GROVER/THURSTON CLOSES MAY 17 But reportedly, another young couple—we dont know who yet—is set to open a new gallery there.
  • Courtesy of the gallery
  • GROVER/THURSTON CLOSES MAY 17 But reportedly, another young couple—we don't know who yet—is set to open a new gallery there.

The way it started was really not much more than, "Hey, let's put on a show!" Richard Thurston said.

"It" is Grover/Thurston Gallery, a Seattle institution that announced on Tuesday that it's closing its doors after 24 years in operation.

Thurston and Susan Grover never expected to spend their whole careers running an art gallery.

He's a Seattle native. Grew up in Alki. ("John Braseth [of Woodside/Braseth Gallery] and I are both Alki boys," he said.) Thurston was a college dropout and went to work in sawmills, which he hated, "being around all those men."

When he and Susan Grover got together, they were "extremely copacetic and wanted to work together." They loved art and were surprised to be good at selling it.

"We always tried to keep it real low-key and not about us," he said. "We just tried to sell as many things as we could for the artists, and we've done just fine. It's a real privilege to get to work in this sort of business with these kind of people."

"It's been a great run," was all Grover would say before handing the phone over to Thurston.

It all started because their artist friends needed a place to show. They had an apartment in Eastlake where they could hang art and invite people over. That was in the late 1980s. By the early 1990s, they'd established a gallery downtown.

The artist who's been with them longest and remains popular is Anne Siems. It helped the gallery, later, when Fay Jones switched to Grover/Thurston from Francine Seders, and when David Kroll arrived from Chicago. Judy Hill, the reclusive sculptor out of Portland, did well, and so did James Lavadour and Victoria Adams. (Adams is now at Woodside/Braseth.)

Victoria Haven and Whiting Tennis, both now at Greg Kucera Gallery and the subjects of solo museum exhibitions, got their starts at Grover/Thurston.

Behind the art, there's a story of personal and economic turbulence. After having re-birthed the gallery at least twice over the years, 2013 was actually a "terrific" year, Thurston said. The 2008 crash was a huge hit. And just four years before that, Grover and Thurston divorced.

"Even when the marriage was falling apart, we always worked together really well," he said. "So we sort of buckled down and acted like adults and treated the relaunching of the gallery as a divorced couple as a daily opportunity for personal growth, if you will. Gradually, we got it behind us and kept moving forward with the thing."

The closing is bittersweet, but the two of them are "just tired," Thurston described. And it's hard to be too sad when there's another generation coming up: The space of the gallery, at 319 Third Avenue South, is on hold for another young couple, Thurston wasn't at liberty to say who.

"The landlord has a lease on the space that is waiting to be signed, and it's a young couple that reminds me of Susan and I 25 years ago," he said. They plan to reopen a gallery there. "They're ready to step up and ready to be in Pioneer Square. They're people we've done business with, and they're interested in some of our artists. What we're doing between now and when we close is we're working to find situations for the artists that we show."

Thank you for the memories, Grover/Thurston Gallery. ¡Buen viaje!