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Westcott Bay Institute, Visual Arts Museum agree to merger

From left, Visual Arts Museum President Pam Nichols and Westcott Bay Institute President Nina Le Baron. Their organizations have agreed to merge. - Submitted photo / Dianne Hall
From left, Visual Arts Museum President Pam Nichols and Westcott Bay Institute President Nina Le Baron. Their organizations have agreed to merge.
— image credit: Submitted photo / Dianne Hall

Westcott Bay Institute for Art & Nature and the Visual Arts Museum of San Juan County will merge and create a new organization under a new name.

The merger means both organizations will work together to build an accredited county arts museum, preferably in Friday Harbor. Proponents say an accredited arts museum could attract traveling art and cultural exhibits from major metropolitan museums. This would allow San Juan County residents to take advantage of arts opportunities provided elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest, they say.

Westcott Bay Institute operates Westcott Bay Sculpture Park in Roche Harbor and the Island Museum of Art on Spring Street. The Visual Arts Museum has long proposed building an accredited arts museum in Friday Harbor. It has organized arts presentations in Friday Harbor, established a relationship with The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and initiated discussions with county officials regarding locating a museum within a future county administration building.

For the past seven months, Westcott Bay Institute and Visual Arts Museum have been discussing ways in which they could better serve the community by working together.

In a retreat held July 13, the boards of the two organizations agreed to a full merger effective Jan. 1 and to begin partnering immediately. The two groups will share a booth at the San Juan County Fair Aug. 13-16 and will continue with all their planned educational programs, exhibitions, lectures and shows.

“We’ll be forming a new organization with a new name and a combined board but the basic missions of the two organizations are so synergistic that merging missions will be transparent to the public,” Westcott Bay President Nina Le Baron and Visual Arts Museum President Pamela Nichols announced in a joint press release.

“The new organization will be committed to having a museum in Friday Harbor eligible for accreditation that provides outstanding visual arts exhibits, experiences, lectures and education.”

Le Baron said the sculpture park will continue to be the “crowning jewel” of the combined organization.

Westcott Bay Institute’s directors are Suzy Pingree, Peg Gerlock, Beth Nicholson, Misty Todd, Sheila Webb, and Le Baron. The Visual Arts Museum’s trustees are George Johnson, Marilyn Luckman, Bo Turnage, and Nichols.

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