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September, 2015

Featured Artist

Barbara K Olson

Who knew several years ago when I set up the Gallery website that I’d end up as Artist of the Month. It’s all very exciting and a little surreal, but here’s how it happened: I had always assumed I would fade into the sunset doing what I do best – providing graphic design services for my short, but loyal list of clients. I loved it and could work from anywhere with an internet connection. I saw no reason to retire at all, but with the downturn of the economy I went looking for a new hobby.

I have always been addicted to traveling and with more time on my hands, I’d find myself daydreaming about vacations. With the next several years loosely planned out, I set my sights on writing blurbs on every travel site I could find. I’d post my pictures wherever they’d let me and give my oh-so-important opinions on the topics at hand. I started a blog, which lead to a book – to combine my graphics experience with my improving writing and photography. The results of the book are still to be determined, but my fingers are crossed.

Even though I still don’t really consider myself an artist, I feel a little more artistic every day because of the exposure to the wonderful artists at the Gallery and Jane’s friendship and thoughts about doing what we love. I know in one way I’m like some other artists out there. I still haven’t found a way to make a living off my true passion – but I’m working on it!

Visit Barbara's blog at


A Conversation with Barbara Olson

by Don Niederfrank

Barb and I met on a beautiful Tuesday morning at Smith Brothers. After getting a chai latte and a Sanpelligrino, we started our chat.

Are you a Port Washington native?
No, I grew up in Iowa and met my husband there. As it turns out he’s from the same small town as you, Don. It’s a small world! I moved to Arizona and he moved to Oregon, but we stayed close. Before we knew it I was headed to Oregon and we were married and had two daughters. We moved to Port Washington in 1986 to be closer to family when our youngest was just four months old. That was a fun trek, and a story for another day!

How did you get involved with Gallery 224?
I’ve been a graphic designer for almost 30 years – the last 17 as a free-lancer. I had worked on lots of design projects for our church (First Congregational) over the years and Jeff Suddendorf, our minister, had confidence in me to develop their website, even though I had no experience whatsoever. At times I thought he was crazy to trust a rookie with such an important job, but I did have design skills and Dreamweaver was supposed to be pretty easy! Ha! After several months of and back and forth changes to enhance it’s readability and functionality, came to life.

Since Jane (the Director of Gallery 224) is his wife, news about the successful launch traveled fast and soon I was working on the Gallery’s first website. With Jane’s postcard and poster designs, and her close scrutiny (ha, ha), came to life. As the gallery has grown, the job keeps getting increasingly more complicated, but I love it!

What makes for a good website?
I think the most important aspect is that it is easy to maneuver around. No matter how pretty a site is, if people get frustrated because it’s too complicated or doesn’t work, they won’t stay long. We have also discovered that people don’t have a lot of time to read lots of copy and would rather look at pictures – and the gallery has plenty of those!

Tell me about your travel interests.
The downturn of the economy left me with less work and more spare time, so when I wasn’t babysitting my grandkids, I would daydream about traveling. We have a timeshare, so I would plan out scenarios where we could use that and see the sights in the surrounding areas. Then I started a travel blog. Check it out at

Wait, how did that happen?
I started writing comments on other people's posts, travel websites and other blogger’s sites and found that I really enjoyed (and had a knack for) writing about my travels. I have always been addicted to vacations and have taken a lot of pictures of the places we visit, so it wasn’t a stretch that it could be a next step. I try to make sure I have descriptions of the places I photograph and a little history, so there’s some research involved, which I am also really enjoying. So far, I don’t make any money at it, but I simply love doing it and it’s fun to remember the little details of our trips – the things that make traveling so much fun for Jim and I.

So success would be getting to travel, writing about it, taking pictures and getting paid?
Exactly! Not sure how long it will take for that to happen (the getting paid part), but I’m having fun in the meantime!

Are you excited about being Artist of the Month?
I am! After chatting with Jane about the Gallery a while back, she inquired as to what I was up to. I had to laugh when she suggested it. Me? An artist? Maybe she’s just throwing me a bone since I’m cheap labor (ha ha), but maybe it isn’t such a stretch after all. I will say, being exposed to the many different talents of the artists who display at the Gallery has made me “think about art” and now I want to be a part of it. Even though I still can’t draw a stick figure, I am feeling more creative every time I pick up my camera and write my blog posts. And that is the goal of this gallery, right?


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