By Michelle Frost
Hiding in plain sight at the corner of SE 28th and Ash streets is Sidestreet Gallery. Part gallery, part eclectic gifts, the gallery was established 13 years ago by owner and artist Reta Larson.
By all outward appearances, this is a small corner shop tucked into the lower level of a vine-covered building with residential space above but the gallery fills 2,000 square feet on the main floor. A curious customer will find every corner turns into another room filled with small wonders, corners and hallways leading far into a back space expansive with displays that sparkle and charm, including original art, holiday decor, toys and dolls, jewelry, greeting cards and much more.
“I retired 13 years ago from Pratt & Larson, the tile company,” explains Larson who co-owned Pratt & Larson with her husband Michael Pratt. “At that time I bought half of a container of blow molds with my friend Greg and I thought I might just sell them out of the garage here on weekends.” Blow molds are semi-rigid plastics, such as holiday yard decor that plugs-in and lights up.
Another passion as a collage artist, she began collecting unique items from estate sales and bringing crafts back from Mexico, where Pratt and Larson reside a few months of the year.
“I had all of this stuff and then the shop space became available and Sidestreet Gallery just sort of happened.” The team of artists running the gallery consists of Reta Larson, Michael Pratt, Lisa Leverton, and Andrew Constantine.
Lisa Leverton, Reta’s friend, colleague, and fellow artist, has been with Sidestreet for 11 years and is integral to its operation. “I met Reta in the neighborhood, coming into the shop and we became friends. I had all of these things going on, with the Laurelhurst Art Walk, and my own art, et cetera, but she asked if I wanted to help at the gallery and I just never left,” Leverton says with a smile.
Michael Pratt is a painter, assists with operations, and hangs all of the art. Andrew Constantine, sculptor, painter and mixed media artist, manages social media for the gallery and coordinates with resident artists.
“About 5 years in, we added art shows,” Larson explains, “open invitational shows, 2 to 3 artists at a time, collecting a group of artists. We then invited 9 resident artists to join us.”
The neighborhood makes themselves at home in the shop and customers request specific items for purchase. “School kids come in (we have a candy jar) and we give out dog treats,” Leverton smiles. “They eat, drink, and use the bathroom. We give lots of ‘mom’ advice,” Larson and Leverton laugh in agreement.
They enjoy their regular customers and so it is with heavy hearts they announce the upcoming changes: Larson has decided it’s time to retire, again. Sidestreet Gallery, as it exists today, will close on November 30. The gift shop will be transformed into art space, and a new collective of 12 resident artists will become Sidestreet Arts, with a remodel in January and re-opening to the public in February or March.
“We are shooting for a Valentine’s Day opening,” says Constantine, who will be managing the new artist collective – same location, slightly different name.