Some days I think I will be stuck in COVID isolation forever. Sure, I go to the grocery store, gas station, Target — and rest assured I’m fully masked and social distancing from other shoppers. However, most of the time I’m at home wandering through rooms and wondering when it will be safe to mingle with family and friends again.

One day while walking from the dining room to the kitchen, I was stopped in my tracks by a large painting on the wall that I hadn’t really looked at in a long time. Several years ago, we enlisted local artist Penn Shelton to create a piece of art for our small dining room. We wanted it to include myself and our two married daughters, Kinsey and Mary, who both live on the East Coast.

Several weeks later Penn delivered the painting, and my husband and I were beyond thrilled. The painting featured a tree where three women — myself and our daughters — were seated on one of its limbs holding a fluttering, white dove. Penn’s artistic talent really shines in this wonderful painting and it always makes me feel closer to our girls, even though they are 3,000 miles away.

What does that have to do with anything? I guess it has to do with my one- woman crusade to get folks to consider buying original art for their homes.

Believe it or not, for a city of its size, Yakima abounds with artists. And the good news for us laymen is that these talented individuals often show their work at venues such as Collaboration Coffee on South First Street, The Boxx Gallery in Tieton, Oak Hollow at Chalet Mall, the Yakima Arts Commission’s “Windows Alive” between East Third and Fourth streets on Yakima Avenue, and the soon-to-be-reopened new Larson Gallery across from Yakima Valley College’s west campus.

If you’re in for adventure, you can also travel up to Gallery One in downtown Ellensburg, where a wide variety of original art by Eastern Washington artists is on display and available for purchase.

So how did I get taken with owning original art in the first place? Growing up, my family frequently took cross-country trips, and one had us living in New Orleans for six months so my orthopedic surgeon father could take a special course. We lived in the historic district, and when my dad had free time we’d explore the museums and art galleries in the French Quarter and Garden District. It definitely left a lasting impression on me.

Years later I married, and my husband and I moved across the country to Charleston, South Carolina, where he served as an officer on a submarine. We instantly fell in love with that beautiful city and started exploring the historic district that had somehow survived Gen. Sherman’s march to the sea during the Civil War.

Besides the wonderful restaurants, horse-drawn carriage rides and churches with bells that rang out throughout the day, Charleston had plenty of art galleries to explore. We even bought our first piece of original art there … and haven’t stopped.

For those of you who have never purchased an original piece of art, Rene Sylvestre-Williams, an art expert and contributor to Forbes magazine, has some great tips.

She claims that the one thing you need to do before jumping into original art is to educate yourself by visiting local galleries to discover what appeals to you. The second step is to set a budget and stick to it. Then buy a piece of art you love that’s within your budget. Once you put it on your wall it will look terrific and enhance your home’s décor.

Yakima has a large number of art galleries for a city of its size and each has staffs and volunteers who know about the artwork on display at their gallery or shop. I’ve found that they will gladly assist you in finding the perfect piece of artwork for your home or office.

I’m hoping by this summer the Chalet Mall will be able to once again hold its annual summer weekend outdoor art show. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, artists from around the valley would set up their individual displays on the lawn. This gave shoppers a relaxing atmosphere to meet the artists and learn about their work, and perhaps buy a piece of original art for their home as well.

Over the past years many of Yakima’s most talented artisans have participated. It’s fun to learn the back story about a piece of art and why the artist was inspired to create it.

Recently, YVC’s Larson Gallery Zoomed online to give patrons a sneak peek at its new space, across the street from the college. Director David Lynx is thrilled that the new facility offers parking in front of the gallery, a gift shop, restrooms and access to the college’s new outdoor sculpture garden.

“The new Larson Gallery space is equipped with modern museum stands and will allow us the capacity to show exhibits we could not in the old building,” Lynx said. Another new addition will be the wine tasting room and educational display space for YVC’s Vineyard and Winery process from grape to glass adjacent to the Larson Gallery, Lynx added.

The annual “Tour of Artists’ Homes.” is an additional way to meet many of Yakima’s artists and to see where they work and live. Undoubtedly, our most famous artist is Leo Adams. His work is shown all over the Northwest and beyond and he always opens his large house for this very special event. He also invites a few artists’ friends to display their work as well. The opportunity to view some of his larger paintings on the walls of his amazing house is always a highlight of the tour.

So if you’re contemplating buying art for your home and find yourself heading to a big box store that only offers reproductions, you might explore Yakima’s art galleries first. I’m not saying that a reproduction of a famous work of art isn’t great, but there is something very special about an original work of art created by one of our talented local artists.