Mother/Daughter Team Has Big Plans

Elizabeth Ashe-Director

No need to be concerned that the former Two Vaults art gallery will sit there empty like other retail spaces in downtown Tacoma. New tenants are already giving this Merlino Building cornerstone a major cosmetic makeover and plan to have it all shipshape just in time for Art Walk in August. Continuing the artistic legacy that started years ago at this corner of 6th and Fawcett avenues, the new owners – mother/daughter team Mavi and Elizabeth Ashe – are just about ready for the grand opening of their new Mavi Contemporary Art.

“We did a lot of work really fast in here,” said Ashe, her voice echoing in the empty gallery. Fresh, bright paint now covers the walls, the flooring has been stripped, and rooms have been completely emptied out in preparation for new uses such that Two Vaults regulars may not recognize the place. With some hired help, Ashe and Mavi (pronounced muh-VEE where the second syllable is stressed) are making sure everything in the gallery gets freshened up, all the way down to gleaming copper framing on the windows that have been covered by many layers of paint. This duo plans for a whole new aesthetic to take hold, with clean lines and a modern vibe, airy and open in which the art attracts all the focus. “We want to keep it very simple and contemporary,” Mavi said.

While other art galleries locally and across the country may be feeling the pinch of the current economy, Mom and daughter are confident that they have the winning formula to make Mavi Contemporary Art a success. “The location from a business standpoint is wonderful,” according to longtime business owner and artist Mavi. She points to several popular businesses on the block – The Grand Cinema, Mineola wine bar and Corina Bakery – as draws for passers-by to stop in and see some art. “About 10,000 people a month could walk through this gallery.”

The two women’s tastes in art should also help their gallery stand out and be seen as very different from what used to be there, Mavi said. “We’re up-scaling it a bunch. We’re going to bring something special to Tacoma, something you’re more likely to see in Chicago or New York.” This will include local artists and internationally known artists as well. “We are both strong believers in supporting local artists – that’s what it’s all about,” Mavi said, “even emerging artists coming out of school, if (their work) is exceptional.”

Ashe agreed. “There’s a lot of amazing talent in this town. I don’t feel that potential in Seattle.”

Mavi Contemporary Art will represent about six local artists as its base – some being carried over from Two Vaults, others brand new – and additional artists will show at the discretion of the owners. Mavi and Ashe have already picked out their first artist to showcase in next month’s Art Walk – William Quinn of Gig Harbor. Internationally known for his fine art, mainly abstract oil paintings and figurative sculptures, Quinn has become world renowned during his four decades of being a professional artist. Having won many prizes and awards in competitive exhibitions, Quinn continues to make art today with as much gusto as he did in 1953 when he earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Washington University in St. Louis.

Mavi and Ashe will show their own art, too. Ashe is a sculptor, poet and painter with years of formal training behind her and soon to hold two master’s degrees. “My painting tends to be realist figurative, and my sculpture leans toward bronze, paper casting and installation work.” She also studies word entomology, from which she receives much inspiration.

Mavi has been a painter all her life, she said. “I used to own Bainbridge Coffee Company on Bainbridge Island and sold that in 2000 so I could retire and paint in the south of France in a small village called Vence, about 20 minutes from the foothills above Nice.” She has also done performance art. Together, Mavi and Ashe each bring something unique to the table. As Mavi put it, “She has a lot of contacts being as she’s gone through all the formal training, and I have the personal contacts from being an artist all my life and living in Europe.”

“We’re going to target a different market than people just buying art,” Mavi continued. “It could be young couples that appreciate art but can’t spend $4,000 to $10,000 on a painting but they want something original, so we’re going to have original prints that are signed. We have a number of artists lined up for that.”

While its website is still under construction, keep checking for the latest on Mavi Contemporary Art, and look for the grand opening next month. For more information, call (253) 759-6233.

By Matt Nagle
Tacoma Weekly

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