Visitors to Edmonds don’t have to go far to experience the city’s artistic vibe. It’s all around town, from visual arts in public spaces and businesses to music and theater events at a variety of venues to workspaces where artisans can focus on their creations.
“My first impression of Edmonds was actually getting off the ferry,” says artist Clark Wiegman on encountering the city after a hike with his partner back in the 1980s. “It just felt so European to me; just this kind of downtown enclave that was there.”
Wiegman, who is based in Seattle, was selected in 2020 to commission public art as part of the City of Edmonds’ Civic Park Redevelopment. The piece, a boat sculpture suspended from the park’s prominent shade structure, and also an adjacent 12’x20’ wall, is titled “cascadia — seawall and lifeboat.” Wiegman, a frequent visitor to the city, is partial to the park due to its central location and its layout, which allows for a variety of activities, giving people from all walks of life access to green space. “I think it will be a real, as I’ve described it, a ‘crowning jewel’ to [Edmonds’] impressive network of parks and waterways,” he says.
Wiegman’s commission is just one part of the city’s larger design for the Edmonds Creative District. A vibrant pedestrian corridor is taking shape, directly connecting the bustling businesses of downtown to Edmonds Center for the Arts, a venue that brings nationally recognized musicians and theatrical performances to a space that offers audiences an intimate feel.
That intimacy is inherent in events like Arts Walk Edmonds, a chance to interact with local artists and gallery owners, walk around town with scores of other art lovers and enjoy dinner at a locally owned restaurant where the food and craft cocktails reflect the artful nature of the town.
“The strength of the Creative District is uniting everyone under one umbrella for maximum impact,” says artist Tracy Felix, who co-owns art store ARTspot and is on the board of directors for Art Walk Edmonds.
For Cole Gallery owner Denise Cole, it’s exciting for the community to finally have its art scene recognized. “We are known to be a city who values the arts and a great place for artists to connect, show and experience art,” she says. Arts and culture manager Frances Chapin points to the array of art experiences available — including dance, painting, food, beverage, poetry and garden design – which gives residents and visitors a taste of the creative sector as a whole.
Art can also be found in many of the district’s businesses, from banking to real estate, in an effort to support the creative community — as well as a Third Thursday Art Walk. “The independent businesses here are incredibly supportive of local artists,” says Felix. “You never know where your interactions with local artists will lead.”
Chapin emphasizes that both individual artists and cultural organizations are increasing the visibility of the arts in many ways. For example, the annual Studio Tour, which includes longtime arts advocate and prolific painter d’Elaine Johnson, still active at age 90, and the Edmonds Waterfront Center, where an exterior welcoming figure by Tulalip carver Ty Juvinel, unveiled late October, adds to its interior exhibits of Coast Salish art. Newly opened nonprofit art center Graphite combines artist studios, gallery space, an art library, workshops and more to engage a diverse community.
“Artists are excited to be a part of our Creative District,” says Cole, whose gallery recently hosted its annual Edmonds Plein Air Paint Out, with 33 juried-in artists who painted Edmonds. “We ended up showing 83 paintings capturing the beaches, city, parks, forests and marshland of Edmonds. It was a wonderful way to showcase regional talent and to give artists an event to paint together outdoors and show their art here at my gallery.”
Wiegman is struck by the infusion of art around the city and the effort to bring different mediums and art spaces directly to Edmonds locals and visitors. “We did a little walking tour of downtown, and I was really impressed with a range of projects there that were woven into the urban fabric,” he says.
Art and artists steadily flow through the district, renewing the experience over and over of exhibits, art walks, music, and art events that are integrated into local businesses and a vibrant dining scene. “The arts can be a common language that brings so much cultural diversity to the urban fabric,” Wiegman says, “and I think that it all makes life worth living, quite frankly.”
The Edmonds Creative District is a traditional, walkable small-city downtown featuring a rich mix of arts, culture, creative-sector businesses, public gathering spaces, and historic structures — all on the shores of Puget Sound with panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains.