Something’s going on at The Blue Pig Art Gallery at 101 W. Third Street in Palisade.
In January of this year, Darin Carei sold the building and the gallery to Charles and Heather Nowak for $1,135,000.
Things seemed pretty normal for awhile after the sale, with great local art continuing to be on display and art classes being offered in the building.
But things took a grim turn last Friday, when the new owners suddenly fired longtime Gallery director Kay Anglim Crane and the Gallery’s longtime bookkeeper, Sue Keddy.
Crane and Keddy had served at the gallery for over 11 years, drawing a following and turning the Pig into a destination for local residents and tourists alike, who drop in between wine tastings, strolls along the Colorado River and peach eatings to enjoy what many agree is a gallery full of big city-quality art at small town prices.
The sudden firing of Crane and Keddy shocked many artists who displayed their work there and volunteered time to help operate the gallery. As a result, some yanked their artwork out of The Pig to show their disappointment with the new owners’ decision, and as a way to show their continuing support for Crane and Keddy. The result is blank walls and empty pedestals throughout the gallery.
There is still art in the gallery, but the amount of empty space is definitely noticeable.
When I asked the artist tending the shop why so much of the gallery was now empty of art, she said only that the gallery was “in transition.”
I contacted the new owners to get their take on what was going on at The Blue Pig, and they would only say “this week has been very difficult” and their “intentions remain to maintain the Blue Pig.”
Let’s hope this great gallery can ride the storm and continue somehow. In the meantime, artists who pulled their work have been able to display it in other art galleries in the valley, like Uncanny Valley and Willow Creek Herbs and Teas on Main Street in downtown Grand Junction, the Orbit Art Gallery in Fruita, The Art Center and other locations.
A little more about the Blue Pig…
The firing of Kay Crane was carried out by an “HR specialist” who went to the gallery, informed Kay that she was fired, instructed her to gather up her things, followed her every step of the way throughout the gallery as she did so, and then escorted her from the building.
After Kay was fired, one of the Blue Pig artists was told by the new owner that he was to have no contact with Kay. Apparently, the new owners think that the artists work for them. They don’t. The artist in question has since withdrawn from the gallery.
The gallery’s reputation was far reaching. Last summer, when tourists from Germany visited the gallery, they said that the Blue Pig was known in their country and was considered a “must see” on their trip.
When I worked at the gallery, it was common for area residents to bring in visiting friends/family to see the gallery. They were proud of it. It also was common for people from the Front Range to stop in because they knew of the gallery’s reputation or had been told by staff at the local hotel where they were staying to “be sure to visit the Blue Pig.” It was a community asset.
Thanks for filling us in on the details. Sad situation.
According to a FaceBook announcement from Craig Gallery, Kay Crane will be its new Art Director. Very good news!
Thank you for covering this story. I am one of the artists who withdrew from the Blue Pig. The new owners had sent out an email to all gallery artists announcing extended hours and a higher commission rate. If they want to do that, fine with me. But to do it in an email demonstrating an adversarial (and, frankly, hostile) attitude toward Gallery Director Kay Crane seemed very inappropriate. I decided that if the new owners would treat their director with such hostility, they would probably treat their artists in a similar manner. (As one of my fellow artists put it, “This sounds like a hostile takeover.”)
I was working my appointed day, it was ten minutes til closing time, when suddenly a man barged in the back door of the gallery—then stood there, glaring at me. For just a moment, I thought it might be a holdup. I said, “who are you” and he mumbled something. “May I help you” and he mumbled something. He then began pacing back and forth in the area where I had taken my paintings down.
After a few minutes, I told him that I would be closing shortly and apologized for sounding so brusque when he came in. Then I asked if he might be the new owner. He said he was and then pointed his finger at me and said, “And you’re the artist who’s leaving; why are you leaving.” So I told him. A “spirited conversation” ensued.
He made it clear that his major complaint about Kay was that she couldn’t/wouldn’t make the Gallery profitable. It is my understanding that the Gallery has paid its way and turned a modest profit under Kay’s direction. Of course, that was for the former owners and I’m sure their mortgage was substantially less than a million dollars.
It is also my understanding that the new owners need $9000 a month to pay their mortgage—and they want that money to come from the gallery. When the new owner asked me what I would do to make the gallery profitable, my response was “I’d have done my due diligence.”And then I left.
Belonging to the Blue Pig has been a privilege and a joy. Kay is a superb Gallery Director. This is all very sad.
Thank you for filling us in on all that info.
Kay Crane is one of the most knowledgeable Gallery Managers that I have ever worked with! She is extremely supportive of the artists and has extensive knowledge of their medium. If a customer would ask a question about the artist or their work, Kay went out of her way to answer their questions.
While I understand that a business needs to turn a profit, being rude to customers is unacceptable. The last time I was in the Pig was during the Honeybee Festival. I went up and said hi to Kay, who I have known for over twenty years, and gave her a big hug, informing her of the passing of my partner and fellow artist. You could literally feel the tension in the gallery, as the new owners were there. They just glared at me, never welcomed me to their gallery, or ask if I needed assistance. It was extremely uncomfortable and all I wanted to do was get out of there as fast as I could.
Kay my friend, thank you so much for taking care of us artists for the many years you have been supporting our endeavors. Although Doug and I have not shown our artwork at the Pig for years now, I credit you with helping our business reach so many customers from all over the world. I wish you the best!
Thank you for taking a look a what has happened here. After serving as Director of the Blue Pig Gallery for more than 11 years, I was fired last week. I’ve displayed artwork in the gallery for 14 years and have had a deep commitment to the gallery and all of it’s artists, numbering up to 75 at any given time. No satisfactory reason was given for my dismissal, but the support from the community at large and the artists themselves has been overwhelmingly gratifying. Given the large exodus which happened immediately after my firing, I hope the gallery is able to survive going forward. It’s a jewel in the community.
Thank you for covering this story! It would be nice to know what happened. This is a huge loss for Palisade.