By Connie Bye
They Gutted and remade the gallery—and blew up the name.
But folks at The Art Project want you to know that it’s still the island’s heart of art, just as it was when the sign out front said Bainbridge Arts & Crafts.
“This beloved organization, the first and longest-standing art nonprofit on the island, had become a bit like a dear old friend. Someone you love and cherish but perhaps don’t see or keep up with as often as you like,” board member Biz Dailey Allen said in an email interview. The board weighed other factors for its makeover: Some islanders, especially newcomers, were confused about the gallery’s purpose and unaware of its education and outreach programs.
The 70th anniversary provided an opportunity to address all that, Dailey Allen said. “These changes help give people reasons to stop, take a first or second look, and find out more about us.”
The remodel early this year opened up the gallery on Winslow Way. Before, jewelry cases dominated the windows and a wall divided the space into smaller galleries. Now passersby can look in the windows and see art all the way to the back. With bright white walls, wooden floors and light aplenty, it has become a gleaming showcase.
When people come in, chat and ask questions, the staff can share the goals and vision for the refurbished space, said Cheryl
Besser, interim executive director. “Their response often is, ‘Oh, now I see what you’re doing.’”
One goal was to help people distinguish between The Art Project, also known as TAP, and two fairly recent island newcomers: Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network and Bainbridge Island Museum of Art.
“We may be the island’s first art nonprofit but we are no longer its only one,” Dailey Allen said. “In this new era of exciting, energetic island art nonprofits, it’s wonderful to be a part of positioning the organization for another 70 years of success.”
TAP fills some of the same niches as BARN and BIMA and collaborates with them on projects. “But we also do sell art,” said Susan Wiersema, programming and outreach coordinator and art rental manager.
Islanders crowd the gallery on First Friday evenings, when new exhibitions open. On first Saturday afternoons, an artist is stationed in the gallery. “Some of them talk about themselves, some want to do hands-on,” Wiersema said. “We try to keep it personal and intimate.”
The gallery represents nearly 240 artists, some of them for a number of years. But TAP seeks new talent, too. Interested artists often connect through an online juried process. “When you find someone new, different and exciting, you want to share that with everyone,” Besser said.
TAP awards grants to art teachers to help buy classroom supplies. It also showcases student art each spring, an exciting time for kids to see their work displayed in a gallery, Wiersema said. “For one or two students each year, this is a game-changer,” she said. “This helps them see they could go to school and study art.”
Programs reach beyond the gallery in other ways too. Art After 60, for example, brings teaching artists once a month to sites around the island, including the Senior Center and senior living complexes. As to the type of art projects, “it’s always something different,” said Carol Latham, a Wyatt House employee who assists residents during the sessions.
There are other opportunities for teaching artists to reach the community through TAP programs. Some visit Harrison Medical Center-Bremerton to offer art projects that help ease tensions for friends and relatives of surgery patients. Through TAP, Harrison and other entities rent and display artwork, providing artists revenue and wider exposure.
Dailey Allen said the programs and events sync up nicely with the founders’ vision in 1948: “a nonprofit organization to provide creative activity.”
Remodeling the gallery and choosing a new name are helping forge fresh connections with the community, artists and visitors, Dailey Allen said. “Just walk through our door to connect with art in the way that’s best for you—artist, art lover, art buyer, program participant, volunteer or donor.”
Postscript: The Art Project was a temporary name change by Bainbridge Arts & Crafts.