When walking through a gallery, the urge to get too close to the art and touch everything is unbearable. Fancy art galleries and art studios host beautiful work, but it can be intimidating and uncomfortable to walk through. The Underground Book Gallery is breaking the barrier between art and the viewer with its interactive book-themed art gallery.
Down a flight of stairs on the sidewalk of NW Oregon Avenue and Wall Street lies Downtown Bend's hidden gem, the Underground Book Gallery. Bernadette Foley and Justin Schlosberg opened up shop at the start of 2022.
"We had so many books," Foley said. "Our house was full. Our storage was full. Our friend's garage was full. We had too many books, we needed a spot, this spot was opening and it was kind of perfect."
Filling the shelves and covering the walls are books ranging from $1 to $3,000 — vintage comics, old classics, rare books, used novels, literature decorated with stunning covers and everything in between.
Schlosberg owned a book gallery in Colorado for over 20 years and has acquired quite the collection of old and out-of-print books. This inspired the rare book room found in the back of the gallery, where people can touch the books and flip through the pages, unlike other rare book rooms.
The focus is books, but the couple still wanted to keep it about art. Featuring around 15 local artists at a time, the Underground Book Gallery is filled with creative energy ready to inspire.
There are a variety of ways to act on inspiration and interact with the space — playing the piano, searching through old books on the shelves, using the typewriters to make personal cards, fishing through old papers and clippings for collaging, listening to live music and looking at local artwork. And using this space as a creative outlet is free.
"I just love the idea of art being for everyone and art being interactive, fun and silly," Foley said.
Prices range drastically at this shop. The 20-cent crate is full of book scraps, old magazine pages, vintage posters and random pieces of paper. Collaging fanatics, kiddos looking for something they can buy with their own money and vintage paper fans shuffle through this crate. More expensive items are found on the walls or in the rare book room.
The Underground Book Gallery has hosted live music, live painting sessions, interactive book artwork events, chess nights, card making sessions, book release parties, candle-making classes and First Friday celebrations. Before every First Friday (or whenever she has a spark of inspiration), Foley rearranges and restocks the gallery because she wants it to look different every time someone comes in.
Schlosberg is an artist and author himself and is known for his penguin pieces and humorous books, including, "A Peculiar Day in Coney Island" and "My Family Album." With a calligraphy pen, a touch of humor, splattered ink, a story and a penguin, people have started collecting his artwork.
"I was kind of extending the arms on the penguin for Penguin Publishing with pen and ink," Schlosberg said. "Then started writing goofy little things that went along with it. And then [Foley] really liked that. So, I bumped up production, if you will, when we came here. Kind of crazy."
For more information on events or art inquiries, people are encouraged to stop by the shop, Foley said. The Underground Book Gallery doesn't have a website and prioritizes in-person interactions and Instagram for communication, but that doesn't mean people can't get a hold of the owners. When the shop is closed, Schlosberg puts his number on the door and tells people to call him at any hour.
Jan. 6 will be its one-year anniversary and First Friday, so shoppers and art-goers can expect a big celebration in the funky, cozy space under the streets of Bend.