Bell House turns living room into gallery

If you want to catch a show at the Bell House Gallery, you have to move quickly. Most days the gallery is a residence, but it transforms on second Fridays, during city art and musical festivals and other special times.

"Bell House is like a mayfly," says artist and house resident Peter Van Fleet.

Located in the heart of downtown Talent, next to Ray's Food Place at 104 S. Market St., Bell House will be open from 5:30 to 8 p.m. today in conjunction with the Talent Art and Music Festival. It also will open Saturday from noon to 2 p.m.

Van Fleet said he likes to open the gallery for a few days at a time but must consider the home's other resident, his wife, Anita. The couple clear out the living room and large dining room for each show. Van Fleet built stand-up panels that increase the amount of wall space available for hanging art.

"It just means we have to remove all the clutter as much as we can," said Anita. "It's a lot of fun to have the art and have people who are really into shows and (artists) being able to show their work."

Van Fleet, photographer David Lorenz Winston and artist Robert Beckmann came up with the transitory gallery idea three years ago.

"We intended to get artists that we like and wanted to celebrate," said Van Fleet. "We have met some really creative individuals and good artists."

Among gallery exhibitors have been Betty LaDuke, Bruce Bayard, Christian Burchard, Heidi Ferguson, Michael Crane and Wataru Sugiyama.

At an August showing, more than 200 people attended and photographer Colton Allen sold all the works he had on display. More of Allen's work will be on display Friday.

Another time Bell House displayed the tapestry work of the late Helen Wilson. Besides the tapestries hung for the show, people brought Wilson tapestries from their homes to share with others during the evening, said Van Fleet.

The presence of guests is not without precedence in the white, two-story house.

The first owner of the 1898 structure, Thomas Jefferson Bell, used it as a lodging house in the early 20th century. The Van Fleets have lived in the house since 1998.

In addition to Allen's photos, the show will include works by Van Fleet, Winston and Charu Colorado. The War and Peace Altars, abstract assemblages created by Colorado in 1994 during wars in Bosnia and Yugoslavia, will be displayed.

Van Fleet will display art he's created on a ground of gold and silver foil, a new medium he is exploring that allows a shimmering effect.

In addition to the Bell House show, the Friday evening festival will include openings of other galleries and businesses with art in the downtown area and music at several venues. Talent's Evening Market will also be open and feature the rockabilly rhythm and blues of Robbie DaCosta.

While Bell House is always open for the four citywide art walks per year, the gallery holds its own second Friday events on a haphazard schedule. Those who sign up at the Southern Oregon artists blog will get notices of the upcoming shows. The address is

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at

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