Seeking Peace

Creative conundrums at Anacortes Arts Festival


What: Anacortes Arts Festival

Where: Throughout Anacortes


WHEN: Aug. 2-4

Cost: Entry is free


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

At first blush, it might not appear that an artist-driven exhibit responding to the alarming phenomenon of mass shootings in the United States fits into Anacortes Arts Festival’s latest theme, “Peace, Love and Art.”

However, the 30-plus Skagit Valley artists who helped create the “Say Their Names” exhibit as part of the Anacortes Regeneration Project would probably disagree. The nearly 1,000 individual ceramic rocks that will be displayed in a nine-foot-high cairn as part of the “Arts at the Port” fine art show at the Port of Anacortes Warehouse will each be etched with the name, event and age of individuals killed in 84 mass shootings in America—including 57 children who have died since the beginning of 2019, and 40 Washington state first responders.

Project organizers are guessing this stark reminder of loss—alongside ceramic castings of guns collected in a public turn-in that were disabled on-site with the aid of a blacksmith’s forge—will be a catalyst for sparking honest dialogue.

“It is our hope that as weapons are regenerated into art, and names of victims are remembered, we can regenerate conversation away from one rooted in confrontation to one that strives for solutions,” they say.

With additional funding, it’s their goal the intriguing installation will have life beyond the festival, enabling it to travel to other communities where citizens, especially students, can host it to raise awareness of gun violence in the United States.

It’s probable “Say Their Names” won’t be the only conversation-starter patrons of the arts will encounter Aug. 2-4 during the 58th annual festival. Other aspects of “Arts at the Port,” including a juried exhibition that features the works of 55 artists selected by Joanna Sikes—the director of La Conner’s Museum of Northwest Art—are also sure to elicit discussion, as is “Voices of the Children,” a collaborative installation by area youth featuring beautiful butterflies bearing important messages.

Creative conundrums will abound throughout the weekend, but whether you’re coming for a few hours or exploring the happenings over the course of three days, rest assured you’ll find something to pique your interest.

In addition to checking out the offerings by hundreds of booth artisans spanning 10 blocks, another big draw of the festival is the Working Studios. Here, a range of artists demonstrate their creative processes to the public, offering a close look at what typically happens behind closed doors. This year, highlights include prominent painter Alfred Currier putting final touches on the last of 12 murals in the Tommy Thompson Mural Project, and graffiti artists Eric Gonzalez and Leo Salazar sharing their painting prowess.

Food Truck Alley, live music and performances from more than 40 acts on three stages, multiple beer gardens, welcoming merchants and eateries along the festival route and plenty of activities for kids will keep you busy. And additional art exhibits in venues such as the Scott Milo Gallery, the Anacortes Public Library, the Good Stuff Arts, Burton Jewelers, Red Salon Aveda, Pelican Bay Bookstore, and the Majestic Inn and Spa will enhance the experience.

“With the support that you offer through purchases and donations this weekend, the Anacortes Arts Festival is able to give back to creative programs year-round in our community,” festival director Meredith McIlmoyle says. “With more than $65,000 gifted this year to arts organizations, youth art programs, art in schools, public art, and artists, we feel genuinely grateful to be a part of your weekend.”

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