First glimpse of plans for Edmonds’ newest arts destination: Graphite

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Edmonds is fast becoming a regional destination for the arts. As an owner of our local art store, I meet artists and students everyday who are interested in learning, teaching and networking. Of one thing I am certain: Artists, collectors and those with inquiring minds are insatiable in their desire for more inspiration. There is no such thing as “too much art.” The richer and deeper we make our art community, the more it will attract talent, commerce, and energy to Edmonds.

We are adding jewels every few years to our collection of significant art centers. Art lovers can enjoy live performance at the Edmonds Center for the Arts, learn about significant art movements in the Northwest at the Cascadia Art Museum, and seek out fine art at galleries and shops the length of Main Street and 5th Avenue. I am pleased to report progress on what will be Edmond’s newest facility dedicated to the arts: Graphite.

“We’ve taken our time gathering all the elements to take this dream, and make it a reality.” said Mary Olsen, the driving force behind this vision to create a multi-use art center at 2nd and Main. “A very important part of this is the name. ‘Graphite’ acknowledges the fundamental nature of all ideas, sketching in graphite. Drawing is often the beginning. Graphite will offer many people access to learning and expressing their own creativity.”

Mary Olsen and I founded Art Start Northwest in 2015, a non-profit dedicated to augment accessibility to the arts in our community. Granite will be the home of the non-profit, and much more. Graphite will be a new hub for people of all ages to come in and experience art at any level. Amenities will include:

– Workshop areas for instruction
– Studio spaces for artists
– Darkroom for photography
– Kiln room for ceramics
– Gallery to display art
– Art book library
– Cafe

Mary Olsen has brought together the design talents of Scott Miller of Scott G. Miller Design Services , and the expertise of Robert Gregg, of Gregg Property Associates. Bob Gregg expresses the concept beautifully: “Now when people come off the ferry heading into Edmonds, they will see this new, beautiful building beckoning them to stop and take a look. The creative workshop space inside will provide many artists a place to work and many more residents and visitors a place to visit, watch artists in action, view local artists’ works in the gallery, and have a bite to eat at the café. This building will quickly become the spot to meet and gather in Edmonds.”

A few people have expressed chagrin at losing the current resident at this site, Mar-Vel Marble. They are not going out of business, but will be moving their showroom and manufacturing to another location more amenable to their fabrication process. The building will be completely replaced, as it is in very poor condition. The Graphite building will transform this prominent corner in downtown Edmonds, creating a gateway to the downtown core from the west end of Main Street. Our community is getting both a jewel of a new building and a place for the arts to flourish.

Architect Scott Miller designed this building to reflect not only the beauty of the northwest, but to create a feeling of inclusion. Scott explains: “Active artist studios, learning areas, gallery and cafe are easily visible and accessible from the outside walks and street, to promote further interest and exploration inside, by the public.

“The exterior design is a combination of large windows and Corten panels. Corten is a steel panel that oxidizes over time changing colors similar to copper. But instead of turning green (like the Statue of Liberty), Corten turns a variety of brown hues. The building itself is a transforming piece of art. The goal is for the building to evolve its look over time to remain constantly interesting. Graphite is also specifically designed to provide the maximum amount of natural daylight. The large windows, skylights and two story central atrium will bring natural light deep into the building. The structural design strives to promote a sense of strength and permanence, while the materials reflect a Northwest warmth and invitation into the spaces within.”

The designs are currently going through the approval process of the Edmonds Architectural Review Board. The general demolition and construction are slated to begin later this year.

Mary Olsen and I would like to extend our thanks to the community for all the encouragement and support we have received so far. We have a long way to go to finalize the myriad of details, but we are on track to make Graphite happen. I plan to submit future updates on our progress.

We are hoping to finalize the construction in 2018, so we can invite everyone in for access to the arts!

— By Tracy Felix

10 COMMENTS

  1. Tracy Felix and Mary Olsen are both gems we should be so grateful to have in our community. I have watched both of them blossom as artists over the past 20 years, work with and inspire budding artist in the Edmonds School District, and now dedicate their time, resources, and love of art in this incredible way to enrich our entire community. Mary shared her vision for a facility like this for Edmonds with me years ago. It is wonderful to see one’s dream become a reality. Our community is fortunate to have these two talented women in our midst. Thank you Tracy and Mary. I can’t wait to see the result of your collaborative work and effort.

  2. What a wonder addition to Edmonds and our arts culture. Thanks to Tracy and Mary for their foresight in creating an artistic building to further art in the region.

  3. So excited for this new building and the thoughtfulness put into the design. It will be a welcome addition to Main street. I do hope they added parking to building. Edmonds streets are getting a bit crowded. If we want those Ferry commuters to stay and enjoy our town they need to be able to easily park and walk.

  4. Thank you, Tracy and Mary! Not only will Graphite be a very special gathering place for artists and art patrons, it will also offer a beautiful place to teach the next generation of artists and add to the vibrant, artsy energy of our town. Can’t wait!

  5. Hooray!!! Not just to get a fabulous new art center, but to finally fix the visual eye sore the current location gives as a “greeting” to people coming from the ferry. It will be wonderful to have a building that reflects our wonderful city and adds to our art-scape.

  6. This will have a major positive impact on how visitors and residents alike see Edmonds. Congratulations to these two big dreamers, Mary and Tracy.

  7. Thank you for the positive feedback! Keep up with us on our Facebook page too: Art Start Northwest. We’d like to thank My Edmonds News for the coverage too! Tracy & Mary

  8. Congratulations Tracy and Mary! What a wonderful addition you are bringing into our community.
    I can’t wait to visit. Katie Q

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