Arts boost island economy

Economic development and the arts seldom come up in the same discussion, but on Whidbey Island they go together like blackberries and ice cream.

A thriving arts community is good for Whidbey Island’s economy and the more local officials can do to encourage its growth the better.

Downtown Oak Harbor’s revitalization efforts received a big boost with the announcement that the Garry Oak Gallery is scheduled to open Oct. 1. This gallery will combine the efforts of 23 artists in a cooperative enterprise. They will sell their work there, help support the business and perhaps participate in artist-in-action presentations in the studio.

The artists’ presence will draw people to the other businesses downtown and give island visitors a reason to stop in Oak Harbor for something more than their Wal-Mart needs. Already known for its outstanding dining opportunities, downtown Oak Harbor can now boast of its growing arts community. The fact that all these artists will be downtown is bound to burnish Oak Harbor’s reputation. Once they see what Oak Harbor has to offer in terms of water and mountain views, friendly people and thriving small businesses, the word will quickly spread. Some day, Oak Harbor will be listed with Coupeville and Langley as the art meccas of Whidbey Island.

Elsewhere on Whidbey, the arts continue to grow impressively. Scores of artists work from their homes, increasing the wealth of the community while keeping it beautiful. In the past their work was secluded, but now they’re opening their doors to the community.

The Summer Art Studio Tour in August featured 19 sites on Central and North Whidbey that welcomed visitors to watch artists as they produced their work. Earlier this month, the Plein Air Painters’ U.S. Open attracted approximately 100 artists to paint the scenic sites on Whidbey Island, and many other visitors enjoyed related festivities and the opportunity to watch the artist work outdoors.

This weekend, Sept. 27 and 28, features the more established Whidbey Open Studio tour which is extending its reach further north than ever before. Separate artist receptions will be held in Langley and Coupeville and tour-takers have their pick of dozens of artist studios island-wide. For ticket information visit www.whidbeyopenstudiotour.org.

Artists and their studios make Whidbey Island more attractive, unique in its own way, and boost the economy with none of the negative impacts sometimes associated with economic development. The arts are great for Whidbey Island. Take the tour this weekend and show our artists that you appreciate their efforts.

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