LETTER: Are grassroots arts welcome at island arts center?

Something is happening. The vibrant grassroots arts community on this Island, it seems, is no longer needed. It appears the board of the new Vashon Center for the Arts (VCA) may actually wish to ignore the local arts community. This is the impact of the board’s recent unilateral decision to close the Heron’s Nest; the uptown multiple-artist gallery shop next to Herban Bloom. It is simply gone.

For several years now, the Heron’s Nest has served faithfully as the important gallery for all artists on Vashon Island. Staffed by a professional curator and in-store volunteers, the Nest provided a professional space for year-round local art exhibitions and sales. The space was unique, because unlike the main gallery at VCA, it was inclusive, showing the work of many island artists together and with VCA support. Whereas, the main gallery in the Center has limited exhibition dates, awarded only to the lucky few, and is not exclusively for Vashon artists.

The many artists and the community which supports them deserve respect and a voice. True, the new building does add to our existing vibrant art culture. It is not, however, a reason or excuse for the board to refuse to fund the Heron’s Nest. This closure serves to limit presentation of local art to non-galleries, such as restaurants, coffee houses and to periodic Art Tour weekends.

What I really wonder is if closure of the gallery space at the Heron’s Nest is indicative of the board’s intent to have the new Center be exclusively a high-brow, high-price venue? Is there a new attitude about who the Center will serve? My protest is that to change the presentation of the arts on Vashon by a wholesale and exclusive minded makeover is just not called for and will likely not pass muster on Vashon.

— Lori Kay Gustavson

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