In 1993, with an 18% vacancy rate in Downtown and Old Town Eureka, the first Phantom Gallery was born. The idea was to turn vacant storefronts into temporary art galleries, benefitting both property owners and artists. While an empty shell of a building looks cold and uninviting, a storefront displaying art creates the opposite impression. The program was so successful that buildings with art were quickly rented, and artists needed to find new ways to bring their work to the attention of the public. As a direct result, First Saturday Night Arts Alive! was born in 1994.
With the sluggish economy of the past few years, the vacancy rate for Eureka’s commercial properties once more began to climb, and last year Phantom Gallery II came into being. The first Phantom Gallery was the result of a partnership between Eureka Main Street and the Humboldt Arts Council, but today’s incarnation is the offspring of the Eureka Beautification Coalition, a group of organizations that includes Eureka Main Street, The Ink People, the Redwood Art Association, the Eureka Art and Culture Commission, the Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce, Recology and Keep Eureka Beautiful. The coalition was originally formed to promote the public display of sculptures in Downtown and Old Town Eureka, but expanded its focus to also include other approaches to connecting art and economic development.
Linda Wise, a noted local sculptor and the president of the Redwood Arts Association as well as the general manager of Recology, explained how the program works. She said that interested artists contact the coalition, whose members are in touch with the owners of vacant buildings. Once a property owner and an artist decide they like the match, a three-way agreement is signed between the artist, the property owner, and the coalition’s Public Art committee. The artist or the property owner can dissolve the agreement at any time by giving 48 hours’ notice. In the meantime, if anybody wants to buy one of the pieces of art they see displayed in a Phantom Gallery storefront, all they need to do is contact the Ink People at the phone number displayed in the store window. The coalition gets a commission, which helps support the program, the artist gets the rest of the money, and the happy buyer takes home the piece of art. Artists interesting in showing their work in Eureka’s Phantom Gallery II should email Linda Wise at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Charlotte McDonald at Eureka Main Street, 442-9054.
– story by David Kaftal