By Gail Cole
Enter BARN and you’ll be met with a smile. The Bainbridge Artisans Resource Network is being built on community, and welcoming new people into that community is central to the organization’s mission. But the welcoming atmosphere is not just the result of a mission statement; it comes from the hearts of the people involved. Back in 2012, a group of woodworkers from the Bainbridge Island Community Woodshop joined forces with a handful of fiber artists, jewelers and other artisans.
They had an idea that, together, they could create something special. Exactly what that was, they didn’t know. So they borrowed a van and set off in search of inspiration. They traveled to Everett to see the Schack Art Center. They visited the Pratt Fine Arts Center, the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center and other facilities in Seattle. Everywhere they went, they saw creative people involved in interesting projects. They found inspiration, but not quite what they were looking for.
What they wanted was a place where community could gather to create art and exchange ideas, lend a hand and share experience. They wanted a space with open doors, where people of all ages, backgrounds and levels of experience could come together to inspire and learn from one another. And in a remarkably short period of time, they’ve built just that. BARN is housed, temporarily, in a cheerful space at 11272 Sunrise Drive in Rolling Bay. They took occupancy last March and held their first classes in June. Since then, hundreds of people have attended BARN classes in fiber arts, metalwork, jewelry making and woodworking.
Students have worked with 3D printers and laser cutters. They’ve established connections, worked on a variety of community service projects and made friends. This summer, BARN will break ground on their new home in the center of Bainbridge. The state-of-the-art facility, designed by Johnpaul Jones, will boast 5,000 square feet of woodshop, plus additional spaces for printmaking, weaving, jewelry, welding, metalwork, writing and more. Opening is set for 2017. There will be a commercial kitchen, as well as open spaces in which to share art, meals and ideas.
The central island location is not haphazard. From its inception, BARN, a nonprofit led by a volunteer board of directors, has worked toward creating a multi-generational community, and the new facility will be close to numerous schools and after-school programs. All classes are open to anyone age 14 or older, and the board welcomes new ideas for programming. Conversations about opportunities to partner with the parks department, schools, senior center and local businesses are ongoing. Anyone, young or old, wishing to teach a craft or learn a subject not already offered is encouraged to inquire and make a proposal. Core to BARN is the desire to pass on learned skills to a new generation.
The enthusiasm of the community is palpable, and it is for the community that many people are there. Jason Devinney, a skilled weaver with a studio in his own home, said simply, “I don’t need to come here, but I do.” He spread out a newly completed piece of weaving that, he said, never would have been created in his home studio. But evening after evening, at BARN, he brought it to life. Jewelry artist Jane Martin echoed that sentiment, noting that when working on jewelry at home, “I am on the edge of what I don’t know.”
Teaching her craft to others “makes me braver.” Learning, teaching, sharing, connecting. As BARN board president Jeanne Huber said, “When you get together and build things with your hands, with other people, you make connections.” She and the rest of the BARN community invite us all to help build BARN.