Michael Gibbons opened his Toledo studio to the public in the early 1990s, first as part of the “Artists on Location” studio tour of Corvallis’s Vistas & Vineyards, and then as a foundation of what became the annual Toledo Art Walk.

Through the ensuing decades, other Toledo artists came and went, but Gibbons remained at the heart of Art Walk until his death in 2020. The COVID pandemic kept the studios shuttered that same year, but this past June, as the pandemic appeared to be waning, Toledo’s galleries decided to hold a mini Art Walk under the sponsorship of the Yaquina River Museum of Art.

For most of its lifetime, the Art Walk took place on Labor Day weekend, and this year’s event continues that tradition.

“The (Yaquina River) museum decided to bring back the Art Walk before the current surge,” said Judy Gibbons, Michael’s widow and long an organizer of Art Walk. “When everything was starting to open up, we made a last-minute decision about two months ago to have an Art Walk in conjunction with the usual First Weekend art openings.

Now, in spite of the need to wear masks at all indoor gatherings, the Art Walk organizers expect to continue hosting their event.

Art Walk was part of Michael Gibbons’ effort to offer what he termed “a glimpse of the real life of the artist — seeing art where it’s being created.” And it continues Gibbons’ devotion to promoting the city of Toledo as an arts mecca.

Following Michael Gibbons’ death, Judy told the News-Times that perhaps it was time to replace Art Walk with something different. “But people kept asking for it to return, and when COVID restrictions were lifted, we said if we could do it with just two months of preparation, we could try it,” she said. “We can limit the number of people coming inside a studio at one time,” she said. “Also, a lot of the event just involves walking between the galleries.”

“We were disappointed in 2020 that we had to break Toledo’s Art Walk tradition in the 27th year, and frankly had not planned on this year either,” said Ivan Kelly, who, with Gibbons, is one of the founders of Art Walk. “However, as conditions improved in 2021 we decided to add a return of Art Walk to our ongoing First Weekend gallery openings.

“I have continued to work and create this past year and will exhibit several new paintings,” he added. “No slowing down here! We missed meeting visitors and our collectors last year, and we hope to welcome them again this upcoming Labor Day Weekend.”

Masks are required to visit the Art Walk galleries, and extra masks will be available at both the museum and the Gibbons gallery. Both locations will also have hand-washing stations.

Participating in the 2021 Art Walk are: the Yaquina River Museum of Art, Michael Gibbons’ Signature Gallery, St. John’s Episcopal Church, the Ivan Kelly Studio & Gallery, and Crow’s Nest Gallery & Studio.

Gallery-goers are also welcome to visit Toledo’s Phantom Gallery shop windows on Main Street, although those artists may not be present. Also participating on Saturday, Sept. 4, will be ART Toledo partnership’s Art, Oysters & Brews on Main Street.

A one-page flier that includes a map of participating galleries will be available.

A glimpse at First Weekend Toledo Labor Day Art Walk participants:

• The Yaquina River Museum of Art, 151 NE Alder St., sponsors Art Walk. The museum will open a two-month show by guest artist Marion Moir of Newport in its Schoolhouse exhibit area. A member of the Watercolor Society of Oregon since 1981, Moir is known for her watercolor paintings of flowers, landscapes, puffins, sea life and maritime scenes, including Criteser Moorage on the Yaquina.

The museum is a nonprofit art gallery and history museum, whose purpose is to preserve and promote art inspired by the Yaquina River watershed. It was founded by Michael and Judy Gibbons.

Just outside on the Legacy Arts Terrace, museum volunteers Alex McCormick and Christine Golden will be serving Schoolhouse Coffee’s hot and cold brew and packaged pastry, with all proceeds going to the museum for its sponsorship of events such as Art Walk.

• Across the street is the Michael Gibbons Signature Gallery at 140 NE Alder St., in the Gibbons’ home and the former Episcopal vicarage. The gallery features the late artist’s original paintings of the Yaquina watershed, as well as 75 of his plein air paintings found in the archives of his studio. Many are not framed and range from 6-by-8-inch landscapes to much larger streetscapes. The gallery’s back garden will be closed during Art Walk.

• Adjacent to Gibbons’ gallery is St. John’s Episcopal Church at 110 NE Alder St. It will offer family art activities put on by Seashore Family Literacy, a nonprofit that promotes literacy and provides free meals for children. Directed by Senitila McKinley, of Waldport, Seashore will offer rock painting and origami peace signs for a take-home piece of art on Saturday, Sept. 4, and will host Ricky Dyson at noon Sunday, Sept. 5, reading stories, followed by McKinley leading a sing- and play-along ukulele session. Free books and literacy pillows will be given out both days, along with free school supplies.

“Michael knew Senitila and her husband quite well for a very long time,” Judy said. “We go back a long way with that family.”

• Ivan Kelly Studio & Gallery, around the corner at 207 E Graham St., has been an early and longtime participant in Art Walk. Kelly will display his original oil paintings; he is known for paintings of coastal landscapes, big game and maritime scenes, and is a signature member of the American Society of Marine Artists.

• Crow’s Nest Gallery & Studio at 305 N Main St., features the work of 15 artists, among them gallery founder Janet Runger with found object assemblages. Also featured at her gallery are Val Bolen, a tile and ceramic artist; Paula Teplitz, ceramics and mixed media; Jeff Gibford, photographer; and Tish Epperson, watercolors.

Toledo Art Walk, continuing Gibbons’ dedication to promoting an appreciation of Toledo’s artists, celebrates its 27th year on Labor Day weekend, Saturday through Monday, Sept. 4-6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to all participating galleries is free.

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