PALMER — Well known Palmer artist Shane Lamb is shutting his downtown studio doors for good toward the end of the month.
He had no plans of closing the studio anytime soon, but the ongoing strains from COVID-19 left him no choice.
“The best way of saying it is, it’s crisis management,” Lamb said.
Lamb has been selling his art out of Palmer for over 30 years. His studio has been an iconic stop along the downtown district. He said that his Alaskan themed art has proven to be just as popular to locals as it has been for tourists the entire journey.
“I’ve got a pretty nice history of doing artwork and photography, both in the Alaska Community,” Lamb said. “A lot of people know me as an Alaskan artist.”
Odds are, if you’ve lived in Alaska for a while, especially in the Valley, you’ve heard the name Shane Lamb. He joked that he’s become “regionally famous” over the years.
“I got some really good opportunities to work with some really big companies like being the featured artist for the Alaska Railroad… I’ve literally been the featured artist for every large fundraising event in Alaska,” Lamb said. “These are real honors, but the bottom line is meeting people and how they tell how much your artwork means to them.”
Lamb’s success as a self-made artist and small business owner met the ever evolving strains from the coronavirus and in the end, it was too much to keep the Palmer shop going.
“It’s not just us... They rely on the tourists and they didn’t come,” Lamb said.
Lamb was unable to make any new orders with local artists. He said they’ve only been making 10 percent of what they normally take in at the studio due to the lack of tourism. He said that he hoped to stay open until Christmas, but it just wasn’t feasible.
“That’s not a biz model that can succeed,” Lamb said. “It would literally bleed us dry if we stayed open.”
Since word got out about the studios inevitable closure, Lamb has received an immense outpour of supportive messages from the community. He said that many locals posted pictures of his artwork hanging up in their homes or workplaces, often with a warm sentiment describing how much the piece has meant to them over the years.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Lamb said. “I’ve had an incredible feeling of support from the community… to feel like you affected people in a positive way…
“Making living as an artist is not easy… It’s all I’ve ever done I don’t know anything else,” Lamb said. “This has been in my blood, and fortunately, I succeeded in doing it.”
Lamb’s artwork covers the walls of his Palmer studio. He also showcases other types of creations from local artists on the sales floor. All the works inside the gallery center on the Alaskan made theme.
“That’s what Alaskans and tourists appreciate about our gallery, that it’s not just a bunch of stuff from China,” Lamb said.
Looking back on the last 30 years, Lamb said it’s been an interesting progression. He said that he spent over 25 years vending at the Alaska State Fair, humbly starting out of an animal stall to becoming one of the most popular stops on each season.
“Like any business it’s been an evolution,” Lamb said.
Lamb has a second gallery in Denali National Park. He said that he plans to keep that summer only location, hoping the tourists return sooner rather than later.
“I don’t know what the future holds... I don’t suspect I’ll ever have a gallery in Palmer ever again... that’s just the end of a chapter,” Lamb said. “We’re just gonna roll with it.”
Lamb said that he’s putting all his “eggs in that basket” after selling his home. He noted that people will still be able to purchase his photography at the studio in Denali, but there won’t be any room for his paintings.
“This is an end of era for me with my art,” Lamb said. “This is gonna be the last chance for people to buy my art from this store.”
Lamb grew up in Palmer after moving to Alaska when he was 12 years old. After obtaining his bachelor’s of fine arts degree in illustration out of state, he quickly returned to his beloved state and started working with colonial families to paint old barns.
“That’s how I started my career as a painter. From there I branched out to other Alaskan themes,” Lamb said. “I fell in love with the beauty of Alaska at an early age... and it inspired me to paint it. That was my love. That’s what I wanted my artwork to be, no question about it,” Lamb said. “It’s what’s kept me here all these years. It may not be the most hospitable place in the world during the winter, but I get out there and photograph the auroras.”
Lamb is selling everything in the store at 15 to 30 percent off. He said that he was initially worried he would have too much to know what to do with and where to store it all, but so far he’s had the opposite experience. He said there’s been a lot of foot traffic in his store, and many people have been purchasing pieces they’ve had their eyes on for years.
“I am so grateful for the community,” Lamb said. I didn’t know what to expect from a store closing sale… I have just been pleasantly shocked… to have that feeling that you’ve been able to achieve that dream you had as an artist and been able to make a living... I did what I set out to do and that has been a dream come true.”
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org