The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Jess Macinko
News Editor 

Monkey Shines a mystery only at home


ou know the story of the elephant and the blind men: one man grabs a tusk and mistakes it for a spear, one grabs a leg and thinks it’s a column, and so on. No one gets the whole picture.

Sandra Choate fears her business, Monkey Shines Studio and Gallery, is a bit like that elephant. “A lot of people think it’s just an artist’s studio,” she says. One person thought she only sold baby clothes. Those impressions aren’t entirely wrong—Sandra sells her own work and the work of several local artists, as well as children’s clothes she makes by hand. But they’re a small glimpse of a large, eclectic beast. Among other things, Monkey Shines offers greeting cards, jewelry, hand-dyed silk scarves, hand-painted shoes, tea pots and tea sets, Pendleton blankets, hand-knitted mohair caps, bags, legwarmers, handwoven dishtowels, figurines, trinkets, prints, books, aprons, and hand-made buttons. Or in Sandra’s words, “All kinds of things, ranging from $5 to $2,500.” Most of these items are either vintage, local, hand-made, or some combination of the three.

A mosaic and textile artist, Sandra opened Monkey Shines five years ago. Before that, she displayed her work at the Fiber Art Studio on Main Street. An interest in retail led her to open her own place. “I really like retail. I like visiting with people, and I like talking about antiques.” Sandra describes herself as a collector with a passion for vintage clothing. Monkey Shines allows her to share that passion with the community.

It also allows her to pursue her own artwork, to regional acclaim. “She’s a great artist,” says local potter and art teacher Scott Gray. “Her mosaic work is real edgy. She’s got such a great sense of humor. She really makes you think about the piece.” As for Monkey Shines, Scott urges people to see for themselves. “I love it. I go in there for inspiration.”

Sandra moved to Goldendale 10 years ago, after retiring from her position as a park supervisor in San Francisco. She and her husband were drawn to Goldendale because of its natural beauty and affordable property. The move also enabled her to focus on her craft. “In San Francisco, if you’re not working you’re too broke to do art. If you are working, you’re too busy to do art. When I moved here, I was able to dedicate myself to making the things I wanted to make. So that’s been a real blessing in Goldendale.”

That blessing, however, comes with something of a curse. Though Monkey Shines draws enthusiasts from places like Portland, Hood River, and Seattle, generating local interest can be a struggle. Outside a core group of local artists, Sandra feels, many Goldendale residents are either apathetic toward the arts or simply don’t know what’s in their own backyard. “There are people in Goldendale that don’t even know I’m here. I’ve been here five years, and it happens all the time.”

For Felicia Gray, local artist and founding member of the Golden Art Guild, Sandra’s experience is all too familiar. “I ran the [Guild’s] gallery for eight years, and it’s amazing how many people said, ‘We’ve never been in the gallery.’” Despite a series of high-profile exhibits, including work by Salvador Dali, the gallery closed its doors last year.

But the Guild remains committed to promoting the arts in Goldendale. “As far as tourism, we know that the arts are what keep this town going,” Felicia says.

Sandra also remains committed, recognizing that growing her corner of the Goldendale art scene may be slow going. “It has to be an organic process,” she says. “I can’t push the river there.” She hosts a Day of the Dead party each November at Monkey Shines, and celebrates the shop’s anniversary every spring. Coming up, she anticipates a winter clearance sale in mid to late January. The sale will feature vintage sweaters and coats, wool shirts, and alpaca socks. For more information, you can contact Sandra at (509) 250-3835. Monkey Shines is located at 514 S. Columbus Ave., and is open Thursday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. The shop will be closed from Dec. 16 to Jan. 2.


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