“It’s a little rough and tumble,” says artist Gala Bent of the light-filled Ballard abode where she lives with husband and fellow artist Zack Bent and their three boys (Caspar, 4, Solomon, 6, and Ezra, 8). Since moving here in 2006 from Indiana (so Zack could attend the M.F.A. program at the University of Washington), the couple has rented the middle floor of this 1920s farmhouse turned triplex. Though the walls are gallery white, the space is enlivened by an abundance of art and boys running from yard to bedroom and back—proving that it’s possible for three kids and an expansive art collection to coexist.
As acclaimed artists—Gala, 38, works in painting (watercolor, gouache) and drawing (see her show at G. Gibson Gallery through 10/5); Zack, 37, in photography, sculpture and installation—the two have amassed an impressive art collection through trades. “Almost everything we have was traded,” Zach says. Their most recent score hangs in the living room: a photograph of a flaming piece of paper in an ashtray, by Seattle’s Rafael Soldi. “To me, it’s like a Dutch still life,” Gala says.
TIP #1: TRADE WINS
The Bents have traded their own work (zackandgalabent.com) for beautiful pieces by many Seattle artists, including painter Robert Hardgrave, photo collage artist Serrah Russell, multimedia artist Rumi Koshino and printmaker Kristen Ramirez. But you don’t have to be a skilled artist to make a good trade (Gala once traded her artwork for aerobics classes). Writers, website developers, CPAs or even child care providers might just be able to make an offer and get an awesome piece of art in return.
TIP #2: START ART APPRECIATION EARLY
The Bents have adorned the boys’ bedroom with treasured pieces, including an abstract oil by Seattle’s Cable Griffith featuring dark ovals and bright dashes, and a painting of a large head, floating in a pool-blue background by Indianapolis artist Kyle Ragsdale (next to which sits a butterfly net).
TIP #3: GRADUATE GRADUALLY
Zack says lately the couple has been feeling a yen for more 3-D work. In addition to a ceramic popsicle by Seattle artist Klara Glosova (kept high above kid level), the Bents take special care of a glass sculpture by Deborah Baxter: balloons filled with white sand, deemed too delicate for display. “We need a glass case. Then we’ll need more small sculptures to fill the case!”
Left to right:
A sculpture by George Rodriguez sits in the dining room. “I like it because it’s playful but not utterly kidlike,” Gala says. She also notes the large blue/patchwork collage piece in the living room, by Asheville, NC, artist Aaron Tucker, “can take some kid hits.” In the kids room, Ragsdale’s work shares space with toys.