By Richard Rourk
Love, as well as art, requires balance. For one Erwin couple, it’s a balance that consists of patience, vision and care.
Union Street Gallery owners Jan and Vince Bowden, have found that mixing love and art is the right balance to a happy life.
The couple’s story started far from Erwin.
“I am originally from Northern Michigan,” Jan Bowden said. “Half of my family was from Detroit and the other half was from East Tennessee and Kentucky.”
Jan said she was living and working in Portland, Oregon, as an income tax auditor in the Portland Field Office while keeping up a side hustle as a fine arts black & white photographer and understudy to National Geographic photographer Cherie Heiser.
Vince was living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, just starting his art business. He had a machine shop and did free-lance jobs.”
They met in the state of Washington.
“I met Vince at Carson Hot Springs in Carson, Washington, along the Columbia River Gorge while celebrating my birthday with my girlfriend,” Jan said.
“Two weeks prior I had never heard of the place, so you can imagine how surprised I was that Vince from Minnesota was there with a biking group biking around Mt. Saint Helens,” she said. “I think it was love at first sight for me — here’s a man who shares the same interest as me, biking, and he was funny and handsome to boot.”
Jan knew that she would have to make a move to take a chance at love.
“I couldn’t get over that he was from Minnesota and I was living in Portland, Oregon,” Jan Bowden said. “It was my girlfriend who approached him and explained that although she was married, maybe he and his friend would like to go shoot pool. He was funny, smart, courteous and neither of us can shoot pool very well to this day.”
She said that their first date was three months later,. The date consisted of a nine-day bike trip in the San Juan Islands.
“I figured if it didn’t work out at least it would be a fun bike ride,” Jan said. “Well, that was 1992 and it worked out. By 1993, I quit my government job and moved to Minneapolis.”
Vince knew from the start that Jan was one of a kind.
“It was love at first sight,” he said. “I was taken by her smile and she was so friendly and outgoing. We seemed to share the same interests. I was in the middle of nowhere Washington and had a chance meeting with this lovely woman who was also single.”
Jan said that she is sure that God’s plan included Vince in her life.
“I like to think it was God who intervened and brought us together,” Jan said. “Vince is from Minneapolis. His father was a rocket scientist with NASA from South Dakota and Vince’s Mom grew up in Cleveland, Ohio.”
Jan said that the only immediate family she has now resides in Jerusalem in Israel.
“I have been to Israel to visit, but due to the pandemic, it is not in my near future, unfortunately,” she said.
“It still amazes me that with everywhere that we both have been, that we met.”
Much like the couple’s love of art, their love mixes experience and care. “
“Art is a major part of our life because it is our livelihood and our passion,” Jan said. “Vince taught me everything I know about metal. I self-taught myself to plasma cut metal but he taught me to weld.”
She also attended glass school after they moved to Ohio.
“I moved to Minnesota after a year of commuting to and from Portland, Oregon, and Minneapolis, Minnesota,” she said. “I started working in the studio immediately. We worked together from day one.”
The couple agree that the key to their success is respect.
“We try to balance work life by leaving it at the gallery door when we leave,” Jan said. “It doesn’t always work out that way.”
They strive to have a good laugh every day.
“That part is easy,” Jan said.
“Biking is probably our favorite activity,” she added. “We rode our tandem bike from Portland, Oregon, to Minneapolis, Minnesota, for our honeymoon in 1995.”
Jan said that they were married at Carson Hot Springs where they had met on a bench in the parking lot.
“We also like spending time with friends and trying to be active,” she said. “We attempt to keep our work life separate from our home life.”
She had some other advice, too. “Never go to bed angry,” she said. “Stay up and fight.”
To find out more about the Bowdens or to check out their art available at Union Street Gallery, follow them on Facebook or visit Union Street Gallery at 100 Union St., Erwin, during normal business hours.