Almost a decade later, Cynthia Wolf remembers the paltry crowd at the first First Friday Gallery Walk in the Paseo Arts District.
“We probably had 20 people come to the first gallery walk,” she recalled with a laugh. “Now, we have 800 to 1,000 people. … But it was hard, you know, people were saying ‘Nobody's gonna show up.' And I said, ‘You just have to keep doing it every first Friday.' So slowly it built up.”
The Dallas native was a relative newcomer to the historic neighborhood when she began urging fellow artists and gallery owners to open their doors en masse from 6 to 10 p.m. the first Friday of every month. She was inspired by art walks in other large cities, and the Paseo First Friday in turn has inspired other arts districts in the Oklahoma City area to plan their own monthly festivities.
“She really took up the mantle,” said Joy Reed Belt, president of the Paseo Arts Association board of directors and owner of JRB Art at the Elms. “Cynthia did a yeoman's job because during the day she actually would go around and individually try to persuade them (the gallery owners) to open. … Then, it became a wonderful thing, and the idea of it was to make art accessible.”
It's no coincidence that Wolf will launch the 10th anniversary celebration for her Adelante! Gallery during the December First Friday Gallery Walk.
“You just have to keep at it — just like my gallery. It's amazing how it's grown and evolved from the start.”
The anniversary celebration also will coincide with the gallery's fifth “A Cowgirl Christmas,” which this year will feature a few cowboys, too. Adelante! showcases Western, Southwestern and contemporary fine art, and Texan Donna Howell-Sickles will make her debut at the gallery as part of the festivities, which include Friday's artists reception, open houses and art demonstrations.
“She's a female Western artist of renown that's got some of her big work here … and I don't know where else they (art lovers) would see that in Oklahoma City, or in Oklahoma actually,” Wolf said.
The December exhibit also will include works by New Mexico landscape painter Leigh Gusterson, Colorado trout painter Nora Larimer, Oklahoma sculptor Patsy E. Lane, Oregon plein-air painter Nancy Smith, Oklahoma pastel painters Jan Hutchison and Becky Way, Arizona contemporary cowboy artist Michael Swearngin, New Mexico landscape artist Clive R. Tyler, Oklahoma saddlemaker John Rule and Oklahoma landscape painter Thomas Stotts.
“I love art. I love selling art. I love connecting people to the art that speaks to them,” Wolf said. “All these people show in these museum shows across the country, and I just feel blessed that I'm able to do this.”
The photographer was still living in her native Dallas when she started teaching workshops on Polaroid emulsion transfers at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
“A friend of mine introduced me to the Paseo Arts District, and I fell in love with it,” Wolf said.
She jumped at the chance to rent wall space at a little gallery on Paseo Drive, and a few months later, she and then-partner Jo Vanden were able to open Adelante! in that same space.
“It started out as a place to showcase our work,” Wolf said, adding Vanden left the gallery after three years and has since moved to Texas.
“But I've always wanted to have a gallery where I represented artists' work that I love. ‘Cause I really can't sell what I don't love, and that I think is the key to the success of my gallery, is that I'm always looking for and representing artists that I just fall in love with their work. Plus, all my artists are just way cool people.”
About three years ago, Wolf opened a second Adelante! Gallery in Ashland, Ore., where her older daughter, a painter, and son, a potter, live. She plans to reopen the Oregon gallery in a smaller space in March, about the same time she hopes to finish revamping her first Adelante!
“It'll have more of a Santa Fe feel inside. It's been needing to be refreshed, and it hasn't been refreshed in a very long time, even since before I've been in the space,” said Wolf, adding she plans to start renovating the Oklahoma City location in January.
By necessity, Wolf's own artistic style has been refreshed, too.
When Polaroid film was discontinued, she could no longer do the mixed-media emulsion transfers that had been her specialty for 16 years.
At “A Cowgirl Christmas,” she will show off her new style: close-up photos of water infused on metal.
“They look like impressionist paintings. Eventually I'll have a show for myself called ‘Monet With a Camera.' … The movement of the water mixed with the reflection of the color makes it look like somebody just put paint in the water and took a big paintbrush and swirled it around,” she said. “Now, I have all these plans for going to the Tetons and doing the reflections there.”