Have you missed art walks and visits to museums and galleries? The good news is that Washington State Safe Start guidelines are allowing museums and galleries to reopen in a limited capacity (and with plenty of precautions) during Phase 2 in Whatcom County. That includes a newer hidden gem I recently visited, Gallery Syre near Whatcom Community College in the Cordata neighborhood.
Owned by talented multi-media artist, philanthropist and Whatcom County native, David Syre, this expansive, airy 10,000-square-foot gallery has been reopened since July. The new solo exhibition, Envisioning a Better Future, showcases more than 60 new paintings, drawings and sculpture created by the artist during quarantine.
During the initial quarantine back in March, Syre was reading, studying and making art at his long-time family home in Everson. He used the time creatively to focus on his primary interests—spirituality, ancient wisdom and personal evolution.
From sketches and drawings to bold, colorful abstract paintings and sculptures, the works Syre created during this unprecedented time are meant to inspire us to reflect on what has worked in the past and open our hearts and minds to this new opportunity we’ve been given—to create a new shared future, a new world of our own marking where we can coexist with nature again.
David Syre’s Deep Connection to Whatcom County
Syre grew up on his family’s farmstead along the Nooksack River and began to draw and paint the nature that surrounded him as a kid. Syre became even more invested in his art while recovering from polio at the age of four.
One of the first pieces I saw at the gallery was a small watercolor painting that Syre painted at the age of seven—a piece his mother saved for him—that features the towering Douglas firs he played among as a young child. Even then, Syre knew he wanted to become an artist but his family had struggled with poverty and his dream was set aside for a more practical career
In 1981, Syre purchased his family home from his parents and around 2012 he moved back to Whatcom as his primary residence. In 2013, Syre was in his early 70s, when his twin daughters, Mia and Amy gave him art supplies and encouraged him to get back into art.
Syre began shifting his focus from his business to his art after this. He built an art studio next to his childhood home and shifted to doing art full-time. He often works on several pieces simultaneously and will sometimes complete several works in a single day. The self-taught artist has channeled his journey, life experience and inner exploration into his latest work where symbolism, rich color, varied texture and vibrant forms leap off the page or canvas and spin as lively, life-size sculptures in the gallery.
Over the last several years, Syre has created more than 1,500 paintings and more than 3,600 drawings.
Gallery Syre first opened its doors to the public in April 2019—featuring a range of over 100 works. At the time, several pieces had already appeared on exhibition in Argentina, France and New Mexico.
Like most businesses, Gallery Syre closed to the public in Spring 2020 due to the pandemic. In fall 2020, they are excited to welcome back the public, have implemented guidelines for social-distancing and are requiring all visitors and staff to wear masks.
Envisioning a Better Future: Opportunities for Arts Enrichment and Education
The theme of his current exhibition, Envisioning a Better Future, sprung freely from the uninterrupted creativity that quarantine brought. Syre used the time to explore drawing in several media, from charcoal to bright Prisma crayon.
Travel Tip: You can catch the Envisioning a Better Future exhibition through November 7, 2020.
A walk through the gallery reveals the variety of media Syre has explored. For example, a collection of pieces in black acrylic on white canvas occasionally call to mind the ancient art of calligraphy.
Several colorful sculptures along with the original drawings that inspired them, are spread out across the wide rooms of the Gallery. The sculpture “My Life” was originally a drawing that was then rendered into a fiberglass sculpture. The iconic symbols represent different times in Syre’s life, spinning around a central upright making the piece dynamic and interactive.
“During these dark times, this exhibition is a pathway to hope, facilitated through the exercise of love and living in the present. Not the past. Not the future. BUT THE PRESENT,” notes Syre when asked about his motivations behind the overall exhibit.
Insider Tip: To anyone who thinks their art days are over, don’t be too sure. Syre, who is now 79 years old, is just beginning to explore beauty and science of water color. And to really prove you’re never too old for art, Gallery Syre plans to present a new exhibit in January 2021 that features work by David’s Grandma, who he lived with during his polio recovery, and who started painting at the age of 73.
The Gallery also showcases young local artists, including an exhibition last year by Whatcom County high school students. Gallery Manager, Casey Curtis, is excited to continue art opportunities to students and is open to working with any teachers interested in art-based field trips or art based activities.
“We want to welcome everyone in the community who is eager to enrich their lives through art,” says Curtis. “People who once embraced the variety of public museums and galleries and those that appreciate the creativity and vision that we’ve all been missing over these many months of isolation will enjoy themselves.”
Love, Compassion and Black Lives Matter
When George Floyd’s death occurred in late May, it ignited more than 10,000 protests around the world, and sparked David Syre to create. Between May and June 2020, Syre created more than 20 pieces that were influenced by the protests and Black Lives Matter movement.
Envisioning a Better Future includes “George Floyd #18—Pandemic Personality,” a fearless work in bright acrylic on canvas that conveys the passion and confusion we’ve all been feeling during this inconceivable time of social unrest.
“I create for the values of love, compassion and forgiveness,” explains Syre. “So immediately I knew that the exercise of these values would be critical in the healing that needed to happen in the aftermath of Floyd’s death. I focused on the value of love. Two specific inspirations were dominant: The Beatles’ ‘All I need is love, Love is all I need’ and the Apostle Saint Paul’s ‘Letter to the people of Corinth,’ who were fighting among themselves (1 Corinthians 13) “nothing has meaning without love.’ I created the first of the George Floyd images on June 1 and by June 7 I had finished more than 21 pieces.”
Planning Your Visit
Gallery Syre is free and open to the public on a walk-in basis on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ample free parking is also available directly adjacent to Gallery.
Gallery Syre is committed to maintaining a healthy and safe environment so all visitors and staff will be required to wear masks at all times and maintain a minimum six-foot distance.