Just north of Old Town is Riverside Drive, a pleasant, shady road that follows the Coquille River and skirts the Bandon Marsh. It is also the off-the-beaten-path address of John Bealey’s Riverside Studio and Gallery, less than 1/2 mile from the heart of Old Town.
John graduated college in Oregon with a degree in art education after doing an internship in Alaska. A couple of years later, he headed back to Alaska to take a job at a two-teacher school on Spruce Island and stayed for several years. Travels took him to the South Pacific and then back to Alaska where he continued teaching and had an art studio. After many years of being gone, John finally returned to Oregon. He chose Bandon for its similarities to the fishing lifestyle in Alaska and opened Mother’s Natural Grocery, still going strong after twenty years.
It wasn’t long before John was back in the classroom. He taught high school art in Coquille until he retired in 2012. It was then he turned his attention to starting an art studio, and Riverside Studio and Gallery was born.
John’s studio is partially a place for him to practice his art. He creates beautiful scenes with paint, many reflecting the mountains and water of Alaska, as well as pottery, drawings, and sculptures. Some of his creations are unique combinations of wood sculptures and pottery that allow for the vastness of his imagination.
Riverside Studio and Gallery is more than just a place for John to sell his own art. He hosts many other local artists who add to the diversity of mediums and colors. Presently, the gallery includes bead art by Cat Butler and her husband John’s paintings, photos and cards by macrophotographer Mike Miller, glass from Mary Jane Williams, and even paintings done by one of John’s former high school students.
He may no longer be working in a traditional classroom, but education is still important to John. In order to have pieces shown in his gallery, he asks artists to hold a workshop for others to learn and practice an art form, even if it’s just one student. Most years, during the warmer months, he has opened up the studio weekly for people to come and do their art and spend time with other artists.
John will occasionally take on students himself, often in the form of a skill trade. He recently taught a friend pottery, and in exchange, he received banjo lessons. The two of them still play regularly.
Walking through Riverside Studio and Gallery must be done slowly. The individual art pieces are so unique, each one deserves and requires careful attention. The display case at the entrance is itself filled with nearly 100 pieces of jewelry, small works of pottery, and many other fascinating items.
What is not visible to the casual peruser, the science behind the art, is just as interesting. John uses two different kilns for his pottery. One, housed in a small room in an outbuilding, is electric, and the other, a raku kiln, is in the grass outside of the studio. The shiny, colorful, almost metallic look of some of the raku pottery comes from careful control of the heat and gas in the firing, a process that can best be conceptualized as alchemy to those of us without a pottery education.
Riverside Studio and Gallery may be off the beaten path when compared to the other galleries in Old Town, but it is well worth the extra six minute scenic drive to get there. Chances are, you’ll find a unique and beautiful treasure for as a gift or for your own home.
Riverside Studio and Art Gallery
open Tues-Sat 10:30-3:00
346 Riverside Drive, Bandon