Getting by with a little help from her friends

Kathleen Jo Ryan relaxes in her new Coupeville gallery, which features her photographs and books as well as paintings, sculpture and writings created by several friends.  - Betty Freeman
Kathleen Jo Ryan relaxes in her new Coupeville gallery, which features her photographs and books as well as paintings, sculpture and writings created by several friends.
— image credit: Betty Freeman

As a documentary filmmaker, Kathleen Jo Ryan has braved the rapids of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon several times to tell the stories of people facing that life-changing experience.

Now she’s staying closer to home, and using her gifts to tell a new story about herself and her art.

She’s enlisted the help of family and friends to launch a new venture, Kathleen Jo Ryan and Friends Studio/Gallery in the former location of artist Ann Wilson’s Coupe d’Art at 902 N.E. Center St. in Coupeville.

Ryan, who has been based in Coupeville since 1987, has traveled far and wide as an award-winning photographer/producer of coffee table books, multimedia and documentary television.

Along the way, she has collaborated with writers and artists and had many adventures throughout the American West and in Ireland.

When an immune-system disorder sidelined her for over a year, Ryan knew she had to change direction.

“When health issues slow you down or take away your freedom, it makes you rethink who you are,” she said. “I needed to create a new story for myself. I also needed to learn how to ask for help.”

Family and friends offered her guidance and support as she explored new options.

The Coupeville gallery was an idea born of her need to look at her work in a different way.

“My brother John Ryan is truly a Renaissance man who has managed some very big events and co-produced our films,” she said. “He helped me get back on my feet after my illness, and encouraged me to anchor my creativity here in the gallery and focus on my work.”

Changing views

Opening the gallery had the side benefit of changing how she viewed her own work.

“I have done films and books, and had five one-woman exhibitions, but I hadn’t really seen my photographs as standalone art,” she said. “Now I’m rethinking the body of work I’ve done and redefining myself as an artist.”

Ryan said she appreciates the opportunity to share her photography in a new setting.

“In recent years, I had to educate myself on digital photography, and it was a whole new learning experience,” she said. “But out of learning comes creativity.”

Ryan decided to open a weekend gallery attached to her home, not only to exhibit her own stunning photography, but also to include the fine artwork of friends.

Ryan wanted to bring new art and artists to Whidbey Island, and not just focus on local artists and seacoast scenes, but to include art from other locales, especially the American Southwest.

The new gallery showcases Western artists such as conservationist and painter Anne Coe, Apache Junction, Ariz.; plein air painter Jeff Dolan and Susan Kliewer, sculptor and plein air painter, both from Sedona, Ariz.; Tad Cheyenne Miller, photographer and watercolorist, Bisbee, Ariz.; Vel Miller, painter and sculptor, Atascadero, Calif. and Cynthia Rigden, oil and bronze, Wickenburg, Ariz.

Others featured in the gallery include writer, musician and artist Teresa Jordan, Virgin, Utah; Page Lambert, writer, editor, life coach and speaker, Mount Vernon, Colo.; Sharman Apt Russell, nature/science writer, Silver City, N.M. and Ann Zwinger, writer and artist, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Local talent

Local artists include Kay Parsons, Coupeville watercolorist; Barbara Earl Thomas, Seattle painter and writer; Ann Wilson, Renaissance woman and artist from Coupeville, and Susan Zwinger, fine artist and natural history writer from Langley.

“I’m humbled by the quality of art I’m surrounded by here in the gallery,” Ryan said. “I’m here through the grace of family and friends who are participating with me in creating this new story. Coupeville is a magical location.”

Ryan envisions using the gallery as a gathering place for writers and other artists.

“This gallery feels like it could be the focus for creative conversations, with writers and artists coming together in salons,” she said.

“It’s my way of reconnecting to the community, creating a new story for myself and feeding my soul. If I can help my friends along the way, so much the better.”

Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. For an appointment, call 360-941-4004.



Save the date

Ryan’s gallery will host several salons this fall. Ryan shares her documentary films, “Writing Down the River” and “Right to Risk,” from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29. And from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, Langley naturalist, author and fine artist Susan Zwinger will talk about her process of

illustrated journaling.

To register, call 360-678-2222.



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