News / Blog

Two Weeks of Artist Trust in Port Townsend

Zach Frimmel

Program Coordinator

Cristina Friday

It’s safe to say that 2016 will go down in Artist Trust history as the year that it came and conquered to celebrate thirty years’ worth of supporting its roster of incredible Washington State artists.

Since January, Artist Trust has had a proactive presence in Olympia, Walla Walla, Spokane, Ellensburg, (greater) Seattle, Bellingham, Tacoma, and most recently had the pleasure of spending two weeks in Port Townsend. For those two weeks, we were promoted in the PTLeader and Peninsula Daily News, we served over 50 artists, had over 150 people attend our events, met with the Mayor of Port Townsend, and met with Port Townsend School of the Arts to talk about how we can continue to positively impact the artistic ecosystem of Jefferson County.

From September 10-25th, 9 staff and 20 board members spent a total of 16 consecutive days engaging with the Port Townsend and Sequim communities through programming, special events, and our September board meeting. Like so many rich regions in Washington State, the Olympic peninsula continues to be a hotbed of artistic talent thriving in a community of creatives and arts supporters. Our crew was once again inspired by so many of the artists, professionals, and organizations we connected that we figured we should highlight some of our favorite takeaways, one of which was randomly running into Storme Webber at Siren’s and watching her jaw-dropping rendition of “Me and Mrs. Jones” during karaoke!


The up-and-coming creativity on the Olympic Peninsula was a primary reason why Port Townsend was one of the five stops - previously hitting Spokane, Tacoma, Bellingham, and Seattle - for our free Artist Trust on Tour series. Artist Trust on Tour was our one-time artist exchange program proudly made possible by our presenting partner Seattle Art Fair and our fiscal media sponsor City Arts. Their investment in Artist Trust allowed us to invest the much-needed resources and visibility directly back into artists and their communities for five of Washington State’s most artist-concentrated cities.


  Photo: Annie Holden

Our Port Townsend edition of our Artist Trust on Tour showcased four award-winning artists from the Peninsula and Bellingham. September 15th’s mash-up featured the expertise of Bremerton’s Kazuko Yamazaki   (traditional Japanese dancer) and Linda Bierds (poet), and Bellingham’s Jenna Bean Veatch (filmmaker), and David Feingold (musician). Nearly 50 people witnessed an unforgettable night, as promised, as the performing and talking about their artwork made for an electrifying evening.

Switching gears a bit, over the past year we’ve applied, what we internally call, a “Swat Team” strategy around Artist Trust on Tour. This Swat Team approach means that not only do we have one large event in a city but we also consciously approach these tours from all angles to optimize our programmatic and relationship-building impact, plus gain a better understanding of artists’ needs in the area

That being said, kicking it off for Artist Trust in Port Townsend was our flagship EDGE Professional Development Program, which was a 50+ hour intensive residency that took place from September 10-17th for visual artists and from 18-25th for literary artists. Throughout our partnership with Centrum, 33 mid-career and established artists learned various topics about business acumen while forming a peer support group to stay connected long after program. On the last day of each program the artists were excited to give presentations of their work to their peers and the Port Townsend community.


  Photo: Amy McIntyre

Sandwiched in between the EDGE programs were two 3-hour, topic-based workshops held downtown by two local artists. One was on marketing with Kelsye Nelson offered at the Pope Marine Building, and one on artist statements and resumes with Stephen Yates at Northwind Arts Center. Shout out to Michael D’Alessandro for his generous donation of his space for this workshop and also for an author reading the following week with Elissa Washuta, Kristen Young, and Nicole Hardy.

In Sequim, we offered Office Hours, one of our free grant support programs. We chatted with artists for two hours answering their questions about applying to grants and making Artist Trust’s grant process more transparent.

Studio Visits

Immediately getting into town on the 15th we accepted a studio visit offer with Anne Hirondelle in her gorgeously natural-lighted work space.She made for such great company showing us her series of sculptures and then later treating us to the sweet joys that are apple pears, picked straight from her picturesque backyard. Later that day we went to visit Matthew Nienow’s new warehouse where he runs his woodworking business when he’s not being a poet. Matthew Nienow returned as an instructor for our Literary EDGE program this year and has a new collection of poetry called House of Water, which he read from for our artist salon on Saturday night, but more on that in a minute. Last but certainly not least, after our Office Hours program we decided to make the most of our time in Sequim and visit native artist John Goodwin in his studio to check out some of the great pieces he’s been working on.

Artist Salon

Aside from the Literary EDGE program that would continue for another week, the artist salon at board member Lorraine Wagner’s beautiful waterfront home closed out our time in Port Townsend. The salon functioned to connect board, staff, EDGE participants, and VIP Port Townsenders, champion Matthew Nienow and Margie McDonald, two local artists supported by Artist Trust, and act as a public mission moment.

After some refreshments and socializing, Margie McDonald gave testimony of how she used her 2007 GAP award to participate in our 2007 EDGE program. She lavished praise about her EDGE experience and how it allowed her to construct a networking and skill-sharing platform which strengthened her name and artwork. She was also excited to talk about working under her mentor Sherry Grover, late wife of local artist Max Grover, and how the time spent with her impacted her craft and career.

As mentioned above, Matthew Nienow previewed two poems from his newly published House of Water that was going to be officially released the following week. The magic felt during this experience was twofold; the fact that Nienow had written these poems during a time when he was living on the water, which was the idyllic backdrop while he was reading; and the fact that he was able to have time to write some of these poems after receiving $7,500 for an Artist Trust Fellowship. To see the fruits of his and McDonald’s labor in such an ideal and relevant context had everyone emotionally moved.

It’s worth mentioning that we had some delightful heavy hitters who shared the eventful evening with us: Steve Tharinger (State Representative), Teresa Verraes (Executive Director of the Jefferson County Commission), Judith Bird (co-founder of Port Townsend Wearable Art Show), Michael D’Alessandro (Executive Director of Northwind Arts Center), Christina and Brad Mace (of Simon Mace Gallery), and Anne Hirondelle (local artist) - just to name a few. Thank you all for coming out!

All in all, our trip to Port Townsend was a terrific success, so much so that we’ll be going back again early next year to resume conversations, establish new connections, and provide more programming to artists.

We’d like to again thank all of our partners and supporters for our Port Townsend programs and events: Seattle Art Fair, City Arts, Northwind Arts Center, Centrum, and Amazon Literary Partnership.