhibit that goes in that room will draw the foot traffic," she said.

In order to meet the mission statement, she said, the historical society was forced to make the decision.

She quoted the statement as, "To enrich lives by presenting local history and making it accessible to our community and visitors."


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