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Best of Olympia 2012 Arts & Entertainment: Best Gallery - Matter

Weekly Volcano readers name Matter best gallery in Thurston County

JO GALLAUGHER: The owner of Matter got interested in art made from reclaimed materials when she moved to Olympia. Photo credit: Patrick Snapp

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"In the future," said the artist Andy Warhol, "everyone will be famous for 15 minutes."

Matter, voted Olympia's Best Gallery by Volcano readers two years running, has had way more than its share.

The gallery, which displays only art made with reclaimed and recycled materials, showcases much more than paintings and sculptures. There are lamps assembled of auto parts, reupholstered and repainted chairs with colorful histories and wallets that once were sneakers. There is definitely serious art here, but there's also plenty of whimsy - including plastic-shopping-bag babies and stuffed toys made of old sweaters.

Works from Matter are currently featured at a show at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts. And last month, burglars invaded the gallery by rappelling through the skylight. They took only two pieces, but the movie-like caper made news near and far.

"If you're going to be burglarized, it should be through a skylight, so you get worldwide media attention," says gallery owner Jo Gallaugher.

Gallaugher, a former business executive, had long dreamed of opening a gallery. But although her personal art collection included plenty of art made with repurposed materials, she had never considered a gallery specializing in it.

Until she moved to Olympia.

"Talking with the artists here is what inspired me," she says. "The more I looked at the art from artists not just in Olympia but Seattle and Portland, the more interested I was in art from reclaimed materials."

Gallaugher's gallery features such local well-known local artists as George Kurzman, Ruby Re-Usable and Pat Tassoni as well as others from the Northwest and beyond.

"I hear from artists all around the country every week who want to show here, and we get new work in every week," Gallaugher says.

And Matter draws visitors from well outside the area, too.

"I have people visiting from Seattle and Portland every week," she says. "And I've had people stop in from Nevada, Illinois and California because they were visiting Seattle or Portland and knew that we were here and made a side trip." - Molly Gilmore

[Matter, 113 Fifth Ave. SW, Olympia, 360.943.1760,]

[The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, "Art from Matter" - along with "Polyethylene Fiend," an installation by Bil Fleming and Christine Malek, who both have work at the gallery, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays, before scheduled events and by appointment, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia; 360.753.8586]

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