A blend of earthy reggae and jazz melodies from Seattle-based The High Council will fill the air Aug. 3, during the opening night of the San Juan Summer Arts Festival.
“This is our third annual event, and there are more vendors than ever – and bigger music names,” said Claire Wright, San Juan Art Council board member and director of the festival.
Entrance to the event is free, and all ages are welcome. It takes place every Friday throughout August at Brickworks in Friday Harbor from 4-10 p.m. The music kicks of at 5 p.m., with a local band like Savio Farrel, Aug. 10, The Jesus Chords, Aug. 17, and River Rye, Aug. 31. Each local act will be followed by guest musicians. A few visiting bands include Purr Gato, Aug. 10.; John Welsh and Los Valientes, Aug. 17.; and, coming all the way from Arkansas, Adam Faucett and the Hoyer Brothers, Aug. 31. Wright noted that each of these groups can be found on Spotify or Pandora for those wanting to listen to the tunes beforehand. Food and beverages will be available for purchase including beer from San Juan Island Brewing Company, wine from the Doe Bay Wine Company and spirits from San Juan Island Distillery. Interactive booths featuring a hands-on creation station, henna tattoos and tarot card readings will also set up.
There are still a couple of vendor slots available on Aug. 31, Wright noted, but anyone interested should apply soon.
“The festival actually started out as the Friday Harbor Art Market,” Wright said, explaining the market was the first place she publicly marketed her textile work. Now, years later, she runs a successful business, Cosecha Textiles/Sew On and Sew On, and hopes the summer festival gives new up and coming artists the same chance. Besides providing economic opportunities, Wright said the event creates a festive atmosphere where friends and families can come together.
The festival is the primary fundraiser for the nonprofit San Juan County Art Council. One of the council’s goals, according to its mission statement, is to make San Juan County and the San Juan Islands become an arts destination.
The arts, explained Wright, could create a more sustainable economy, drawing visitors year-round, rather than just the summer months.
The council also works with several other local art organizations to fund a wide variety of community art projects. School budgets have been cut, for example, so the art council stepped up to provide additional money to ensure island students could continue to learn about art and culture in the local schools.
Looking to the future, Wright’s intention, she said, is to increase revenue from the festival so that the council may continue funding the arts throughout the county, even possibly joining Washington’s Citizen’s Access Initiative. This initiative would be put on a San Juan County ballot, proposing a small tax that would be funneled back to the community as funding for art and cultural projects and events. Should voters approve of the measure, this money could be used as additional support for school art projects, museums or the annual First Nations canoe journey.
“The arts festival has really put funds in the San Juan County Arts Council’s bank account, which has helped us benefit the arts throughout the islands,” Wright said, adding, “It is amazing how much talent is in this community.”