Artfully Edmonds: Denise Cole launches Northwest Glow, her first show since opening Cole Gallery

By Ellen Chappelle

Edmonds artist and entrepreneur Denise Cole unveils a highly anticipated new show of oil paintings – her first since opening Cole Gallery in December of 2006. Cole depicts the inspiring beauty of the Northwest in “Northwest Glow” now open at the gallery.

Cole behind her desk: Nothing could have prepared me for how much work it is running your own business."

If you’ve spent any time in downtown Edmonds, you’ve likely wandered into the Cole Gallery on 5th Avenue South. With walls bedecked in breathtaking Northwest art, the space exudes an energizing blend of comfort and elegance. Since a creation often mirrors its creator, it’s no surprise that Denise Cole herself gives off that same energy – as comfortable and welcoming as a long-time friend, yet with the elegance and class you’d expect from the owner of one of the Northwest’s premier art galleries.

An acclaimed painter herself, Cole knows art. One glance at Cole Gallery’s collection confirms her finely honed taste. But throughout the hard, long hours over the past four and a half years building a nationally respected art gallery, Cole has rarely found time to paint.

“Nothing could have prepared me for how much work it is running your own business,” Cole exclaimed.

A few months ago, a cancellation of one of the gallery’s upcoming shows left a hole in the schedule. Encouraged by employees, family and friends – including son Luke’s reminder: “God created you to paint” – Cole decided to take the plunge. She had been grieving the loss of time at the easel, so Cole turned the reins over to gallery manager Shannon Black and retreated to “Studio Grotto” in the basement of the gallery to revive the artist within.

“Even though I have not painted as much as I would have liked over the past few years, I have grown mentally in leaps and bounds,” said Cole. “With all the great paintings that come into the gallery, I have observed the power of great composition, the handling of brush strokes, edge quality and brilliant perspective with subject matter… these artists have inspired me to go to my studio and paint.”

"Sun Bathing" by Denise Cole.

And paint she has! “Northwest Glow” is a beautiful display of the things that speak most deeply to Cole’s artistic soul: dramatic light, saturated color and the unparalleled beauty of the Northwest.

As difficult as it was to remove her business hat and don her artist plume, Cole was relieved to discover not only that her artistic voice was still intact, but also that her gallery staff is more than capable of steering the ship while she paints. She plans to schedule regular time to focus on creating art in the future, so watch for more work to flow from her brush!

Cole has also realized that stepping away from running the gallery now and then and creating art will actually help to support the gallery artists and employees for whom she feels responsible. Black explains that many art patrons have been asking for paintings from Cole and that having her art available will translate to more interest and traffic for the gallery as a whole.
“It’s so much bigger than me,” states Cole.

More than just representing the gallery’s artists, Cole clearly cares for them and works tirelessly to promote their work. She is committed to “helping our artists in this economy.” And the gallery’s customers are eager to support the artists, too.

When the son of one of the gallery’s artists was struggling with health issues, Cole launched a special sale of his paintings to help with expenses. Art patrons rallied around the artist and purchased his work, expressing a desire to support one of Edmonds’ own.

Mirroring that strong sense of Edmonds community, Cole believes that the artist and the audience play a collective role in the arts. Art, often viewed as a solo task, is really much more collaborative than just a painter alone at the easel. Nature and culture inspire the artist, who in turn, creates. The collector completes the circle by receiving and being enriched by the work.

Cole painting with oil.

“Art is an expression of our world,” Cole says. “It is the beauty and life God gave us interpreted through human hands. Art informs and is informed by culture and society. It transcends socio-economic barriers, politics and nationality; it is voice. It is a powerful force in every way. Seriously, what would this world be without it?”

Bask in the “Northwest Glow” now through June 15 at Cole Gallery. You can attend a special reception for the artist on Saturday, May 21 from 6:30–9 p.m., featuring hors d’oeuvres (catered by Shorecrest High School Culinary Arts program), champagne, wine and music (provided by soulful jazz-pop group Fada Dada with a special guest appearance by Rich Cole on saxophone).

Ellen Chappelle

With a background in theatre and journalism, Ellen Chappelle is perfectly poised to covers the local arts scene for My Edmonds News. She also keeps busy writing and editing for artists and small businesses, publishing an informational site for dog owners and creating handcrafted jewelry. Please keep her posted about all things artistic in Edmonds by emailing her at

  1. Wow Ellen, this is such a nice article, thank you so much! You are a wonderful writer and I am honored that you took an interest in my gallery and my paintings!

  2. You’re so welcome, Denise! I had a great time at the gallery with you and Shannon. And your paintings certainly deserve whatever attention I can bring them!

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