Every month a group of individuals gather at the ArtWorks building in Edmonds and create a casual salon-like atmosphere where artists can meet, network and share ideas. Dozens of artists working in all mediums show up, and there is a monthly program, taught often by members, that delves into various skills and ideas relevant to the pursuit and creation of art.
The next class is today.
The name of the group says it all: Artists Connect is a place where artists (from hobbyists to professionals) come together, encourage one another and foster a world of creativity.
“It started as a project of the Edmonds Art Festival Foundation, whic owns ArtWorks,” explained member Tonnie Wolfe, who is also one of the program chairs. “They wanted to support artists by providing free space for meeting to support one another. The group is loosely structured, totally run by volunteers with no elected officers.”
Artists Connect runs on a egalitarian basis, and its annual nonjuried show, held each July, accepts work from any member.
“The group is made up of experienced artists, as well as those who are interested in art, but don't see themselves as artists ... yet,” Wolfe said.
Artists Connect started in 2004 with 16 members, and has grown to include more than 200 members from communities across Puget Sound. Although members cover a broad range of experience and artistic mediums, they are drawn together by the simple desire to connect with, and learn from, one another.
Meetings are held on the fourth Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon, and have a loose structure to encourage networking and dialogue. The first half-hour is spent on business: announcements such as the sharing of upcoming shows and classes. The second half-hour is networking time, allowing people to chat, exchange numbers and talk about their work.
The rest of the meeting is dedicated to the program, which consists of an artist or two (often group members) donating their time to speak to the group about a specific topic. Topics can be as broad as “inspiration” or as detailed as the planned program in November, which will consist of a panel of members discussing how form and line inform their work.
The idea of a group of artists gathering together can be intimidating, but should not deter the curious from dropping in on a meeting. For members like Wolfe, the pursuit of art was internally driven, and with the support and encouragement of members she was able to turn mere thoughts into a reality.
“When I first started going to AC meetings, I did not consider myself to be an artist,” she noted. “I was always creative, but had a lifelong career as a nurse. I wanted to explore art ... It was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore my interest. I started going to the meetings and met artists there. I started taking some of the classes that members offered. The first AC show I was in, I hung three pieces of work; that was a huge step for me, personally.”
Wolfe says she was able to claim an identity as a working artist, and she is now involved in the local art community by participating in shows and teaching.
“Art can be a solitary pursuit,” she said. “It is always helpful to meet other artists and share knowledge, experiences, and resources. There is so much encouragement for someone who is just starting out. The members of this group are amazingly generous with their time, talent and knowledge.”
For more information about the organization or upcoming meetings, visit the Artists Connect website.