A short history of the Edmonds Arts Festival and FoundationOver five decades of supporting the arts in the Pacific Northwest
Since the beginning of this beloved community event in 1957-58, it has been the dedication of individuals, businesses and artists who give of their time and resources that has produced one of the Northwest’s premier exhibitions of juried art: the Edmonds Arts Festival.
Determined to create an invitational art exhibit for Edmonds, the members of the Coterie Club of Edmonds produced the event on funds from their own pockets that first year. It wasn’t until 1976 that the Festival actually made a profit: a mere $75. Now sponsors and hundreds of outstanding volunteers put on this event, which has become a year-round endeavor and a valuable source of funding for art education and public art that enrich our community.
Once the Festival began to make a profit, the Festival leadership created the Edmonds Arts Festival Museum, a non-profit organization (now known as the Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation) that became the primary benefactor of the Festival’s profits.
With funding now available, the Foundation set to work to promote and support the local arts community with grants and scholarships. It also began the development and exhibition of its own art collection in space rented from the City of Edmonds in the Frances Anderson Cultural and Leisure Center.
By 1989, the EAF Foundation had amassed the funds to donate its first piece of public art to the City of Edmonds: “Locals,” a bronze sculpture grouping by Georgia Gerber, located on the waterfront walkway. Since then, the Foundation has commissioned and donated several other public artworks including Robert Cooke’s “Beach Launch,” located at South Brackett’s Landing; Richard Beyer’s “Seeing Whales,” located at the entrance to Olympic Beach; and Benson Shaw’s “Cedar Dreams,” located at the corner of Fifth and Main. Other public art throughout the city has been supported in part or in full by the EAFF. Its Community Grants program also supports public arts maintenance coordinated by the Edmonds Arts Commission.
The Edmonds Arts Festival has moved several times. From its original location at the Surf and Sand Marina Building on the waterfront, the Festival moved to the middle of Main Street, then to the area now known as the Public Safety Complex, and on to Old Milltown and Dayton Street. It then spent three years on the campus of Holy Rosary School. In 1980, the Francis Anderson Center and adjacent playfield became the home of the Festival, where it continues to thrive.
In 2004, the Foundation procured and renovated a large section of the old Public Works building at 2nd and Dayton, creating ArtWorks, a gathering place for artists and a headquarters for the annual work of both the Festival and Foundation boards. This has become a successful and affordable rental space for exhibits, classes, meetings and other artistic endeavors.
Programs of the Foundation include university-level scholarships for students in the visual arts, community grants to local arts organizations, and Visual Arts Idea Grants for K-12 educators in the Edmonds School District. Student art has always been a part of the Festival and the outreach of the Foundation; local education in the arts is valued at all levels.
For a complete history of the EAF and the EAFF, get your copy of the book and DVD set “Celebrating 50 Years of the Arts in Edmonds: The History of the Edmonds Arts Festival, EAF Museum and EAF Foundation.” This comprehensive collection of photos, memorabilia and interviews spans the first 50 years of the Edmonds Arts Festival and is available through the EAFF website. Full of highlights of how the Festival began, as well as how it has grown and been sustained over the years, it culminates with the 50th annual Edmonds Arts Festival celebration in June 2007.
To see what the Edmonds Arts Festival offers each Father’s Day weekend, please visit edmondsartsfestival.com. For more information about the Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation and the history of art in Edmonds, please visit eaffoundation.org.