Spotlight on art in First Street revival

First St. business owners, from foreground, Nina LeBaron, Dan and Diane Levin, Winnie Brumsickle and Leah Altmann, Rhonda Scott.    - Scott Rasmussen
First St. business owners, from foreground, Nina LeBaron, Dan and Diane Levin, Winnie Brumsickle and Leah Altmann, Rhonda Scott.
— image credit: Scott Rasmussen

By Steve WehrlyJournal reporter

Forty years ago, Dan Levin's New Renaissance jewelry design shop was featured in the Los Angeles Times under the headline, “Artists and Shops Save Cannery Row” in Newport Beach, Calif.

Dan Levin, who likes sayings (“Fear can save your life, but as a strategy for life, it sucks”) thinks that headline sounds just about right for what’s happening on the hillside north of Friday Harbor's Spring Street, where the “Dan Levin Originals” workshop and showroom has been a fixture for 27 years.

There are now four art-related businesses in a row on the east side of North First Street.

Heading uphill from Herb’s Tavern: “9,” a gallery for Northwest island art and gifts, opened on the Fourth of July by architect/artist Nina Pellar LeBaron; Momentum Handbag, opened two weeks ago as a workshop/studio by leatherworker Winnie Brumsickle; Dan Levin Originals, where Levin and Diane Levin create fine jewelry “known and sold all over the world” and Vital Elements, a two-year-old mixed-media craft supply shop which is also a workshop and studio for owner Rhonda Scott’s Retro Rose Design.

All four women and Dan are enthusiastic and optimistic. After three tough recession years, Levin says, “We’ve been tested and we’ve found we can survive and thrive. People are starting to dream again. I heartily welcome my new neighbors.”

LeBaron, Brumsickle and Scott are happy to be those new neighbors.

Brumsickle, after several years of making handbags and leather goods at home and selling them from home and on the internet, said, “I’m delighted at the response and love interacting with locals and tourists. I’m looking forward to a great summer season. I'm totally jazzed.”

Scott, who opened her shop in 2010 and sells her own jewelry and craft supplies and “findings” for mixed media art, said, “The past two months have been terrific. This is what I’ve been working for, and I think having four shops together will work for all of us.”

Scott is bringing in work of five local craftspeople, and is planning on starting classes for jewelry and related crafts later this year.

LeBaron, who was director of the Westcott Bay sculpture park at Roche Harbor after a career in architecture and design in New York and San Francisco, thinks her gallery has opened at “just the right time, in just the right place.”

Located in the space formerly occupied by Garuda & I, “9” carries paintings, photo-art, sculpture, glass, and fabric arts —all from the San Juan Islands. LeBaron’s goal is to support island artists. Notable artists include Lopez Island sculptor Ron Norman, Orcas Island jewelry and clothing designer Sallie Bell and San Juan Island photographer John Miller.

LeBaron welcomes her new neighbors and looks forward to more studio and gallery openings on First Street and elsewhere.

“The more the better,” she says, “including the Art Market at the Brickworks, which will benefit us all.”

LeBaron and her First Street neighbors have decided to hold a “Thursday Evening Art Walk” to complement the Brickworks Art Market, also held on Thursday evening.

Stay tuned-in to art. The “New Renaissance on First Street” may spread.


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