Separately, local artists have painted the San Juans as a destination for the arts, but together, they hope to make a more vivid collage.
The San Juan County Arts Council sponsored a summit on May 15 at Brickworks to showcase presentations of local art organizations and discuss how island artists can work on promotions and funding.
“I knew when I moved here there was a strong arts community, but it seems we’d be so much stronger if we worked together,” said Peter Lane, board member of the San Juan Islands Museum of Art.
About 11 volunteers from local and state art organizations – including the SJIMA, San Juan Island Artisans and the Washington State Arts Commission – introduced their groups and brainstormed on how they could collaborate. Claire Wright, of the San Juan County Arts Council Board, spearheaded the event and called the evening a “needs assessment” for the local arts community.
Lane suggested that SJIMA’s website could promote other local art organizations by listing their contact information.
Karen Cantrell-Palmer, with the Friday Harbor Film Festival, advocated making a county arts calendar to ensure events don’t compete with each other, as well as to create joint advertising opportunities. The film festival, said Cantrell-Palmer, is three days in November, but the organization prints an event guide, which is distributed on the Washington State Ferries, by Labor Day. She suggested other organizations could be included in the guide.
Nancy Spaulding, with the San Juan Island Artists’ Studio Tour, echoed the notion of group advertising on the ferries.
Local Diane Martindale, who is the first vice-chairwoman of the Washington State Arts Commission, or ArtsWA, discussed grant opportunities for island artists. The San Juan County Arts Council Board could apply to receive state funds to award artists. In this scenario, the arts council would not receive grants, only the ability to support local artists, as to avoid a conflict of interest. Martindale also mentioned that when state art organizations, like ArtsWA, receive state funds, they are typically awarded federal monies as well.
Barbara Marrett, with the San Juan Island Washington Visitors Bureau, explained that artists can promote events on the bureau’s website, which receives more than 1 million visits a year. She suggested that once an annual event is underway, members should set a date for the next one to ensure they make it into publications with early deadlines.
Most of the organizations’ members discussed the need for volunteers, including the fine art, photography and craftsman exhibits at the San Juan County Fair, as well as the San Juan Island Artisans, who sponsor the craft show at the Friday Harbor Elementary School after Thanksgiving.
Others discussed new happenings with their organizations. The San Juan County Arts Council is developing a mentorship program in the winter to pair young artists with professionals on San Juan, Orcas and Lopez. The Alchemy Arts Center on San Juan plans to have an artist in residence, soon, to hold casting classes. The Friday Harbor Film Festival volunteers will hold their annual Oscar night fundraiser at the San Juan Community Theatre in 2019, on the night of the Oscars, as opposed to before the event in previous years.
Wright said she would create a report on suggestions discussed at the meeting. Marrett, like most at the event, was hopeful for the bigger picture attendees were just starting to paint.
“I think we really do have a thriving arts community,” she said, “We just need to water the flowers a little more and support each other.”