By Lisa Britton
For the Baker City Herald
This is a working gallery - art decorates the walls, of course, but owner Amy VanGaasbeck can also be found creating art in the front window.
The Dancing Elephant Gallery opened Oct. 1 at 2034 Main St. in Baker City.
It's been a dream long in the making.
"I've been an artist since I was 3, and always wanted a gallery," said VanGaasbeck, who grew up in Baker City.
She works in charcoal, oil, acrylics "and in the last couple years I've learned to sculpt." She's working on her associate's degree through the online Academy of Art University.
The path of opening her gallery was bittersweet.
Several years ago, her sister, Cathy Rodli, was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer.
"They said there was no cure and the rate for survival was two to four years," Amy says.
One day, while Cathy recovered from a major surgery, Amy talked about her dream of opening an art gallery.
At this point, Cathy decided she wouldn't return to her job at The Pill Box.
"She looked at me and said 'Can I learn to do mat cutting and be part of your gallery?'"
Of course, Amy told her.
Cathy died May 17, 2011. She was 44.
"She never got to see my gallery," Amy says. "Her death got me thinking - what if it's always in the future?"
So she went to work on her dream, along with her husband, Andy, and her mom, Marilyn Sutton.
But Cathy is still part of this adventure - she loved to dance and she collected elephants.
Thus, The Dancing Elephant Gallery.
"The way we made her part of the gallery was to name it after her. I know she'd be happy with it," Amy says.
The Dancing Elephant Gallery has a bit of everything - fine art, mosaics, textiles, metal work - even dioramas featuring the tiniest kitchen scenes you'll ever see.
"I have over 30 artists represented," Amy says.
She also features handcrafted gift items.
"Stuff that wouldn't normally fit in an art gallery, but it's still handcrafted and high quality."
For November, the gallery will have a show titled "Autumn in Eastern Oregon," a collaboration of several artists. Also, work by Carri Sue Anderson will continue to be featured.
Also at the gallery
The gallery is also a site for Operation Christmas Child, an outreach of Samaritan's Purse.
Donations will be assembled into shoeboxes and sent to children in need all over the world. Items are accepted until Nov. 12.
Also, the gallery has started a journal for the family of Senior Chief Petty Officer Tyrone Woods, who died Sept. 12 in Benghazi, Libya.
"His father is a friend of the family, and we want to honor Ty's sacrifice," VanGaasbeck said.
The community is welcome to sign the book and write messages - when it's full, the VanGaasbecks will give it to Charlie Woods, Ty's father.
"If anybody would like to come in and sign the book and add any words of support, it will be available here until it is filled up, and then Andy and I will give it personally to Charlie Woods, Ty's father, for their family," Amy said.
The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The phone number is 541-523-9672.