A properly caffeinated après-ski experience is one reason to stay in Twisp, but what I love about the town is its devotion to accessible art (there’s even a real theater, The Merc Playhouse) with a streak of sustainability and social responsibility.
In recent years, the communities of the Methow Valley have begun to explore ways to adapt to climate change as its impacts unfold in the region. The initiatives range from small-scale — like the Mazama Store’s new no-paper-cups policy (patrons have to bring their own reusable mugs or stick to for-here orders) — to expansive, like the climate action plan a local task force is currently developing.
This inventive spirit is visible in Twisp, too. A good place to begin is the town’s Confluence Gallery & Art Center, which hosts eclectic group shows and stocks pieces by local artists — some of which are surprisingly affordable, like a grab-bin of painted rocks starting at 25 cents, and larger pieces from $40, many of them employing reclaimed images and materials.
And though you’ll have to wait for spring to witness it, the gallery also hosts an annual “Trashion” show, a fundraiser in which local artists build couture out of, well, trash, then parade them down a runway in a very Pacific Northwest answer to Fashion Week. A previous entrant currently on view at the gallery is a study in holiday jetsam — wrapping-paper refuse and tinsel transformed into a ruffled outfit that looks like something Shelley Long would’ve worn proudly in “Troop Beverly Hills.”
On a much larger scale, TwispWorks is another testament to Twisp’s knack for recycling and reclamation. Once the town’s ranger station, the property was left vacant when the U.S. Forest Service relocated to nearby Winthrop in 1994.
In 2008, the local community assumed ownership and has since transformed the property into a community hub for artists and small businesses; in fact, Old Schoolhouse Brewery and Fork may be the property’s least interesting tenants. The others include Bristle and Stick Handcrafted Brooms; Nice Nests, which uses reclaimed materials to make nesting boxes (not birdhouses) that accommodate the needs of specific bird species; and local media organizations Methow Valley News and radio station KTRT The Root (97.5 FM). Visitors may be most interested in the Methow Valley Interpretive Center, which offers educational materials on the Methow’s original indigenous communities precolonization, as well as the region’s geological and natural history.
These aren’t things you’ll see if you stick to the ski trails, but even on the Methow Trails, you are — often literally — crossing someone’s backyard. And whether they’re repurposing wrapping paper or an entire ranger-station campus, the community of Twisp and its neighbors in the Methow Valley have found some ingenious ways to recycle what otherwise might be thrown away, and to anticipate the growing realities of climate change. Spend a day off the trail in a town like Twisp and you’ll see that these communities are stewards of this area’s land and history — and its future.
The Merc Playhouse: 101 S. Glover St., Twisp, 509-997-7529; performance information and schedules at mercplayhouse.org
Confluence Gallery & Art Center: 104 S. Glover St., Twisp, 509-997-2787; open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays, closed Tuesdays; current exhibition listings at confluencegallery.com
TwispWorks: 502 S. Glover St., Twisp, 509-997-3300; open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, closed weekends; more information at twispworks.org