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Following eviction, business gains new life and shows profit; the gallery celebrates is grand opening from 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25

COURTESY: ALBERTA STREET GALLERY - Alberta Street Gallery was able to stay open after finding a new space, allowing patrons to see — and purchase — the work of some 30 artists. Says gallery president Kim Nickens: 'It's really been an incredible happening for us.'Alberta Street Gallery organizers consider it a miracle that Alberta Street Gallery still exists.

In a story not uncommon among arts businesses in Portland, the collective gallery received an eviction notice to vacate its previous property in the summer. But within 30 days, and with the pro bono help of an attorney and aid from a real estate agent, it had another big building at 1829 N.E. Alberta St. that could house its many artists — 30. Much to their relief, they could stay on Alberta Street, home of the Last Thursday arts walk.

Alberta Street Gallery celebrates its grand opening from 6 to 10 p.m. on Last Thursday, Oct. 25.

"It's really been an incredible happening for us," says Kim Nickens, an artist and gallery president.

The attorney, Bill Miner of Davis, Wright, Tremaine LLP, was able to get the eviction notice extended from 30 to 90 days, "then we hit the streets looking for something; we were limited considering our name was Alberta Street Gallery," Nickens adds. The location at 1829 N.E. Alberta St. "fell into our lap, and it's twice as big."

In the first month, Alberta Street Gallery showed a profit, even with rent substantially increasing for members.

"We got this great space and will be community-focused," Nickens says.

It's an 1,800-square-foot space. A lease was signed Aug. 1. The artists will pay dues, which cover rent and then some.

"So far so good," Nickens says. "We hope we can continue the success we started out with."

"It's kind of mindblowing," says Brian Echerer, an artist and ASG board member. "Having been in business and art business for 10 years, it's amazing that we were able to have it happen as fast as it happened. In the business world, things like this don't happen at all — (going) from having no place to within 30 days having a place.

"Doors opened. It was all a bunch of different people. It could not have happened without one of our members finding a lawyer pro bono, and another member contributing money, me finding a real estate guy, another member creating a spreadsheet that showed artists providing this much money and selling this much stuff. It's exceeded every expectation. ... We moved $10,000 in art in our first 30 days."

The gallery has been part of the Alberta Arts District for 14 years. The business previously at the spot was a home garden store.

"We put out a call for artists and they came," Nickens says. "We opened our doors on Aug. 30 with 10 original artists and 10 new ones, and we currently represent 30 diverse and talented individuals."

Nickens says it was important to stay in Alberta, where "we've witnessed gentrification and we know we can't stop it but we can shape it."

The gallery will feature traditional art openings, an art lending library, workshop classes and other events.

"We are a community gallery with an approachable attitude," Nickens says. "We represent artists of all ages, races and abilities, and each one offers their perspective and talents. It's an amazing mix of creativity."

Artists in the co-op had their doubts whether it would work, Nickens says.

The Alberta Arts District is still rebuilding its Last Thursday event after security issues and bad behavior of visiting individuals in recent years. It's calmed down and it's a safer environment, Nickens says.

There are still some galleries on Alberta Street, although some have left. Remaining galleries include Guardino Gallery, Antler and Talon galleries, Ampersand and Side Door Ceramic Gallery.

"What's great about our arts district is the local aspect; no big corporations," Nickens says.

Ironically, the Antler and Talon galleries took the space of the previous Alberta Street Gallery.

"That was hard for us to take," Nickens says. "But, we want success for all artists in Alberta. We had to say, 'Hey, let's embrace and support it.' There's room for all of us.

"It's a blessing in disguise, because we've tripled our numbers (of sales) in the first month. The numbers don't lie. And, we've done no advertising."

The gallery includes artists of many mediums. Nickens is a quilling paper artist. Echerer is a cycle-themed artist. He takes old bike components, welds them together and puts stained glass in them.

"It's probably the best retail spot on that street, if you ask me," Echerer says. "We're so much more visible than where we were.

"In the art game, there's always big winners and people who don't do well. We're still on target for doing (profit) again this month."

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