Wednesday, May 24, 2017 This Week's Paper

Cutter’s Point in Gig Harbor offers cozy, contemporary art gallery

There is a recently opened Cutter's Point coffee shop at the Uptown Shopping Center in Gig Harbor that offers a lot more to its clientele than just a fine cup of coffee. This Cutter's Point is upscale and designed with a keen eye for detail such that going there is almost like indulging in a spa-like getaway experience.

The cafe's friendly owner, Mardel Grunberg, and her staff of baristas are welcoming and warm, which is quite pleasant to come upon when one is out shopping and battling crowds. Off to the side of the main ordering area there is a cozy living room/art gallery aptly named The Living Room @ Cutter's Point Uptown, where guests are invited to sit on cushy couches in front of a fireplace, sip their beverage and study the selection of artwork hanging on the walls and on a flat-screen monitor that rotates more images of the artists' works digitally.

"I want this to be a moment for people," Grundberg said as she brightened up the coffee shop arranging fresh flowers in a vase. "I just feel alive when things around me are beautiful and creative. It's the little details that are so important to me."

The current exhibit, "Mon Petit Advendure," French for "my little adventure," is a collection of 20 works created by artist/designer Scott Neste specifically for this show that inaugurates not only the new gallery, but also celebrates his longtime friend, Grundberg, opening her first store. Neste is a professional designer of inspired environments and corporate and residential interiors through his Tacoma-based business Minor Details. He accepts business consulting, graphic design and digital media projects, as well as commissions and site-specific art design and coordination.

Neste's considerable talents at interior design can be seen throughout the coffee shop. He also helps coordinate the art exhibits there, which change every two months, with help from two local artists, painter Mindy Baker and Catherine Swanson, former owner of Art on Center Gallery in Tacoma. "We want shows that maintain the overall feel and design of the cafe," he said. All pieces are for sale in the gallery, which is booked with shows until the end of this year. A call to artists will be issued this fall for both established and emerging local contemporary artists.

For "Mon Petit Advendure," Neste said he was inspired by two things: a photograph of a pigeon he took in Paris more than 20 years ago, and the lives of two of his dearest friends, Grundberg, a Washingtonian, and her French-native husband, Gino, whose "lives have been woven into the most exquisite tapestry...full of texture, vision, hope and compassion," Neste says in his artist's statement. By layering nine images altogether - bits of a 1909 journal he purchased at an estate sale, photographs of the Eiffel Tower, corroded paint on a building, fall leaves, and interesting bits of architecture - the artist created a dreamlike vision that blends many pieces into one rich and dramatic scene. Neste said some works incorporate 30-40 layers. He spends many hours refining the images with a paintbrush, adding highlights and touch-ups here and there, and every piece is archival for 100 years.

A sub-grouping of artworks within the exhibit is called "Heritage Collection." These are "memory collages," as Neste calls them, made up of little photographs, handwritten messages from old journals, and other such personal paper keepsakes that one would want to preserve and honor. Using digital techniques, he layers these images, reflective of life's journeys, so that they work in unison to create a tapestry of stories.

For this show, he chose to use items that Grundberg supplied him with: letters, black and white photographs, and her dad's autograph book from the early 1900s. One framed piece includes a photo of her mother taken years ago along with a message from her friend Marjorie B. dated 1936. Bits of writing and other subtle elements add additional mood and depth. Grundberg said she is very pleased with Neste's final product. "I didn't know what it was going to look like, and I was blown away." She noted that these make great gifts for any occasion.

Neste takes great care in creating art using other people's precious memories, his interest in and sensitivity to their lives being critical to his ability to take all sorts of items and make them into a framed work that can be passed along the generations.

"He has a really unique way of crawling into your skin and making it very, very custom," Grundberg said, gesturing to the art and to the environment in her Cutter's Point cafe.

Learn more about Neste at and Cutter's Point Uptown at the Gig Harbor Uptown Shopping District is located at 4735 Pt. Fosdick Dr.