June 12th, 2008 5:33 pm | by RICHARD SPEER News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

EXCLUSIVE: Rake Gallery may close after July show

After three years in business, Rake Art Gallery (325 NW 6th Ave.) will probably close its doors after its July show comes down. Gallery director Jeremy Tucker says it will be "a miracle" if the gallery is able to continue in the face of high costs and low sales. "I can't afford it anymore," Tucker (pictured above) told WW this morning. "We're not moving enough work. People come out for First Thursday, but for the most part, the people who have the money to buy art, don't come to our location."

Tucker declined to say what the gallery pays in rent but says his overall monthly expenses total $2,500. On the same block as the Everett Station Lofts but not a part of the Lofts, Rake occupies the old ballroom of the West Wind Apartments, whose owners are Rake's landlords.

"I talked with the management and asked to keep going through August," Tucker says. "If I can't afford it after that, then I can't do it anymore. I'm tired of being broke, working so hard, and getting nowhere. But I won't be definitely sure till the end of June. If our current show [Kevin Darras' prints and Chris Haberman's paintings] sells enough—if people really pull together to support us—then we may be able to pull through. You always hope for a miracle."

Rake opened its doors in the autumn of 2005 and quickly asserted itself as a new First Thursday hot spot. In May 2006, the gallery took part in an artist exchange program in Jinan, China, with five gallery artists traveling to China and showing work there. In September 2006, seven gallery artists participated in an artist exchange program in Las Vegas, with Las Vegas artists later traveling to Portland to mount a show (well-reviewed in WW). Over the years, the gallery has grown in reputation and curatorial prowess. Its closure, if it happens, would sound further alarm bells for the city's visual arts scene, which this year has already sustained the closure of Portland Art Center and the dissolution of the Affair @ the Jupiter Hotel art fair.

In addition to being a gallery space, Rake is also a collective whose roster fluctuates between 15 and 20 artists, many of whom, according to Tucker, pay $30 per month for membership. But the income generated by these fees, along with what Tucker calls "some sales here and there," is not enough to cover expenses. Tucker, who works part-time as an assistant at the Mark Woolley Gallery, says he typically devotes the lion's share of his paycheck from Woolley to subsidize Rake, a practice he says he cannot afford to continue. If Rake does close, he says he would like to reassess the collective's location and funding in a year's time and perhaps reopen. Until then, he says he would like to guest-curate at other galleries.

Portlanders love to talk about the ascendance of the creative class and the vibrancy of our local art scene. Reality check: Talk is cheap; running an art gallery is not. It appears Rake Gallery may soon find itself the latest art venue to learn that lesson the hard way.
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