From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Sept 21 and 22, a dynamic group of 36 local artists will showcase unique collections of work in the free, annual, self-guided Edmonds Art Studio tour. Sponsored in part by the Edmonds Arts Foundation, the tour provides attendees with a superb opportunity to meet the individual artists, observe their creative processes, and purchase one-of-a-kind works of art.
The artists’ rich variety of mediums and backgrounds is astonishing. They work in everything from pen and ink, acrylic, oil, watercolor and pastels, wool felting, figurative bronze sculpture, jewelry and collage and stoneware pottery to wood turning and ceramics, 2- and 3-D mixed media, copper enamel, glass, basketry, and even undersea photography.
An in-person meeting with participating artists Andy Eccleshall (Tour Committee chair) and Mona Smiley-Fairbanks revealed fascinating details about the organization’s origins and raison d’être.
Eccleshall, who specializes in landscape painting in oils, arrived with paint on his hands: a true indication of his métier.
“Fortunately my wife told me to wash off the big splash of red paint on the side of my face,” he says, laughing.
The UK native, now in the U.S. for 25 years, is in his second year as chairman but has been on the tour for eight or nine years. When he and his wife visited Edmonds, voted Friendliest Town in Washington three years in a row, they fell in love with the town and stayed. Not surprisingly, Edmonds recently was awarded the status of Washington’s first Creative District.
“There’s nothing quite like Edmonds,” Eccleshall says. “It’s grown around us as an art town and gets better all the time. We feel incredibly fortunate to have ended up here.”
Fairbanks is one of the tour’s founders.
“It started with an excited conversation between Sue Robertson, Tracy Felix and myself at an Artists Connect meeting,” says Fairbanks.
Artists Connect, a group of local Snohomish artists that organized in order to have a place to meet and connect with other artists, is sponsored by the Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation. The Festival, which had been storing boards for their juried show in public storage, found a space to store the boards on 2nd Avenue and Dayton Street, now the headquarters for both Artists Connect and the Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation and Association. Then the idea to form an artists’ group started to develop.
“From that group, the Art Studio grew,” Fairbanks says.
There were as many as 16 studios on the first tour. But they had to come up with a plan on how to run the organization. Fairbanks says it was the fact that they met at Artists Connect that drew them together. Not all of the artists were necessarily Edmonds residents.
“It was a regional thing,” she says. “We wanted to make sure our customers had easy access to us. We don’t want them to have to drive to Bellevue or Anacortes to connect with an artist.”
“The key to it is being within the boundary of the map,” Eccleshall adds. “Even if they’re in Lynnwood, there still has to be some connection to Edmonds.”
Next, the group went around town to solicit support and funding from local businesses, the Arts Festival Foundation and Edmonds Arts Commission.
“When we first started we wanted to look legitimate, an official Edmonds body,” Fairbanks says. “When we asked if the Arts Festival Foundation would sponsor us, they said yes. They’ve been very generous.”
The concept of the tour is not only brilliant but also practical. The artists don’t have to worry about space, since they receive visitors at their own individual studios. Even though the Festival isn’t involved in the creation or running of the tour, they still hold the funds, so the tour doesn’t have to be its own nonprofit organization. Everyone involved is vested in developing the Edmonds art community.
“The number of studios doesn’t vary that much,” Eccleshall says. “Typically it’s 19 to 21or 22. Some people take a year off, so it’s continually changing. It’s a good mix every year.”
The tour also helps the Edmonds Art Festival to a certain extent, posting Festival info on all their literature and on their website.
“With the Arts Festival in June and our tour in the fall, it makes a nice balance,” says Eccleshall.
Tour artists are also exhibiting locally. Eccleshall’s new show of landscape paintings opens at Cole Gallery in October 2019. Photographer Mary Bess Johnson will also have a feature show at Gallery North in November.
Nine-year tour participant and acrylic and oil artist Angela Bandurka, named one of Southwest Art Magazine’s Artists to Watch, July 2019, also has a feature show at Cole Gallery in Edmonds in November. As she lives just outside the city limits, Bandurka works from David Marty’s oil painting studio on Talbot Road. Currently she focuses on still life, cityscapes and portraiture. She also has been creating paintings of teacups, inspired by those she inherited from grandparents and great grandparents.
Portraits are her favorite medium. “There is a whole story in a person’s face…I love playing with the setting and lighting to help tell it.” She is looking forward to another year on the tour “to talk about the process of painting with like-minded folks.”
“Not so dull!” is wood turner Rick Davenport’s catchphrase. He takes great joy in the variety of his medium, which reflects “a collaborative adventure between me and Mother Nature…to release the beauty hiding in the wood.” According to Davenport, one has to see and feel a piece in person to appreciate its “chatoyance,” or the way areas of light and dark grain shift and change position depending on the angle of view.
Davenport uses mostly local, rescue wood. He says the wood takes each individual project in a different direction from its original plan. “That’s what makes every piece unique.”
Having been on the tour since its second year, Davenport also has been a key contributor in coordinating the tour’s brochure distribution and solicitation of advertisers and sponsors.
Thirteen-year printmaking veteran Chris Minor been involved with the Edmonds arts community for seven or eight years and teaches his craft at Cole Gallery. He joined the tour just last year and thinks it’s a great way to meet new art enthusiasts. Minor inks and hand pulls each of his prints.
“What really makes me happy is seeing people’s reactions when they look at my work,” Minor says. He also enjoys seeing them appreciate the subtle humor in his works. “When I see people smile or laugh out loud, it makes me feel good.”
Amazingly, the artists on the tour are a fairly small sampling of the actual number of working artists in town. Both Eccleshall and Fairbanks have met a number of other artists who aren’t part of the tour, who often work modestly in their own basements: a metal worker from Scotland with a Sean Connery accent who shows his work in his front yard; an elderly gentleman who makes whirligigs and has exhibited at the library.
“This town attracts things like that,” Eccleshall says. “There’s something about Edmonds. It’s not just artists, it’s writers, musicians, gardeners.”
Publicity is an important factor in the tour’s operations. Eccleshall credits tech guru Meredith Arnold for getting the word out on the all-important social media. Arnold runs Artworks, which is also the headquarters for both Artists Connect and the Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation.
According to Eccleshall, the tour raises funds through artists’ fees and money given by the Festival Foundation, as well as through advertising and sponsorship from local businesses. Someone on staff who is skilled at figuring out packages helps utilize the funds efficiently.
The majority of their budget goes to advertising. Everyone in the group takes some responsibility for getting the word out. Their demonstrations at the Arts Festival every year are extremely helpful, Eccleshall says, since the tour brochure is timed to be distributed at the Festival. They also hold a drawing for a gift basket featuring a small piece of work from most of the artists on the tour.
“We have a press release that goes out every year,” he says. “It’s amazing how many people in Edmonds still don’t know we exist. And it’s been 14 years. It’s a constant growth process, getting the word out.”
A big plus is the fact that all of the tour participants get along so well. A committee of 9 of the members meet together every month.
“It’s always a lot of fun. We keep stats during the tour, of who’s coming in, how they heard about us,” explains Eccleshall. “After the tour, once all those stats have been put together an invitation goes out for everybody to come together and hear how the tour was.”
“I think the real joy of this tour is the diversity we have,” Fairbanks says. “Everything from very traditional to super modern. It’s a great group.’
“And the committee is an incredible bunch of people,” Eccleshall adds. “Everybody does an amazing amount of work. All I do is conduct it.”
Details about the Edmonds 2019 Art Studio Tour can be found at: www.edmondsartstudiotour.com.
— By Erica Miner