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Tue, April 23

Kinkade Gallery owners say farewell

Thomas Kinkade Gallery owner Dee Blaschke is getting out of the art business. She sold the gallery, which has been a landmark in the Prescott downtown square for the past 10 years, and today is her last day at the gallery. Blaschke sits in front of Kinkade's "Indy Excitement."

Bruce Colbert/The Daily Courier

Thomas Kinkade Gallery owner Dee Blaschke is getting out of the art business. She sold the gallery, which has been a landmark in the Prescott downtown square for the past 10 years, and today is her last day at the gallery. Blaschke sits in front of Kinkade's "Indy Excitement." Bruce Colbert/The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - Art lovers are not losing the Thomas Kinkade Gallery in Prescott, but they are losing its long-time owners. Dee Blaschke and Randy Sisk sold the gallery, located at 117 S. Cortez, and today is their last day as its owners.

"This gallery opened so many paths for me," Blaschke said. "Thom's work is all about paths and light."

Blaschke said that the gallery's new owners, Jim and Debby Fricke from Fullerton, Calif., told her that they are keeping the gallery open and bringing in their own staff.

"It's like a fixture along the square," Blaschke said. "I'm going to miss my neighbors as much as the gallery."

The gallery is like a sanctuary for Kinkade art lovers, including Blaschke and Ernie Migliorini, the gallery manager since 1999.

"It's just a very peaceful place to be," he said.

The gallery's storefront window faces the courthouse plaza. Once inside, visitors follow a series of turns that open into mini-galleries filled with Kinkade paintings.

The gallery's subdued lighting is designed to highlight each individual painting and not to intrude on neighboring paintings. Soft music creates a meditative-like mood.

"We have courthouse employees come over to eat their lunch here because they say it helps them escape the stress and to relax and unwind," Blaschke said.

"It's like a restful, peaceful haven," Migliorini added.

Kinkade fans comprise a subculture in the art world, Blaschke said. She has met Kinkade "at least six times."

"His paintings are very powerful," she said. "It's more than what you see - it's what you feel, they are emotional."

When Kinkade visited Prescott this past March, more than 500 devoted fans crammed into the Elks Opera House to view his paintings and meet the artist. While talking to the audience, he sketched a charcoal drawing and auctioned it for $12,000. He donated the money to charity.

Visitors to the gallery may be surprised that Kinkade, called "The Painter of Light," paints a wide variety of subjects beyond his trademark scenes of small-town America. For instance, he paints Walt Disney characters, baseball games and automobile races.

Regardless of the subject matter, Kinkade paintings have two constants - a luminous light that seems to emanate from the canvas, and the letter "N" camouflaged throughout each painting.

He creates the luminous light effect by painting and glazing dozens of layers on each canvas.

The letter "N" is for Nanette, his wife. Kinkade adds a number next to his signature on each painting, and that is the number of "Ns" in the painting.

Besides selling Kinkade art, Blaschke and Migliorini collect it. Migliorini has 22 paintings.

Blaschke barely fights back tears when she talks about leaving the gallery. She said she "will cry for a month straight" and then think about her future plans.

Before starting as an assistant at the gallery in 2000, she worked in the criminal justice and mental health fields.

"When I came to this gallery, I stepped out of the darkness and into the light," she said. "It is such a spiritual place.

"It's not just about the paintings, but about the people that come. I have met the most extraordinary people and neighbors around the gallery."

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