Making it Happen: Expanding the Arts on Whidbey

Posted in Feature, More Stories, Visual Art

This article is reprinted from the Spring, 2015 print issue of Whidbey Life Magazine, content added for this posting.

BY ARRYN DAVIS
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
October 14, 2015

Whidbey Island Arts Council (WIAC) is gaining momentum in its mission to develop, promote and sustain the arts in our island community.

Since 1980, WIAC has assisted emerging arts organizations by providing nonprofit benefits, sponsoring arts events, and offering scholarships and grants. In the past, WIAC has fostered Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, Whidbey Children’s Theatre, Choochokam Festival, Island Shakespeare Festival and many others. Board President Don Wodjenski believes that keeping Whidbey Island artists informed is on a par with supporting emerging arts groups. “Take a look at our renovated website and Facebook page to see how we promote our partner programs,” he said.

This year has brought with it an expanded portfolio of partnerships. Island Consort, a classical music group, became a partner in November 2014. More recently, Whidbey Working Artists joined WIAC and they have organized an all-island studio tour. Whidbey Art Trail, Whidbey Island Music Festival and the Poetry Slam with Jim Freeman fuel Whidbey’s economic development in the creative arts industry. Through these collaborations, WIAC hopes to cultivate regional curiosity about the impressive variety of arts that Whidbey has to offer.

The new WIAC also aims to broaden the reach of the Artist-in-Residence (AiR) programs in Whidbey’s public schools. Through community donations, the AiR program has sponsored over 25 artist/teacher partnerships to date, making the arts accessible to young islanders. The goal continues to be expanding the program in the Coupeville School District. Superintendent Jim Shank is enthusiastic about the possibilities: “I have seen how successful art programs such as WIAC’s AiR can be in bringing quality arts instruction into classrooms. Students, teachers and artists all benefit.” AiR programs culminate in the annual Whidbey Festival of the Arts, held during the last weekend in May to celebrate the artistic achievements of students.

South Whidbey resident Betsy Gmerek works on behalf of the AiR program and helps plan the Whidbey Festival of the Arts. “The arts are a vital part of this community, and I love helping the AiR artists, teachers and students experience the joys of creativity.”

WIAC’s efforts to foster a flourishing cultural experience can continue to grow with your help. A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to raise funds for the AiR program; you can find out more and support the program here. To get involved in WIAC or offer your artistic skills to the AiR program, go to www.islandartscouncil.org and follow WIAC on Facebook.

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Image at top: The Whidbey Festival of the Arts, an annual event celebrating arts in the schools, happens every May. (photo by Don Wodjenski)

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