Show will go on this Thursday, but Edmonds Art Walk undergoing changes

Art Walk posterThirteen years after it was founded by Edmonds business owners and artists Jeff Stilwell and Manya Schilperoort (known to many by her business name Manya Vee), the Edmonds Art Walk is undergoing some changes — although the monthly event that draws hundreds to downtown Edmonds will continue as usual this Thursday, Feb. 20.

The Downtown Edmonds Merchants Association (DEMA), a subcommittee of the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce, announced in an email sent Friday, Feb. 14 that the monthly Third Thursday Art Walk – in which businesses stay open later, from 5-8 p.m. in order to showcase featured artists – “will be placed on hold effective in March.” While describing the art walk as “very popular,” DEMA noted that “recent developments have led to a decision to retool the event.”

According to officers in the Downtown Edmonds Merchants Association, those developments involve the procedures for collecting participating-merchant fees and appear to stem from a falling out between the Art Walk founders and DEMA representatives. DEMA officers noted that the Downtown Edmonds Merchants Association is the official owner of the “Third Thursday Art Walk” name, which over the years has been charged with ensuring that the legal and financial requirements of the monthly Art Walk have been met.

“Jeff and Manya started Art Walk and over time their roles changed as the event expanded,” said Andy Cline, who serves as DEMA co-president. Stilwell and Schilperoort were hired in January 2009 by DEMA to serve as independent contractors, and were paid a monthly stipend to promote the Edmonds Art Walk, and meet other contractual obligations to DEMA, he said.

But an issue arose in recent weeks, according to Cline, when Stilwell set up a PayPal account outside of the Chamber of Commerce/DEMA finance/receivables structure, and instructed Art Walk participants to pay their fees via that account.

According to DEMA’s immediate past-president, Petra Rousu, that action raised a red flag with DEMA, a registered 501(c) 3 non-profit, because Stilwell doesn’t have the required insurance umbrella, and the PayPal funds would have been received outside of the prescribed funds management rules.

Stilwell’s action – coupled with the fact that Art Walk attendance has been declining in recent months – prompted DEMA to review the future of the Edmonds Art Walk. For the short term, this Thursday’s Feb. 20 event will go on as scheduled, and other merchants who have independent contracts with artists may choose to stay open late on future third Thursdays of the month, Rousu said.

For the longer term, according to Cline and Rousu, DEMA plans to review what an event similar to Art Walk might look like – perhaps one that will involve wine tastings and/or is limited to the spring and summer months. DEMA is expected to form a separate subcommittee that will consider the future of such an arts event at its March 7 meeting, says Cline.

“In the interim there will be no formal director for the event,” Cline said. “The use of the event name ‘Art Walk’ and ‘Third Thursday Art Walk’ will be suspended by DEMA.”

Cline added that DEMA is taking a “going forward perspective” on the event. “DEMA is looking for ways to best utilize the Art Walk program to the greatest benefit of attendees, artists and merchants,” he said.

Manya Vee and Jeff best
Manya and Jeff, in front of the 2009 mural “An Evening in Edmonds,” by Pat Brier. (Photo by Amber Salinas)

In addition to their work on the Edmonds Art Walk, Stilwell and Schilperoort are known for their ongoing efforts to provide opportunities for Edmonds artists. In 2009, they founded the Edmonds Mural Society, which since its inception has sponsored the painting of 16 murals on blank walls of downtown Edmonds businesses, all through volunteer donations from Mural Society members.

In March 2013, the couple’s business, Manya Vee Selects (now called MaJe Gallery) received an inaugural Edmonds Chamber of Commerce Arts Award for Business Leadership, for their work on both the Art Walk and Mural Society.

In recent months, the couple has also launched a new Friday night open-microphone event for musicians, Edmonds Tunes, which occurs weekly at two downtown venues – Café Louvre and Red Petal Cakes.

In an interview in May 2010, Stillwell and Schilperoort said their vision in 2002 for the Edmonds Art Walk was to create “a populist art walk,” in which artists would do more than simply display their work — they would be on hand to answer questions about it.”

Convincing artists to take part in the monthly art walk was a challenge, Stilwell recalled in the 2010 article. “Artists are by nature introverts,” he said. Equally challenging was getting Edmonds merchants to buy into the idea of displaying artwork in their shops, he added. “We started with the conviction that it had to be a win-win scenario for everyone,” Stilwell said. “Merchants needed to provide exhibition space for free but might take a commission.”

Reached Sunday for reaction to DEMA’s decision to retool the Art Walk, Stillwell said: “I don’t have anything to say other than that this is a very painful time for me and Manya.”

Here’s the full email that DEMA sent on Friday:

Changes coming to Edmonds Art Walk
The Downtown Edmonds Merchants Association or ‘DEMA’ (a committee of the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce) is announcing that Edmonds Art Walk, which occurs every third Thursday, will be placed on hold effective in March. This event, which is owned by DEMA has been a very popular event, however, recent developments have led to a decision to retool the event. For the next few months there will not be a formal Art Walk, although some business may continue to sponsor artists. During this transition DEMA welcomes community input on Edmonds Art Walk and requests that any comments or ideas be sent to

DEMA wishes to thank Jeff Stilwell and Manya Schilperoort of MaJe Gallery for their contributions to Edmonds Art Walk over the years. DEMA looks forward to more great third Thursday events in the future and more information regarding next steps will be provided in the coming weeks.
The Downtown Edmonds Merchants Association (DEMA) is an independent unincorporated association of merchants in downtown Edmonds and its operations are supported by the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce through a committee structure providing assistance for DEMA activities.

— Story by Emily Hill and Teresa Wippel

  1. It is a scary thought that a Chamber of Commerce and DEMA (who would have thought a “subcommittee” of a Chamber of Commerce could be needed in this small town of 39,000) will be the deciders on what they (business people tending to think it is only about $$$, which has NOTHING to do with real art) think is constructive for the art community that exists in Edmonds…….

    “This event which is owned by DEMA”……(Edmonds Art Walk)… this for REAL or what!??…….If the Chamber of Commerce and it’s side-kick DEMA think they actually “own” an Art Walk (which wouldn’t even be POSSIBLE without the ARTIST’S ART!, artists and sensitive people like Jeff Stilwell and Manya……Perhaps the artists in Edmonds should conjure up their own art walk, art sit, ART OCCUPY (the last being my favorite)……..Through history a lot of great art has come from radical artists defying the “establishment”…….

    I’ve heard so many times since I moved here 4 years ago, “It’s about BUSINESS, Tere”……The “business” part is what is keeping Edmonds from becoming a known, THRIVING, LIVING art community……

    Any artist out there feeling like getting radical about their art (plenty of those in Art History) or having their own ART ABOUT TOWN, outside/inside/upsidedown, whatever! WHEREever……and making this a noted art town, give me a call. I have ideas!

    I just hear the word “retool”…….and I’m ready to “retool” something for ART, not for business.

    and I think the citizens of Edmonds that would really like to continue to have an Edmonds that is about ART (and celebrates art people like Manya and Jeff) should BOYCOTT the “retool” by the Chamber and DEMA-SCHMEMA.

  2. I completely agree with your comments. It appears DEMA is a way to pay Jeff. Was there an open bid process to create a fair avenue to select a consultant instead of just appointing DEMA? Was there citizens’ approval process to spend this money? Yes a boycott is good.

  3. Tere & Tina… I can understand your outrage and concern, but I think you both need to take a step back and actually think about what happened. What was done by Jeff in recent months is the reason the hiatus is happening. Art Walk IS NOT DEAD!! It just needs new management and new direction in order to bring it back up to the popularity it was 2, 3, 4 or 5 years ago. As one of the first mural artists, and an exhibiting Art Walk artist, I’ve seen over the past couple of years how business are dropping out and the quality of some of the art (and some of the artists) isn’t what it used to be. I thank Jeff and Manya for all they’ve done in the past, but I also applaud Rousu and Cline for being brave enough to recognize a problem, and focus on the future of what was once an extremely successful event for the business community and artists alike. Things can only improve from this point, and with patience and creative thinking… sooner rather than later.

  4. With any change we’re all very quick to point fingers and offer blame. While, the decision was made by DEMA to have the Art Walk restructured, it is not them getting rid of the program.

    Many of these business stay open extended hours for the Art Walk. That means, they are staffing during this time and have operating expenses. And while we can hope there’s a money being spent at the stores, the focus is on the artists, and let’s face it, the cheese and wine platters (am I right?!).

    There’s no citizen vote as to how a non-profit art walk, that’s primarily funded by a small group of Merchants , should operate. Let’s look big picture. Stop shopping at our local stores, and they close down. Where exactly are you going to have your art walk then? Can we come to your house and expect you to feed us cheese and wine? Of course not. That would be unreasonable. As is the idea of boycotting the local business.

    A lot of people might not know what DEMA does for the city. Yes, they’re a small sub-committee of the Chamber, focused in Downtown Edmonds (Merchant Association [DEMA]). These business are the ones who fund the Halloween trick or treating. NONE of your tax dollars pay for that. The police for that event are paid for by DEMA. The Tree Lighting ceremony, that’s DEMA too.

    Without a group like DEMA, getting all of the business owners to consistently make themselves available for the Art Walk would be near impossible. Make no mistake, being an artists is a business. And if we don’t support ALL of our local businesses, we’re all going to lose.

  5. re: the chamber of commerce and dema as sponsors…

    to put it bluntly …

    like it or not – “THE” (global) Economy IS central – to EVERYTHING!

    and that means – “business”

    at some level, EVERYTHING comes down to $$$ and the freely manipulated “free” market

    think about it – how much in politics, government does NOT come down to – who gets to spend other people’s money?

    until we begin to incorporate – complementary currencies – the welfare of all will continue to be “weighed” against . . . money

    (re: complementary currencies, read “Rethinking Money, How New Currencies Turn Scarcity Into Prosperity” by Bernard Lietaer and Jacqui Dunne)

  6. It isn’t art against business or business against art. Rather it’s a mutually beneficial way of working together. Sometimes ideas get old and things change. Let’s encourage residents to support local artists and businesses. Rethinking Artwalk could be very beneficial. Thank you to all the local business owners and artists who have worked hard to make this town better. Good luck!

  7. If the business community thinks people will come to Edmonds at night (referred to as “Deadmonds” by young people for good reason) to only drink wine and eat cheese at their businesses, I say good luck. People do art walks to see fine art…….I’m from a metropolitan area, and most people go to the art walk, artists studio tours to SEE THE ART and the ARTISTS. Only in Edmonds would anybody think it is about a business serving wine & cheese at night. If you want wine and cheese at night in Edmonds, open up another bar.

    At least Manya and Jeff have been trying to make this community VITAL and a HAPPENING place to be at night……..I saw none of you at the Tunes on Friday nights, and you have no idea what you have missed!….something actually HAPPENING!….and Jeff doing the big terrible thing of opening a Paypal account…..are you kidding?!…..You know I love the symphony and it is WONDERFUL here, but I don’t think I saw 10 young people in the audience….Something wrong with that

    I have done two Edmonds Artists Studio Tours, two art walks (notice the lower case on the last two words!), three years of having fine art in EVERY room of the Edmonds Arts Festival Juried Gallery (7 pieces this last year),
    sculpture room award and prize the previous year, co director of the Children’s Fine Art making area last year at the Edmonds Arts Festival (which the City of Edmonds doesn’t even sponsor, surprising as it has brought in around 50,000 people every year for about 50 years), blah, blah, blah So, I think I KNOW art and what makes a VITAL art community HAPPEN…….I’ve been here 4 years now in Edmonds , and this community seems to be about something else. When an “Art Summit” starts out with a presentation by a business suit, is it at all surprising that there were hardly ANY young people in the audience, or artists for that matter…….Business people would not “get” THAT part!. It seems to always only to be about business here and $$$$.

    …….I was here for an Edmonds Arts Festival over 40 years ago, and I can tell you back then, it was more about Fine Art, PROFFESIONAL Art, and things were HAPPENING and the people running things knew Fine Art! …..there were actually people across the country that knew about the Edmonds Arts Festival. THAT seems to be lacking now, and will be even worse when the suits and people that know nothing of artists and fine art run everything. Call me brash, but hey, I’m an artist….I’m not here for the garden party…..I’m here doing art, living art……..

  8. We need to put our energy into working with DEMA to come up with a plan that will work for artists and for merchants. If we want to have a say in how this new event looks, then we need to step up and volunteer to assist with developing the event.

  9. Tere,

    Your attitude and perception of Edmonds is outdated. “Deadmonds” is the term you need to stop using. As a person in my late 20’s, I love Edmonds. I love the night life that is has. I’m hard pressed to go into Seattle, when we have such fine bars and restaurants here in Edmonds. If you’re a teenage child complaining that you’re bored, then yes, the upper-middle-class suburban life is all too boring. Trust me, I grew up here.

    Edmonds is a Municipality. I think it’s done a fine job as far as city goes for being very artist friendly. The Mural Project is awesome! Thankfully Edmonds allowed for the art to remain on the buildings. Oh! And don’t forget, those buildings are privately owned by business people, who likely rent the space to other business owners. Want to open a Gallery? Guess what! Now, you’re a business. Artists need to make money, and a widget seller needs to make money. If you want to keep doing what you’re doing, you need money. That’s simple economics.

    If you’d like to go live in a field in a co-op and talk about Art all day, please feel free. But the fact of the matter is, it costs money to do everything. Hey! Here’s an idea, how about we start charging a cover fee for artists to use the business’ store fronts! Better yet, let’s charge for people to come and see the art! I mean, you do support the Arts right? Or is that only when it’s free?

    Listen, the Art Walk is Free to you. Your complaint and inconvenience can only be measured by your sacrifices you’ve made to keep it going. Writing incoherent rants with outlandish uses of CAPITAL LETTERS and…………. Is not really helping your cause. But, maybe I don’t know art as well as you. Maybe this is some sort of new Yoko Ono creative writing that you’re using?

  10. Yes, I love Edmonds too, and that is why we need something more vital here to bring more young people and cutting edge art and happenings to Edmonds. A couple restaurants and a couple bars does not make a city vital at night…..

    D Snave…….odd that you make the “Yoko Ono” comment. I’m not even a Yoko Ono fan…..although I did give PEACE a chance. The fact is we have went to many, many local cultural events and there are very few young people attending…….Young people have new ideas! It’s that simple.Get over my “CAPITAL LETTERS”…..I’m an artist, what can I say!? … should see my hand-writing!

    Sue Robertson ideas good.

    I also think the City of Edmonds needs to charge a fee for professional artists doing business here, like any other business. I paid $80.00 in license fees in Seattle and had no problem with that. I was told by the art community here when I moved here there were NO license fees for artists. That would certainly bring in a lot more $$$. The City of Edmonds needs to also SPONSOR events that bring in 50,000 people consistantly, EDMONDS Arts Festival. How does the city not sponsor that…It’s not even on the poster at Town Hall. Maybe the City Council needs to put some artists on board…..They have IDEAS….oh shoot, there’s that Gertrude Stein, Leonardo, L. Ferlinghetti, Braque, etc. etc. thang.

    As I said before, Manya and Jeff (two artists in their own right) have done many incredible things here in Edmonds for the arts, and it’s shameful they have been pushed aside, if that is what has unfolded.

  11. As the owner of a local Edmonds business, ARTspot, I am confident that the Edmonds Art Walk will continue. We will definitely be open with demos and local artists every third Thursday!
    I would like to speak to the benefit of having the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce, and the cooperative effort of the Downtown Edmonds Merchants Association (DEMA). We are not the enemy or big business or the 1%, that is for sure! We are your neighbors and small businesses owners that are just trying to make a go of it. DEMA is the mechanism to help the merchants work together cooperatively. The voluntary participation of so many of us hosting the art walk speaks to the great support that we have for our local artists.
    The Art Walk has never been about profit, as it is unusual for artists or the stores to sell much on these evenings. It’s all about the spirit of community, enjoying each other’s company and seeing the richness and variety of artist’s work happening all around us.
    A big shout out to everyone who has stepped up to volunteer behind the scenes to make the Art Festival, Art Commission, Edmonds Center for the Arts, the Mural Society, the Art Walk, the Edmonds Artist’s Studio Tour, and the many opportunities for children and seniors to make art. To anyone who has purchased original art from a local artist. Also to the artists themselves who give so much of themselves to demo, and set up shows. This is the real testament to what makes our art community thrive.

  12. I agree with Tracy. I saw some crowded galleries last night and I saw some businesses without a featured artist that were open but empty. If it doesn’t pencil out for a particular store to participate – then don’t. I also saw a group of tourists speaking a language I didn’t recognize admire the galleries, downtown fountain and flower beds. Would they have been in Edmonds on a Thursday night without the draw of the Art Walk? Meanwhile, artists and art lovers from around the region continue to enjoy the growing reputation of Edmonds as an art destination. How can this be bad for Edmonds? Let’s work together to be ready for the new and improved Edmonds Third Thursday Art Walk in MARCH.

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