One of the hidden strengths of the Wenatchee Valley is that we have a diverse and talented group of visual artists who are using their creativity to enhance our appreciation of this region. They contribute to our economy and also help us see through different eyes the beauty that is all around us.
For many years, an organization called Allied Arts played a pivotal role in supporting artists and building a greater sense of community and collaboration, but that effort ultimately met its demise. Since that time, artists have been doing their work in more or less isolation.
However, some important collaborative efforts were initiated by artists, such as the First Friday Arts Walks in Wenatchee, in which businesses and other organizations displayed local art. Those monthly events brought lots of people downtown to rub elbows with artists and also created deeper connections between community members and local businesses.
But creating a sustainable approach to supporting the visual arts can’t be done on an ad-hoc basis. It requires a more formal approach.
That’s why it’s exciting to see the development of the NCW Arts Alliance in the valley. This has been dreamed about and schemed about for years and it is finally coming to fruition. Recently, I met with a couple of key members of the alliance, Scott Bailey of the Wenatchee Valley College art department and Megan Kappler of Full Circle Theater to learn about this effort. While visual artists are a priority, the organization will be supporting the arts in all forms.
They’ve launched a web site, ncwarts.org that provides a calendar of arts events in the valley as well as other art-related information and also a monthly publication, Artbeart, to share the latest happenings in the art scene.
The effort got a big boost from the Icicle Fund, which financed a strategic plan to help the group get organized and find a focus and approach to get going. Getting the organizing support from the foundation started by Harriet Bullitt was crucial in getting the project off the ground.
Artists face a lot of challenges, including lack of spaces to create their work as well as venues to display what they’ve created.
To their credit, the organization’s board members are focusing on the Arts Alliance becoming a connector for artists and the community as a whole. There was some talk in the past year about the alliance potentially buying a building for artists, but they’ve wisely chosen to focus on being a clearinghouse of information.
Bailey said artists have asked whether the alliance might provide grants to artists, but they’ve chosen to let those artists know where they might apply for grants instead.
Kappler, who works at Columbia Valley Community Health, said it is energizing to get artists in the same room to collaborate and imagine what might be possible to make a bigger impact in our valley.
Kappler said artists are going to thrive the more they think about the “rising tide floats all boats” rather than succumbing to the mindset of being in competition with each other.
Bailey hopes that a way can be found for philanthropically-minded community leaders to start thinking about developing arts venues in the valley. The logical first step before that can happen is developing greater awareness by communicating what’s happening in the arts scene.
Their website is an excellent start at having one place for all of the arts-related information in the valley so that we can minimize the number of times that events are scheduled on top of each other.
I am highly impressed with the practical and cautious approach that the NCW Arts Alliance is taking to build a stronger and more coordinated arts community in our region. Working together makes so much more sense than everyone doing their own thing. To support their work, check out ncwarts.org.
Rufus Woods is the publisher emeritus of The Wenatchee World. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (509) 665-1162.
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