Gallery Owner Reaches Milestone

December 28, 2011

By JENNIFER LIEBRUM, Express Staff Writer

Originally published by the Idaho Mountain Express on December 28, 2011

Andria Friesen flops exaggeratedly into a folding chair on a recent afternoon, her blonde hair sneaking out of a loose ponytail, paint-spattered boots peeking out of cargo pants below a waffle undershirt. Her posture folds at her shoulders, in and out at times as blithely as a dancer, at other times like a marionette in the hands of a frenetic puppeteer as she searches for the words to adequately express her emotions around her gallery's 25th year.

Exhaling deeply and thoughtfully, she explains that last year she didn't think she'd be sitting in this chair at all.

"I'm so grateful," she said. "It's hard to put into words. I'm absolutely certain we've hit bottom and that this is the beginning, not the end."

Friesen said the business was saved by a combination of hope held aloft by fellow gallery owners, many of whom, like she is, are members of the Sun Valley Gallery Association, and the willingness of her artists to be flexible in these uncertain times.

"So many things have happened that have bolstered and supported us through this time so that we can embrace our history and look forward to a future."

Twenty-five years ago, Friesen was directing a gallery in Nevada when she decided to strike out on her own.

"I'm not too proud to say I didn't know anything when I started at 26. I don't know why someone didn't say, 'What are you doing?'" she said with hand gestures and arched eyebrows for emphasis. "I'm glad I didn't, because knowing what I know now, there's no way I would have done it."

What she did was decide that she wanted to open a gallery anchored in a resort town and set about to study the demographics, real estate and offerings in a handful of locales.

"I knew I wanted people on vacation because they are in a different frame of mind. I looked at Key West, Fla., Tahoe and Sun Valley," she said. "Because of time and finances, Sun Valley was the first place I visited, and I thought 'I'm home' and I didn't look any further."

She and other gallery owners embrace the valley because of the nature that surrounds it.

"It's nature that brings the collectors and nature that brings the artists because it's a great place for them to work," she said. Friesen has an adjunct gallery in Seattle where she was shipping a lot of art in the early days. "I wouldn't have been able to speak so passionately about all of this if I didn't have 21 years experience doing this in a major city," she said.

Though her job is perpetually an education in motion, Friesen said nothing prepared her for the reality of this latest economic downturn, or the depth and range of support from artists and clients who helped her find creative ways to ride it out. When the gallery's new show opens Friday night, some of them will be in attendance.

"Every one of us is a sum of our experiences," she said. "I wholeheartedly believe that, and what I've had the privilege to learn and the experiences I've had are beyond words."

'The Silver Summit'

Where: 320 First Ave. N. at Sun Valley Road.

What: The invisible curatorial thread in the exhibition is that each of the 25 invited artists have in a subtle or evident manner involved the number 25 in their work of art created exclusively for the occasion. Many of the artists will be in attendance.