One small art gallery with one big smile
By Sydney Sam Bouchat
Light glints off the glassware, making it shine. The grey weather does nothing to this fragile gallery, and each work of art embodies a sunny disposition, one exceeded only by the shopkeeper herself.
She gingerly unwraps a wooden mallard just brought in by the artist. The life-sized decoration has been specialty made for a customer who wants to use it as an urn for his dog’s ashes. Prairie Cogburn has seen a lot of art in her 28 years, but even a hollow duck proves unique.
Most don’t know it upon meeting her, but Cogburn already owns and runs her own business: Sattva Art Gallery in the Meridian on Willamette Street.
“I always thought this would be my dream job, and it is,” Cogburn says. “I love it. I always dreamed that I’d be able to buy this business.”
Cogburn purchased the business in 2009, but has worked at Sattva since she was 17. She held multiple jobs through high school and college, but Sattva was a constant. When she graduated from the University of Oregon in 2006, former owners Fred and Marlene Terbrusch offered to sell her the business.
“They had taken a really huge step back and really let me run the show for a couple of years before I bought the business,” Cogburn says. “When Fred proposed the idea to me, I thought, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe this. I really wanted this to happen.’” The 30-year-old business became hers.
Sattva Gallery displays art from American artists all around the nation, and several local artists, from whom she often visits to pick up new pieces. Décor ranges from mirrors and hand-sculpted pottery to jewelry and hand-painted greeting cards.
“Most of these artists are really small-time,” Cogburn says. “It’s them and their spouse, just them or a small team that helps put stuff together.”
Cogburn constantly searches for new and unique art and artists for her shop to interest regulars and to keep up with the Eugene art market.
“It’s hard not to just choose things that I love,” Cogburn says. “You have to think about the community and the people that shop here. Eugene is a very artsy community.”
Sattva is often quiet and sparsely populated, allowing Cogburn to interact one-on-one with her customers.
“The joy it gives other people to come in here and be surrounded by these beautiful things, that’s absolutely the best part,” Cogburn says. “People come in here and express how inspired they are by the creativity and different ideas.”
Cogburn spends five days a week running the store while her husband, Jordan, finishes up his undergrad degree at the UO. In her free time, she and Jordan enjoy hiking, biking and walking around Eugene. But much of her time is spent tending the store or scouring the internet looking for new products. Her presence is noticeable at the storefront, and nearly everyone that enters the shop appears to know her.
“Prairie is a brilliant young woman, and she’s doing a really good job starting the business,” says Eva Promen, owner of Uncommon Scents, a perfume store adjacent to Settva. “She’s wonderful, and she’s wonderful to work with.” The Meridian houses a closely knit series of stores that all, claim the owners, complement one another.
Polliann Weaver, a sales associate for Folkways, a women’s clothing store at the Meridian,
and in charge of maintenance for the Meridian, agrees. “She has created a very visually clean and delightful space,” Weaver says. “As a person, she is a dream come true. She always has an amazing smile on her face.”
Cogburn seems not to notice her own positive effect on Settva and the Meridian as a whole. She attributes the tranquil atmosphere to the art.
“It’s a very cheerful environment, and I think most people pick up on that,” she says.
She is very specific about the kind of art she looks for and sells. “Quality is number one,” says Cogburn. “And something that’s really eye-catching and unique. I felt that the last few years that Fred and Marlene had owned [Settva], the inventory had gotten a little stagnant. We were just buying things from the same artists rather than bringing in new mediums.” New and exciting pieces show up in Sattva often, and 50 percent of Cogburn’s business is online. She hopes to expand that in the future.
“It’s hard not to be like, ‘Oh, I’m going to take all this stuff home,’” Cogburn says. “But I’m here so much, and I feel so lucky that I can enjoy it while I’m at the store.”