Therese Kingsbury, Oak Harbor Arts Commission member, and Melissa Riker, executive director of Oak Harbor Mainstreet Association, stand before an empty shop on Pioneer Way that will be transformed into a “Pop-up Stone Sculpture Gallery” during the month of April. The owner of the building is allowing Mainstreet to use the shop, once home to Maurices, to help bring more visitors downtown. Photo by Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

Sculpture gallery coming to Pioneer Way during April

Noticing an empty shop in downtown Oak Harbor containing about 60 track lights hanging from the ceiling, Therese Kingsbury experienced a light bulb moment.

As a recent newcomer to the Oak Harbor Arts Commission and member of the Northwest Stone Sculptors Association, Kingsbury thought about how wonderful the former women’s clothing store would look with those lights shining on some heavy art pieces.

“I have these crazy ideas all day,” Kingsbury said with a laugh.

Kingsbury’s idea gained traction. For the month of April, the shop on Pioneer Way that was once home to Maurices will be transformed into a “Pop-up Stone Sculpture Gallery.”

Working with Oak Harbor Mainstreet Association executive director Melissa Riker, Kingsbury’s idea has been expanded to include artist demonstrations and live music on Saturday nights and have pieces displayed in participating businesses along Pioneer Way.

Roughly 200 art pieces from nearly 40 sculptors in Washington, Oregon, California and Canada will be on display and for sale. The event also will serve as a fundraiser for Oak Harbor Mainstreet, which will get a commission from sales.

Mainstreet also will issue a passport to guests, encouraging visits to participating businesses to receive a stamp for a grand prize drawing at the end of the month.

“I love the idea,” Riker said. “It’s something that brings culture and a little bit of night life into downtown. The whole point is having it be a fundraiser for Mainstreet, but a side bonus is it will be bringing people downtown and bringing in artists from three states and Canada.”

Starting April 1, the sculpture gallery will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week through the end of the month.

Kingsbury said some cities such as Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., are trying similarly creative things to dress up empty shops.

The owner of the Oak Harbor building where the shop rests gave permission for the space to be used rent-free during April. Mainstreet will pay for the utilities.

If the gallery is successful, there is possibility the shop could stay open longer, Kingsbury said.

“It’s a social experiment,” she said.

Kingsbury, an aspiring sculptor mentored by Whidbey Island’s Sue Taves, said word spread quickly among members of the Northwest Stone Sculptors Association who have contacted her to say they wanted to be apart of the Oak Harbor event.

A hand stone carver from Tenino agreed to do stone sculpting demonstrations on the street. Taves is among a growing list of sculptors who have agreed to participate and is one of eight from Whidbey. Two of Taves’ pieces are already on display through the shop’s windows.

Through Tuesday, the list of participants had reached 28 sculptors, including two from Canada.

“It’s going to be a month-long artist takeover of downtown and Pioneer,” Kingsbury said.