Waterworks to take final bow on this year’s studio tour

The studio, home and collective of artists has long been a centerpiece of Vashon’s artists’ studio tours.

For decades, island artists Christine and Darsie Beck have welcomed islanders into their Maury Island home and studio during Vashon’s twice-yearly artists’ studio tours — transforming it into a vibrant exhibition space for their artwork as well as the work of dozens of their island friends and colleagues.

The studio, home and collective of artists, all called Waterworks, has long been a centerpiece of the tours, featuring meticulously made art in multiple mediums — a one-stop shop to find original works representing the breadth and depth of Vashon’s vibrant art community.

But in a bittersweet move, the Becks, now both well into their 70s, have announced that this year’s holiday tour will be the last call for Waterworks — a chance for islanders, said Christine, to “catch us while you can.”

That catchphrase, first coined by Christine as the title for a 2018 exhibit at Open Space that featured many of Vashon’s most venerable and longtime artists, seems more apt than ever in the case of Waterworks’ finale.

For this year’s tour — slated for the first two weekends in December — the Becks and Waterworks artists are pulling out all the stops.

Waterworks, in keeping with a festive and community-minded tradition, will kick off the tour with a preview party at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1 — a chance for Vashon’s arts community to gather, exchange hugs and smiles, and take one last look at the magic that the Becks created every year for the tours.

The party will feature the unveiling of the Waterworks’ annual “Artist’s Tree” standing just inside the door to the studio — a dazzling evergreen festooned with lights and small, inexpensive artworks by each member of the Waterworks collective.

Deeper inside the house-turned-studio, visitors can peruse the work of 16 Waterworks artists, joined by guest artist Sharon Munger, founder of Barnworks and a beloved matriarch of the Vashon arts scene.

Other Waterworks artists this year include Lindsay Aickin, Bob Horsley, Ginny Siszek, John Moore, Jeaneen Bauer, Ken Fulton, Kate Rutherford, Kathleen Webster, Lin Holley, Carol Lux, Steve Silva, Zoe Cheroke, Yuchen Lin, and Jan Kittleson.

Christine, a ceramicist and photographer who also worked as a licensed private investigator, is revered for her role as one of the “founding mothers” of Vashon Allied Arts, now known as Vashon Center for the Arts.

With others in the 1970s and 80s, Beck established support systems for artists on Vashon that are still in place today — and throughout the years, she’s remained a driving force in the island’s visual arts community.

In 2015, Beck helped incorporate the twice-yearly Vashon Island Studio Tour into a nonprofit corporation, only to take a leading role in renaming and expanding the nonprofit three years later into Vashon Island Visual Artists (VIVA) — a now thriving membership organization made up of 300 local artists. Its programs include not only studio tours but also a scholarship program for young artists and opportunities to network throughout the year.

All along the way, Christine has won acclaim for her beautiful and functional pottery — pieces crafted from cone 6 porcelain with glazes including traditional celadon, bisque black and Japanese-inspired dot/sweep designs.

Her work has been widely exhibited, both on Vashon and beyond, at the Henry Art Gallery, Cheney Cowles Museum, Pacific Northwest Craft Gallery, and other venues. She has worked, throughout her career, as a teaching artist.

Darsie, who describes himself as an “everyday artist,” has also had a long and fruitful career as a teaching artist, author and stone carver. He is best known for his travel journals, filled with images and drawings inspired by the maritime environment that surrounds his island home. He had long inspired others to adopt his meditative practice of daily drawing and journaling.

Both Darsie and Christine said they are looking forward to hosting Waterworks’ last hurrah.

“Studio tour means various things to each guest, artist or musician,” Christine said. “But for me, the magic starts when we all come together to set up a week ahead of the tour and it’s just us — gossiping, laughing, catching up. Then there the party and that’s a precious blur. And it ends with our potluck that includes our artists, spouses and a few add-ons.”

Darsie said he shared Christine’s fond recollections of working with Waterworks artists and experiencing the hustle and bustle of the tour.

“It’s all magic — but these memories are the best,” he said.

The Vashon Island Holiday Studio Art Tour, featuring 40 studios and galleries filled with the work of more than 100 local artists, takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, Dec. 2, 3, 9 and 10. For a full-color brochure detailing all the artwork and studio stops on the tour, visit vivartists.com. Waterworks, located at 7012 SW 240th St, is stop #9 on the tour.