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The list of the 2021 Governor’s Arts & Heritage Awards is impressive and includes the Asia Pacific Cultural Center in Tacoma, the Spokane Valley Summer Theatre and Path With Art in Seattle.

That impressive award list also includes Gallery One Visual Arts Center. This year’s eight honorees join more than 250 other exemplary individuals and organizations honored with a Governor’s Arts or Heritage Award over the past 54 years.

“This year it recognizes artists and organizations and their performance during the pandemic and the recovery process through offering access to the arts,” executive director Monica Miller said. “The things we did over the last year are emotional in and of itself because it was emotional for all of us because of the uncertainty if it all.

“There was extreme togetherness and it really showed how our art bonds are. Not just as employees, but we’re a family and supportive of each other. We are always focused on each other’s struggles and needs and we were able to work together.”

Local artist Jane Orleman nominated Gallery One, saying “Gallery One Visual Arts Center has been a guiding light for the arts in rural Washington for over fifty years. When COVID-19 isolated us, the team at Gallery One kept the art community connected by rapidly learning new skills,” she said in a letter to the nominating committee. “The staff quickly began brainstorming ways to keep art alive during the shutdown.”

One of those brainstorm ideas was the distribution of 1,600 Art 2 Go kits to schools.

“By pivoting to online access for the sales gallery, exhibits, classes and workshops, Gallery One was able to distribute nearly $100,000 in commissions and awards to artists in 2020,” Orleman said.

The Governor’s Arts & Heritage Awards recognize individuals and organizations for their significant contributions to Washington’s creative vitality. This year, the GAHA Luminary Awards acknowledge arts and heritage organizations and cultural leaders who stood as shining lights for their communities during the pandemic.

The health restrictions not only limited access to the gallery, but created a sense discomfort throughout the community, Gallery One board president Cathy Bambrick said.

“The employees at Gallery One have not wavered in their determination to ensure the arts are accessible by all. When staff was forced to shut down the facilities, art programs, and art events, they responded by developing virtual programs,” she said. “When schools shut down, Gallery One ensured our children maintained access to art education by distributing Art 2 Go kits to families.

“When we were isolated and stuck in our homes, Gallery One created touchpoints through clever communication, programming, and events, giving us all much needed bright moments of creativity and entertainment. The Gallery One Board of Directors couldn’t be prouder, and Gallery One couldn’t be more deserving of this award.”

ArtsWA executive director Karen Hanan agreed, “These Luminary Awards are a way of acknowledging how innovative and creative Washington’s cultural organizations, artists, and leaders have been during these stressful times.”

The 2021 individual artists recognized include Jeremy Whittington, Akuyea Karen Vargas and Douglass Orr.

“As representatives and coummunities all around the world really, there’s a sense of pride to make it work,” Miller said, “and that’s what we did.”

Rodney Harwood: award-winning journalist and columnist. Lover of golf and the written word. I can be reached at


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