This article is not about the current exhibition mounted at the Roby King Gallery. It is about the owners, Wes King and Andrea Roby-King. The exhibition is a beauty though. The two-person show exhibiting paintings by long-time gallery artist Parvin and a new gallery artist Dee Dee Lantzy is well worth seeing. If you were on the email listing for the gallery, you could see two of the artworks. They pail to the actual works though. Parvin’s can be breathtaking -partially due to their colors and size- and Lantzy’s photo can not come alive until you see they are painting and reliefs in one, or triptychs. However, that email also too subtly announced that the two gallerists, Wes King and Andrea Roby- King, are moving on, retiring after 32 years as one of Bainbridge Island’s cultural hubs. I believe the only older one is Bainbridge Arts & Crafts. (Incorporated 70 years ago.)
Wes King and Andrea Roby-King created a very successful and well-respected gallery for thirty-two years. The math says they could have mounted a staggering 380 exhibitions. When they opened in 1990, their stable of artists lingered around twenty. A few of the original represented artists, like painter Cheri Christensen, are still with the Roby King Gallery. A good number have been with the gallery for over 15 years, such as local favorite Pamela Wachtler who was well represented in the September show. Over time artist representation expanded to some degree; some artists may have moved but still exhibit with the gallery. That shows loyalty on both ends.
And beyond the main artists, Roby King has exhibited countless others as parts of their shows, such as the annual group and theme shows. For a number of years, the September group shows donated twenty percent of sales to the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art (BIMA) to help it get started. They have also offered shows that contributed some of the proceeds of sales to special causes such as cancer research, the Red Cross, and recently to Ukrainian food insecurity.
Wes King and Andrea Roby King are artists in their own right. Both families either had considerable creative talent or provided copious opportunities to see and participate in cultural activities. Both are from Illinois. In King’s case, his father was an artist-illustrator and later became the Preparator at the Classical Museum at the University of Illinois. Students came to draw the Greek and Roman sculptures on display. Taking some inspiration from those ancient artworks, he and Wes opened a pottery studio in their home basement. Wes earned his BFA degree in Ceramic Artsat the University of Illinois in 1972. Andrea Roby’s family took her to The Chicago Art Institute, museums and plays. She and her sister were both clarinetists. Roby dropped her interest in music to study dance at the University of Illinois. The two met at the university.
In 1973 the two moved to Seattle. Roby-King completed her BFA degree in Art History at the University of Washington by 1976. At the same time, the two had begun a pottery business. They sold their line at Pike Market as well as across the country. In 1978 they scouted various local islands to live and work, and settled in an old farm house on Bainbridge Island. They developed a wholesale line and participated in craft fairs along the West Coast for the next twelve years. At that point, an opportunity arose to make a change, and they decided to try their luck with a retail business a friend owned at the corner of the old Lundgren Station at the northeast corner of Winslow Way and Madison Avenue. That is where Emmy’s Vege House is now. That was not the best location, and soon another opportunity appeared a little ways down the street that seemed just right for them.
In 1990, the owner of the Harbor Gallery & Picture Framing retired and Wes and Andrea bought the shop. They would make it into a real art gallery keeping the name for another ten years. They finally felt confident enough to put their own name on the gallery: The Roby King Gallery. They felt it took five years to arrive at their own style and direction and another five years trying to overcome their shyness about putting their own names on the business. At that point they had a grand party to celebrate.
Both Wes and Andrea enjoyed the framing aspect of the business. After two years they expanded to Poulsbo and Port Ludlow. After a decade with multiple frame shops at the dawn of the new decade, new century and millennium (2001), they consolidated the shops to Bainbridge. They found the island’s market was the strongest. They were able to rent the small shop next door and therefore double their art gallery space. The framing business came to a full stop when gallerist Jeffery Moose moved his Seattle gallery to Bainbridge Island in 2017. It landed across the street from Roby King and Moose agreed to take the framing business to his gallery. The two had enjoyed the business which had an exceptional long-term reputation, and the two were beginning to consider retirement.
The early Covid years were not horrible from a business point of view, doing what they could to connect collectors with artworks. As the closings and panic of the epidemic had mostly settled, and things were starting to “normalize” (a new normal perhaps), they felt this was the time to call it a day. Well, three decades certainly could be called a success. They were fortunate enough to pass the gallery along to another gallerist, Jude Grenney, who has run her gallery, the J GO Gallery in Park City, Utah, for twenty years. The Roby King Gallery has been transitioning some of Grenney’s artists into exhibitions over the summer months to begin introducing them to the Bainbridge community. Dee Dee Lantzy is one exhibiting this month.
Out of this sad art news can be found a definite satisfaction. For thirty-two years the gallery has supported many local artists and provided a wonderful array of rich artwork to the community to enjoy in their homes. They also provided monthly gathering-celebrations called First Friday Openings. These have been a community favorite for years and years. So, please, find your way to the Roby King Gallery and see the Parvin and Lantzy’s exhibition, but linger long enough to thank Wes King and Andrea Roby-King for all they have given to our community for so long. We will miss them. They will miss us, but they will still be around town. You can thank them then as well.
ROBY KING GALLERY
- 176 Winslow Way E.
- Bainbridge Island, WA
- Open: Wednesday – Saturday 12 – 5 PM, Sunday 12 – 4 PM
- (206) 842-2063
- Oct. 7 to 30, 2022
CLICK HERE TO READ OTHER FIRST FRIDAY FOCUS & EBB and FLOW ARTICLES BY BILL
Ebb & Flow: Hilltop Artists Exhibit
Ebb & Flow: Pete Saloutos Photography
Ebb & Flow: Three Visions of the Northwest with Brooke Borcherding, Taralee Guild & Paul Polson
Ebb & Flow: KidsUp: The Next Generation of Play
Ebb & Flow: The Art of Jan and Chris Hopkins
Ebb & Flow: “Threads of Connection” Jason Devinney and Caroline Cooley Browne
Ebb & Flow: Tracy Lang
ABOUT BILL BARAN-MICKLE: 2020 Island Treasure Awardee. Recently, Bill has enjoyed exhibiting in several international art biennial exhibitions. Of the three in which he has participated, he won Third Place for Sculpture from the European Confederation of Art Critics in the Chianciamo Biennale, at the Chianciano Art Museum in Italy in 2011, and First Place in Applied Arts in the London Biennale of 2013. In 2013 alone, he will have participated in eight exhibitions: from London to a two-person exhibition near home. In addition, Bill was asked to be a representative for CCAC’s exhibition celebrating 100 years of the Metals Department, and a mix of group shows in New York City, Miami, Seattle and Las Vegas. Bill is the designer of the 10 foot Equitorial Bowstring Sundial located at the Richie Observatory in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island, WA and completed in 2015.