Art explosion rocks Blaine

Published on Thu, Jun 7, 2001 by Brendan Shriane

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Art explosion rocks Blaine

By Brendan Shriane

When Joseph Drayton, a civilian artist on Charles Wilkes’ voyage to chart the northwest in 1838, sailed into the harbor that would come to bear his name, he must have been awed by the beauty of the pristine body of water, almost completely surrounded by towering evergreens.

Delores Jordan, organizer of Drayton Harbor Arts thought it would be appropriate to commemorate the artist the harbor is named after. More than a hundred and sixty years later, Jordan and a handful of other Blaine residents are creating a place to make and display art in Blaine with a gallery and workspace that will be called Blaine Open Studio.

Jordan and her group have been given use of almost the entire first floor of the Blaine Trade Center in downtown Blaine by local landlord and banker Ken Kellar. Her financially strapped organization, which depends on membership fees, had wanted to pay a percentage of total sales as rent but had no takers before Kellar offered to donate the space. “He said he believed in artists and gave us the space,” Jordan said.

Right now, Jordan and the other members of Drayton Harbor Art are filling up their new space with art from the local community. For the big grand opening, tentatively set for June 29, Jordan promises the gallery will be full of art from all skill and experience levels. She says the Open Studio will give people a place to hang their art and a place for camaraderie. “It’s the fellowship – the inspiration of being around other artists that is important,” Jordan said.

Jordan has been painting for about 10 years. Her art education is mostly pieced together from classes she’s taken at Western Washington University and other places. She had taken so many classes people new to painting would ask her which teachers, schools and classes were worth their time. Jordan wanted to organize and connect artists of all levels, so she began organizing art classes around Blaine, including Monday night meetings at the Free Unitarian Church.

The response has been tremendous. “People are so happy they don’t know where to scratch,” Jordan said. Students come from as far away as Seattle to take classes. “We’re about education. We want to bring arts into the community. We believe the arts make a community strong,” Jordan said.

Drayton Harbor Art also organizes 5 day, 5 night painting excursions on the M.V. Tahoma. The trips provide space on deck for students to set up their easels while sailing through the San Juan Islands. Students receive instruction on painting the scenery of the islands and its wildlife, including orca whales.

“It’s a very good thing for the community. We’re hoping it’ll be a marketing tool and bring arts into the community,” said Nick Bartlett, owner of the Tahoma.

On Peace Portal Drive, Charlene Zucca has a similar vision for Blaine. Zucca is converting the former Bordertown Tavern into an art gallery, a physical manifestation of Blaine’s transformation into an artsy urbane town trying to snare tourist dollars and attract retirees.

“Some people might think Blaine’s the end of the earth, but a lot of people come here because they want to find a place like this,” Zucca said.

“Blaine has so much potential. It’s like an unburnished gem. It’s ready to be uncovered.” Zucca wants to give people something to do, a destination for tourists and locals. “There’s not a lot of reasons to get off the freeway right now.”

The new gallery on the first floor of the 1909 stone building at the foot of the freeway exit will be home to the works of local painters, sculptors, potters and weavers. “There are painters and artists all around and you can see why with all the scenery,” she said.

The space is also large enough to host concerts and recitals. Zucca, like Jordan, will have space devoted to teaching. Two large rooms adjoining the gallery will be available for art instructors to rent.

Zucca would like to have an opening to coincide with the Fourth of July weekend. There won’t be a lot of hoopla. “One day I’m just going to open the door and say come on in when you have the time,” she said.

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