Native art highlights Penn Cove Water Festival

Oak Harbor sculptor Jerry Pike shows how he creates one of the ravens for display at the Native Spirit Art Show May 22 and 23 during the Penn Cove Water Festival. - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor sculptor Jerry Pike shows how he creates one of the ravens for display at the Native Spirit Art Show May 22 and 23 during the Penn Cove Water Festival.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

Tourists and residents alike will catch a different glimpse of Native American culture during the Penn Cove Water Festival.

This weekend, May 22 and 23, marks the first Native Spirit Art Show during Coupeville’s festival which celebrates Whidbey Island’s Native American history.

Local painter and organizer Gerry Roberts said the juried art show will expose festival-goers to Native art. Sculptors, painters and carvers will display their work at the Coupeville Recreation Hall Saturday, May 22 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, May 23, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Roberts said organizers were trying to make sure only Whidbey-based artists participated, but there just weren’t enough local native-themed artists to make that possible.

Oak Harbor artist Jerry Pike will bring a selection of masks, ravens, pots and incense burners to display at the art show.

Pike, who describes himself as a ceramic archaeologist, said he was inspired to produce ravens when he saw advertisements incorporating ravens when he attended the Olympics this year.

“It’s right here, it’s part of our culture,” Pike said in his studio north of Oak Harbor, while he was carving the feet for his latest raven. The toughest part for him is getting the head in the proper angle.

The Native Spirit Art Show is the latest of a plethora of events that take place during the Penn Cove Water Festival.

As always, canoeists from tribes from across the Puget Sound region will descend upon Coupeville to compete in races in Penn Cove.

The festival kicks off Friday night when local storyteller Lou LaBombard will share Native American stories and oral traditions at the Fort Ebey State Park amphitheater. Storytelling begins at 6 p.m.

LaBombard, who is a Seneca/Mohawk of the Iroquois Confederacy and professor at Skagit Valley College, will share stories again on Saturday at the Island County Museum. Then on Sunday, he will be on a boat that will cruise through Penn Cove. During the two-hour cruise, he will talk about the customs and the lives of the tribes that lived in Penn Cove.

Festival-goers will also have a chance to visit with naturalists and learn about Penn Cove by boarding the 74-foot boat, the Luna. The mini-cruises are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Molly Hughes, one of the event’s organizers, said the children’s activity tent is always a big draw. Kids will enjoy a “passport” activity that is new this year. When children completes a special educational activity, they will get their passport stamped. Once they fill the passport, they can turn it in at the activity tent and receive a prize.

As with the tradition for each Penn Cove Water Festival, organizers are looking for fresh-baked bread, which is given to the canoe racers as a welcome gift. Bread can be dropped off at the Coupeville United Methodist Church Friday, May 21 from 9 a.m. to noon.

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