Art Town: Give us your 21 cents worth

Image from City’s Visit Edmonds website.

Arguably, the arts is what defines us and holds our place in history. But is it that debatable, really? How would we understand ancient Romans or the Ming Dynasty without the sculpture, architecture, literature or music they left behind?

For the record, I don’t think most people have a strong opinion about it. They are busy working and making dinner every night. People don’t spend much time arguing about the validity of art. Either their eyes light up when they see something they like, or scoff when they do not like it.

I recently attended a wonderful concert at the Edmonds Center for the Arts that left the crowd buzzing with excitement. As I stepped out of the building, the people in front of me were noticing the light installation in the asphalt pavement of 4th Ave. It was glowing in all its glory, creating bright spots patterning the surface of the street from the ECA to Main. I overheard the gentleman ask his companion what it was he was looking at, and upon her reply he merely scoffed and said, “I want my money back.”

Being an overly enthusiastic artist type, it crushed my happy moment. I’ve been thinking about it, and truly debated whether to mention it in this column. But it illustrates a point about value. Each of the 40,000 citizens of Edmonds are out approximately 21 cents for this particular installation. This begs the question: If he had the choice, would this man rather have the spare change back in his pocket, or would he keep the object in question there to have options. Is it worth a few cents to have a that moment of discovery and the chance to form your own opinion about something? Whether you like it or not, it’s interesting. That is in itself is a value-add.

On a larger scale, do the citizens of Edmonds feel that the art installations, the concerts in the parks, the murals on the sides of buildings, and events like the Edmonds Arts Festival give them a better quality of life? Real estate agents in town often post a picture of our charming downtown in their listings to show prospective buyers this is a great place to live. Do the artsy touches add to real estate values? If we were having an debate about it, I would argue they do.

I would argue that it is better to nurture culture than to stifle it. The expectation can never be to please everyone. Let us instead provide that moment, when viewing a work of art or experiencing a cultural event, for each of us to decide for ourselves. It is the teachable moment to share with a young child, or a place to rest your eye when enjoying a cup of coffee. It is the moment when you come upon an unexpected detail that makes you feel you are exploring a place.

 On June 7, the citizens of Edmonds will have an opportunity to weigh in on this issue.

The City of Edmonds has been seeking out ways to be recognized as a destination for the arts, and has decided to throw our “hat in the ring” to become recognized by the State of Washington as an official Creative District. It is a rigorous application process.

City staffers Frances Chapin and Patrick Doherty are spearheading the process. Two weeks ago they hosted an initial meeting to gather opinion from people in town who represent the arts and related entities. These stakeholders will be instrumental in moving the vision of the Creative District to a positive outcome. I was fortunate to be there to see approximately 30 people passionately discussing goals for our community.

I was so impressed that the discussions touched on the need to address diversity, the needs of children and teens and elders, business retention and affordable housing. These all provide the foundation for the arts to flourish. But I would argue these goals also provide the foundation for people to flourish. If cultivating these aspects of our community help us to attain the designation of a Creative District, then count me in.

The next big piece of the puzzle to attain this goal is to gather more viewpoints and citizen support. If you are one of those rare people that would actually take the time to argue in favor of art and culture, this is your moment.

If you cannot make the evening open house, email Patrick Doherty at or Frances Chapin at with your comments. They would love to hear your opinion. On behalf of our “Art Town,” they are hoping to put together a great application the State of Washington cannot deny.

You can find a full description of the open house here.​​

— By Tracy Kay Felix

Tracy Felix is currently the President of the Downtown Edmonds Merchant Association, and co-owner of ARTspot.

  1. Great article Tracy! I would be happy to personally refund the man $.21. That was an absolutely brilliant way of making the point on big impact (Luminous Forest) for just pennies which is almost always the case. Or no cost at all thanks to the donation of many generous people and organizations.

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