Hummingbirds flit about on bright orange flowers blooming in front of the newly opened Cascadia Art Museum, located in the just renovated mid-century Salish Crossing building near the Edmonds waterfront. What lies inside this reinvigorated icon, which was formerly the Waterfront Antique Store and before that a Safeway, is nothing short of stunning.
Lindsey Echelbarger, the museum’s founder and president, worked with his wife, Carolyn Echelbarger, to create a museum dedicated to rediscovering the roots of Cascadian art, focusing specifically on works spanning from the late nineteenth century to the mid-Modernist period.
Elements representative of the region abound throughout the space. The regional emphasis begins as you enter the museum using bronze door handles cast as totem poles. The handles, which are dated 1940, are thought to be sourced from Seattle’s Dexter Horton Building. The museum’s flooring is beautifully designed of Douglas fir. A four-panel recreation of a mural series by Lance Wood Hart welcomes your first steps inside the building. “The Spirit Murals Cycle” was originally created for the Moose Lodge in Aberdeen, but was lost when the building was razed. The museum commissioned artist Tenold Sundberg to recreate the murals based on surviving studies of them. They depict scenes from early Northwest history and suggest to visitors you are about to embark on a journey through the region’s art history.
It is a rich history, one that covers more than just the “Big Four” or “Mystic Four”—Kenneth Callahan, Mark Tobey, Morris Graves, and Guy Anderson—four artists who were featured in a 1953 Life Magazine article and have ever since been recognized as the region’s most iconic artists of the Modernist period.
Although you can see pieces from these four artists on display at the museum, a wealth of lesser known yet equally enthralling regional artists fill six galleries.
“In many cases these are artists who have been neglected and forgotten,” Lindsey Echelbarger said of his vision to fill a void he found by showcasing and celebrating regional art, one he feels the rest of the nation far surpasses the Northwest in. “We have a rich history of art in the NW and our job is to promote that.”
The rivers and waterways that meander and flow from the Cascade Range of mountains define the region represented, hence the name Cascadia. You’ll find artists from as close as the Puget Sound area to as far as Montana and Northern California.
David Martin, an art historian and author, curates the museum’s current exhibitions and displays. The inaugural exhibition, “A Fluid Tradition: Northwest Watercolor Society . . . The First 75 Years” opened in September and runs until January 3rd. It showcases watercolors by artists like Glen Alps and Elizabeth A. Copper. Martin recently released a book by the same name.
Across the hall from the watercolor exhibition, in the Gateway Gallery you’ll find late-nineteenth-century works to mid-twentieth-century paintings and sculptures in chronological order from artists like Dorothy Dolph Jensen and George Tsutakawa, which will be on display for at least a year. All works exhibited are on loan from various private collectors, museums, and universities.
The final stop is a gift shop operated by volunteers, which contains many eclectic treasures including art books, druzy and gemstone jewelry, locally made pottery, large Miffy bunny lamps, and kid-friendly play items. Many of the items were selected by the Echelbargers. Children can also take part in hands-on activities when offered in the multi-purpose education room. Adult lectures will soon be held there as well.
The Salish Crossing building also includes retail and restaurant space, making it the perfect place to pass the time on a rainy day. Grab a bite to eat at Spud Fish and Chips or muse on art over an adult beverage at the delectable Scratch Distillery or Brigid’s Bottleshop, within mere steps of the museum. If you prefer coffee and fine dining, Top Pot Doughnuts and a yet-to-be-disclosed restaurant will be opening soon.
Put the Cascadia Art Museum on your “don’t miss” list. A visit here will entice you to leave your cares at the door and enter into a place of uplifting quiet and insightful history that is sure to stir the creative soul.