Norman Rockwell would have loved Kirkland. Statues of kids playing, a sailor home from the war hugging his family, bounding deer and a coyote...

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Norman Rockwell would have loved Kirkland.

Statues of kids playing, a sailor home from the war hugging his family, bounding deer and a coyote balanced on a cow’s back dot the landscape.

Take a stroll through downtown and it’s hard to avoid: Art is everywhere in this city. It’s being made by artists at the Kirkland Art Center. It’s being displayed at numerous downtown galleries.

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Performance art pours out of local theaters hosting plays, dance companies and musical shows. From a town founded on a steel-mill dream, Kirkland has built a reputation as an Eastside hub for art and culture.

Public art

Some 30 sculptures decorate the city’s parks, plazas and other public places — from abstract pieces in bronze and granite to soaring blue heron and whimsical rabbits. About a dozen are within a half-mile radius of the downtown area, another seven near Carillon Point. Many show people or animals representing playful or poignant emotions.

The city began collecting sculptures about 15 years ago, said Robert Larson, chairman of the Kirkland Cultural Council, which oversees the collection. Some pieces were donated by local arts patrons or organizations, some purchased through residents’ fund-raising efforts and others loaned by local philanthropists.

A number of business and private organizations also display art in public areas near their establishments.

The city is currently raising money to buy three of its most popular pieces that have been on loan since the early 1990s. The three are “Mountain Comrades,” two bears on the corner of Kirkland Avenue and Third Street; “Bounding Muledeer,” a leaping deer on the corner of Lake Washington Boulevard and Lakeview Drive; and “Close Quarters,” two nuzzling rabbits on Central Way and Lake Street.

Art galleries and Art Walk

Kirkland’s downtown includes numerous art galleries, many of which specialize in displaying Northwest and Puget Sound artists.

They include Parklane Gallery, Kirkland’s only artist-owned gallery; Lakeshore Gallery, considered one of the country’s top craft galleries; and Howard/Mandville Gallery, which has been open for more than 30 years and specializes in contemporary paintings.

Galleries stay open late during the monthly Art Walk so Eastsiders can peruse the paintings, drawings and sculptures while nibbling crackers and cheese and sipping beverages. The event is from 6 to 9 p.m. on the second Thursday of every month, year-round.

Kirkland Performance Center

350 Kirkland Ave. Box office: 425-893-9900; administration: 425-828-0422 or

Since the performance center opened in 1998, more than half a million people have walked through its doors, said Steve Lerian, executive director. Events range from well-known musical artists and bands to dramatic productions and dance performances.

Kirkland Art Center

620 Market St., 425 822-7161 or

The Kirkland Art Center, formerly known as the Creative Arts League, has been a staple in the city’s art community for more than 40 years. Housed in the historic two-story brick Peter Kirk Building, the art center’s roots date back to William Radcliffe who was a teacher at Lake Washington School District between 1949 and 1967. Radcliffe rented a studio out of the building and was instrumental in bringing the community together to turn the dilapidated structure into an arts center.

The art center offers a variety of classes and workshops in painting, drawing, sculpture and multimedia for adults and children.

Studio East

402 Sixth St. S., 425-827-3123, or 877-827-1100.

Studio East has been training young actors — as well as entertaining children throughout the region — for more than a dozen years. The studio puts on six productions a year in its 110-seat theater, and offers after-school programs and summer camps. The youth-performance studio serves more than 2,000 students between 4 and 19 years old annually.

Studio East is also home to StoryBook Theater, an adult-performance group which presents fairy-tale productions for young audiences throughout the Puget Sound area.

The International Ballet Theatre

507 Sixth St. S. 425-822-7694 or

Formerly International Youth Ballet, this nonprofit ballet company offers a full program of dance classes to children and adults, including jazz, modern, character dance and tap dance. The theater also has a 30-member dance company, which focuses on classical Russian ballet and produces at least three full-length ballets each year.

Summer concerts

Kirkland Parks and Community Services, 425-587-3350 or

The city will soon kick off its 27th year of entertaining residents with its free Summer Performing Arts Series. The musical performances are from 7 to 8:30 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday at Marina Park Pavilion in downtown Kirkland on the shores of Lake Washington. The series runs July 5 through Aug. 18 with musical genres including soul, swing, salsa, folk, blues, rhythm and blues and pop rock.

The series includes children’s shows at 10 a.m. each Wednesday at the pavilion.

The city will also be hosting Shakespeare in the Park this year. Green Theatre Productions is putting on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” at 7 p.m. July 21-23. The free shows will take place on the lawn behind The North Kirkland Community Center, 12421 103rd Ave. N.E.

Rachel Tuinstra: 206-515-5637 or