Crisse Bennett was not only one of Edmonds’ most loved artists, she was a big part of the Edmonds Arts Festival, too. In addition to her service to the festival, she won numerous awards at the Edmonds Arts Festival for her work, including the Purchase Award in 1978. Her painting, “Hanging Flower Basket,” was the artwork for the 1985 Edmonds Arts Festival poster.
Crisse was born and raised in Washington. Her artistic talent began to show early in life. When she was a child, her mother often entered her sketches into national art contests, which she usually won. She attended college at the University of Idaho and Oberlin College. Crisse met and married her husband, Chet Bennett, in her senior year at the University of Idaho. Shortly after their wedding, the couple moved to Oakland, California, where Chet attended law school.
In 1954, Crisse and Chet moved to Edmonds, where they settled and raised a family of six children. She quickly became known for her artistic talent and became the Edmonds Methodist Church’s “go to” person for artwork for everything from cookbook covers to flyers. She also created the Madonna that once adorned the north end of the church at Christmas.
When she and Chet moved to Edmonds, Crisse also joined the Edmonds Music and Arts Club. She was one of the original members of the artist group that organized and started the Edmonds Arts Festival. She continued to serve with the Festival in a leadership capacity for 13 years.
In 1970, Crisse received a bachelor of arts in fine arts through the University of Washington.
Crisse attributed much of her success and growth as an artist to her association with Quintessence, a group of five women painters who gave her much support and encouragement, and to Gallery North, a co-op art gallery where she was a member for 10 years and a past president as well.
The outdoors was a big part of Crisse’s life. Her family enjoyed camping trips, and she loved to spend time around Mount Rainier, the San Juan Islands, Mount St. Helens, and the Olympic range. The beaches near Ocean Park, Washington, were among her favorite summertime destinations. Crisse especially enjoyed spending summer days painting and sketching at the beaches in and around Edmonds with her toes in the warm sand while her children played.
The beauty of the Northwest outdoors was the inspiration for much of Crisse’s watercolor painting. Be it a familiar place or a small group of beach shells, the subject matter was always secondary to a personal and intuitive interpretation of it. Watercolor enabled her to challenge herself and grow in her personal artistic expression.
Crisse Bennett passed away May 4, 2016, at the age of 86. The festival is very grateful to Crisse, not just for her service to the festival but for her love of and service to her community. Her art can be found in the Edmonds Historical Museum and in the City of Edmonds Municipal Building.
If you would like to have a copy of Crisse’s Edmonds Arts Festival poster art, the “Hanging Flower Basket,” you can get it on a mug. Reprints of virtually every Edmonds Arts Festival poster since 1983 can be found in the Festival Store.
The Edmonds Arts Festival will happen this year from Aug.27 through 29 in downtown Edmonds. On Friday and Saturday, the festival will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Sunday it will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free, and in addition to more than 160 booths of juried art, the festival will feature food and drink options for hungry festivalgoers and free live entertainment.
Every piece of artwork you buy at the Edmonds Arts Festival supports the Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation, which has gifted more than $1 million in college scholarships for art students, community grants to support local art and performance organizations, art education grants, and funding for many amazing public art projects you can see all around Edmonds. For more information, visit www.edmondsartsfestival.com.
(Information in this article comes from Crisse’s artist statement in the 1985 Edmonds Arts Festival program and her obituary on Legacy.com.)