A Guide to Mercer Island’s Art Galleries 

May 23, 2022 | by Agueda Pacheco Flores

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Mercer Island’s art scene offers a platter of world-class art from both local and international artists, with its own storied institutions and exciting newcomers that thrive thanks to an active and enthusiastic audience. Despite the small population, the island supports a varied collection of venues, from community arts organizations to professionally curated contemporary galleries. 

Clarke & Clarke Art + Artifacts

Wall art and ceramics at Clarke & Clarke Art + Artifacts

Opened by husband-wife team Ginny and Jim Clarke in 2015, Clarke & Clarke Art + Artifacts expertly curates works by Northwest mid-century painters, potters, and glass artists as well as antique and vintage pieces from Asia, Africa, and North and South America. The Clarkes have been accumulating and selling art and artifacts from around the globe for more than 35 years, amassing a deep knowledge and collection that includes items like an antique Moroccan dagger, a late Qing or Republic Period Chinese wedding dress, and an M’Buti barkcloth painting from a nomadic people that live in the Ituri rainforest of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The space highlights rotating exhibits, including a recent one of contemporary Northwest artists — featuring stoneware, jewelry, and paintings. The gallery is open to the public 12 to 6 pm, Tuesday through Saturday.

MIVAL Art Gallery

The MIVAL Gallery is an extension of the Mercer Island Visual Arts League, a local arts organization dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of visual arts throughout the community of Mercer Island. The organization has been around since 1961, and the gallery, tucked into the Avellino building next to an ice cream shop (formerly Baskin Robbins), since 2009. MIVAL features contemporary works of both emerging and established local artists working in various mediums. Recent exhibits include glass artist Roberta Wyde and the 12th annual Treasures in Miniature show. It operates on a co-op model, so the gallery is staffed by artists themselves, who are incredibly helpful and insightful about the works on display. The current show is the Wild in the West MIVAL Art Installation, which will be on display May 14th through July 16th, 2022.

SZ Gallery

SZ Gallery, photo by Rick Barry

This extension of Suzanne Zahr’s architecture and design firm in downtown turns over new exhibits displayed in the bright, modern gallery space every two months, along with occasional pop-up exhibits. The gallery hosts a range of art from international and local veterans and up-and-coming artists alike. Recent exhibits included hosting highly acclaimed Iranian ceramic artist duo Monir and Mhedi Ghanbeigi for an exhibit and a series of photos by young Black photographers through a partnership with Afro-centric stock photography company PICHA‘s foundation. The gallery is open to the public 10 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday.

Photo courtesy SZ Gallery by Rick Barry

Mercer Island Community & Event Center

Mercer Island Community & Event Center

The city-operated Mercer Island Gallery sits inside this multi-use facility that is true to the “community” part of its name: the art on the walls of this center will be viewed by an assortment of people from around the community and beyond, as the building hosts sporting and social events. Designed by the local architecture firm Miller-Hull Partnership, the facility is as much a piece of art as those mounted on the inside of its halls. The Mercer Island Gallery itself reopened late 2021 but, due to staff shortages, has enlisted the help of local art organization MIVAL to arrange rolling exhibitions every six weeks.  A portion of any art sales goes to support the Mercer Island Arts Council. A second gallery downstairs in the building is available for exhibits by local artists, who can apply through the community center.

Barrels Wine Bar

Barrels Wine Bar

Before it was Barrels Wine Bar, serving cabarets, malbecs, and more from hundreds of local and international wineries, this space was an art gallery. When they opened Barrels in 2018, oenophile power couple Tina and Joe Kennedy kept the art around. On top of offering more than 40 wines to taste and purchase, the Kennedys feature a new artist on the walls every two months, focusing on up-and-coming Pacific Northwest artists. Recent exhibits included the nature-inspired paintings of Woodinville’s Tara Jennings and Seattle artist Shana Perrina’s service-focused paintings through her White Canvas project.