To an outsider, the new home of North Bend Art & Industry may not look like much.
With its plain white walls, wood trim and overhead lights, the roughly 200 square foot room, which the arts nonprofit now leases, feels more like a conference room for business types than a space for creativity and expression.
Yet, after two years of searching, the room on Main Avenue near downtown North Bend finally gives Art & Industry members something they’ve never had before — a space to call their own.
It’s far from just a room, said Deb Landers, one of Art & Industry’s founding members. It’s a major milestone toward their ultimate mission of building a regional center for arts in the Snoqualmie Valley.
“This may look like it’s just a room, but it means much more than that,” she said. “It is space to teach, learn, create, collaborate, and a starting place for [Art & Industry] to grow.”
North Bend Art & Industry, a nonprofit arts group run by about a dozen core members, has grown steadily since Beth Burrows, owner of the North Bend Theater and a proponent of community arts, founded the group in 2019. Yet, until early May, they never had their own space.
Over the past few years, Art & Industry members have worked to promote and connect local artists, teach classes and increase access to art in the region across a variety of mediums. The group holds painting and craft workshops and a writers group, and has sponsored large community projects such as the new North Bend-themed mural on Main Avenue.
The group is just as much about highlighting the large number of talented artists in the Valley as it is about retaining the Valley’s “deep sense of community” through local arts, Landers said.
“[It’s] about all of the really talented artists, but also the need for more art in the Snoqualmie Valley,” she said. “And filling the gap for more art, exposure to art and experience with art in this area that has less access than more urban areas.”
The group was just getting its footing when the pandemic struck, Landers said. They used the standstill to undergo a transformation, looking at ways to sustainably grow in the future. They formed several committees focused primarily on outreach, community connections, education and curriculum.
Coming out the pandemic, their work continued to expand, and demand for their classes has also grown, said Ellen Rowan, another founding member.
“It was interesting to see coming on the tail end of Covid how badly people wanted to come together and make art together,” she said. “Whether they claim to be artists or not, people want to come and make things together.”
Now with their new space, board members said it opens up the door for even more possibilities. They can get out in the community more, improve visibility and expand programming opportunities — especially for youth — and get to work on more community art projects.
Without a permanent home for the past four years, the group had been “popcorning” around to hold classes or events. They often partnered with a local business or the library to hold classes during their slow days.
And while they can still do that, having their own space eases some of the uncertainty and restriction. Now classes can happen whenever a teacher is available, and putting on artist showcases is easier. Maker meetups and art supply swaps, previously held at the train depot, can also now be held there. There are plans for the room’s bare walls to soon be covered with art and a mural of Art & Industry’s logo.
And even though it may not be the group’s dream space, Sarah Hughes, another board member, thinks of it like a plant ready for its next step.
“It starts from a seed and then it sprouts and it gets to the point where you have to put it in a bigger pot. We’re in our first pot now,” she says.
Check it out
North Bend Art & Industry will host an open house on June 24 at 209 Main Ave. S in North Bend.