“It’s not technically an outreach,” Park Gallery host Ryan Burke tells me after an evening band practice with his alt-rock band the Morning Glass. “We don’t have sermons here. It’s strictly to serve the community. We really try to be the friendliest place in town.”
“We run it like a venue we’d want to play at,” adds bandmate Steve Rowe.
The University Heights art space, located at 4325 Park Boulevard, is a refurbished 1950s apartment belonging to the Fellowship church. The gallery is run by six members of the church worship team — all musicians or artists. Before the gallery opened in spring 2009, the space sat defunct for decades. Now, Burke and Rowe sit in foldout chairs in the entry of the small gallery. The art on the walls is provided by community members who sign no contracts with the gallery and take 100 percent of any sales. In addition to providing a free space for artists, the Park Gallery hosts bands at no cost a few times a week with the stipulation that no door fee is charged, though bands are free to sell merchandise and pass around a collection jar.
“We want anyone to feel like they can come in without feeling like they are going to have to spend money,” says Burke, a graphic designer who, along with his wife, designs and prints free posters for upcoming shows.
Attendance at the first few strictly art events last year was minimal, so they began hosting music as well. The group bought a basic PA system and held three or four shows a month. Now it’s not uncommon for the Park Gallery to host up to nine or ten events monthly — anything from high school bands playing their first gig to local CD-release parties to touring bands from Portland or Seattle. With the closure of the Habitat, an indie show house in Golden Hill, touring bands from across the country are being referred to the Park Gallery, operators of which have gone so far as to take bands to their own houses to crash for the night. Recent acts included Movable West, Platypus Egg, the Regime, and Tanuki Suit Riot.
The group is tossing around ideas of community dinners and movie nights, but in the meantime, the Park Gallery wants to host your art, music, fund-raiser, or birthday party. Always all ages, always free, never drugs or alcohol. Burke sums up the gallery’s vibe best: “Anytime the door’s open, feel free to come in.”