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(Image: Patti Curtis / Fogue Studio)

'Ageism is real': Local gallery showcases artists older than 50

Patti Curtis was pissed off.

She was the executive director of marketing and product development for a major cosmetic company, traveling all over the world developing and creating unique color cosmetics. She loved everything about her job, like the creativity and the science of color composition.

Then, when she turned 53, she was fired, as were 23 other employees who were older than 50. Curtis took her severance pay, updated her resume and hit the streets, thinking it wouldn’t be too long before she found another position. Yet, even with two degrees, one in fine arts and one in interior design, plus 25 years of experience, Curtis did not get one single interview.

"Ageism is real," said Curtis. "Everyone wants the newest, the youngest, the coolest thing. But I wasn’t even close to retiring. Getting fired for being older really lit a fire in me. I thought, 'I'll show you who’s cool.'"

Curtis came up with the idea of creating a website for older artists, using the tagline Fifty Artists Over Fifty. She'd embrace her age by calling it Fogue, a take on being an "old fogey." Her idea was to give each artist, musician or writer their own page on the site, plus have gatherings so the artists could share their art, music, poetry readings and stories.

What began as a website soon grew into a brick and mortar 6,000 square foot art gallery — Fogue Studios Gallery — where Curtis rents out wall and studio space to artists. All the artists are older than 50, and most of them are women. Fogue Studios Gallery, in the Georgetown neighborhood, soon had six artists renting studios and more artists covering her walls with beautiful, unique fine art.

"The gallery is sort of a hybrid between a traditional gallery and a co-op," said Curtis. "With a co-op, an artist can only do maybe two shows a year, plus they have to sell their own work. Here, the artist shows his or her work full time and they don’t sell at all. I take care of that end of the business."

Georgetown Art Attack, a once-a-month event Curtis created, soon became a hit, with 200-300 attendees, wine, food, live music and poetry readings — then COVID hit.

Part of Curtis' job as a marketer was following trends, knowing what was coming three years in the future, and then pivoting and taking a chance on something new. That experience and instinct served her well. As soon as COVID began to spread through Seattle, Curtis knew in her gut that she'd be forced to close the studio, so she went back to her original idea — the website.

Now FOGUE has a thriving online shop where over 200 pieces of art are sold. She also started a YouTube channel, Fogue Studios & Gallery 50 over 50, where Curtis shows the studio's art and explains the process behind each piece. You can also follow on Facebook and Instagram.

"I think now, more than ever, people need art," said Curtis. "We're all are working from home and need color and beauty to spice up our offices. People are remodeling their homes and want new art."

The gallery is still open on Saturdays and appointment-only basis. Plus, the studio’s artists have added an "Art under $100" section and a clearance section where art is 50% off.

"People are intimidated by purchasing art," said Curtis. "They think it’s too snobby. That’s why I call us the anti-gallery. We are approachable and very affordable. Our average prices are $400 to $600, with pieces even costing less than $100."

Curtis feels the harshest part of the restrictions from COVID for her and the artists is not having a connection to the community.

"Recently, we had our first event in a long time, and it was so delightful to be with human beings again," she said. "We've missed everyone. COVID has been hard."

But if you’re a bad-ass, like Curtis, you pivot. You reinvent yourself. You take lemons and make a big batch of lemonade. You follow your passion.

"Art is important," she said. "It touches your soul. It’s an expression of who you are and how it makes you feel. There is no right or wrong in art, and that’s what makes it so powerful."

Curtis is excited to announce that she's opening a second Fogue Studios and Gallery location in West Seattle in January 2021, at 4130 California Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98116.

Visit Fogue Studios and Gallery at 5519 Airport Way S, Seattle, WA, 98108.