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If anyone new to Ellensburg in the last 15 years walks up the 400 block of Pearl Street, they might not notice the narrow doors and staircase that splits the modern Gallery One in half. Turns out, not too long ago that staircase was the community art gallery’s main and only entrance.

“All the artwork, all the people, all had to go up and down these stairs,” Gallery One Executive Director Monica Miller said. “It wasn’t until we bought the building we added the elevator.”

Those stairs lead up to what is now the Eveleth Green Gallery, which was Gallery One’s only showroom, and it opened its doors in 1972 after spending the previous four years in downtown offices on Pearl Street and in the basement of what is now the Yellow Church Cafe.

Gallery One has since spent 50 years in Ellensburg, and it celebrated that milestone with community events last weekend including an exhibit featuring 171 artists, artist home tours and a founder’s brunch.

Monica Miller, who has been the gallery’s executive director since 2013, said she uncovers history about her workplace every single day.

“I’ve learned a lot about the organization from the people who have been using it and growing up here,” Miller said.

One spot in particular is a treasure trove of art memories. A small room on the second floor in the Eveleth Green Gallery features binders filled with photographs of almost every exhibit the gallery has ever had.

“A couple years ago we started going through all of our archives trying to coordinate them so we could pull the history together,” Miller said. “We created this little archive room, this is sort of our library.”

Miller said Green was meticulous about photographing all the work for all the shows, as well as collecting articles written in various publications about Gallery One. Other work including fliers for exhibits were in the scrapbooks.

In 1993, the gallery changed its name to Gallery One from Ellensburg Community Art Gallery, to recognize itself as Ellensburg’s first Gallery. Shortly after that, the board purchased the Stewart building and began expanding down to the first floor.

“They were able to preserve both the historical nature of the building and also transform it into a more contemporary (facility) and add to its functionality,” Miller said.

After Green retired at the age of 90, Mary Frances Dondelinger was hired in 1998. Dondelinger began to shape the identity of the gallery, steering more toward an emphasis on teaching and engaging, making Gallery One a true community art center.

Under Dondelinger’s leadership, Gallery One added the ceramic studio and brought in lots of funding through grant writing. She also started several signature events including Paint Ellensburg, the First Friday Art Walk, Discovery Art Classes and summer art camps.

In 2000, the gallery’s board started planning its renovations to expand the center and make it more accessible. In 2003, it reopened as a visual arts center.

“When they moved the main exhibitions spaces downstairs, they were able to add the classrooms for adults and kids, and also put artist studios in the space,” Miller said. “It became more of a functioning space for artists, an incubator space, a place for people to learn how to make art, not just look at art. It took things to another level which is where we are today.”


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