Pacific Northwest Art School recipient of legacy gifts

During their lifetimes, Muriel Pickard and Ellen Marott gave much more than money to the art school.

The Pacific Northwest Art School recently received substantial legacy gifts from two Whidbey women who passed away within the last year.

During their lifetimes, art school co-founder Muriel Pickard and student and supporter Ellen Marott gave much more than money to the institution.

Pickard was with the art school from its very beginning.

In 1983, Pickard and five other Whidbey community members decided to start a nonprofit art school so Coupeville locals could enjoy participating in the arts year-round, not just during the annual Coupeville Arts Festival.

They received $25,000 in seed money from the Coupeville Festival Association and the school opened in 1986.

The Pacific Northwest Art School started by teaching fiber art, or art made of textile materials such as fabric, felt and yarn. After about five years, art school administrators added photography, mixed media and painting to the school’s curriculum.

Current art school Executive Director Lisa Bernhardt described Pickard, who died earlier this year, as a “very classy, very poised, elegant lady that just cared about all aspects of her community” and had “the biggest, kindest heart.”

Pickard’s daughter, Jan Pickard, said her mother wasn’t an artist herself, but rather was gifted at connecting with others.

“She was a people person,” Jan said. “She just really made everyone feel very special.”

The other donor, Marott, passed away last fall. She took workshops at the art school for 20 years, but she was more than just a student. Bernhardt said she remembers Marott popping into her office during breaks in the workshops to ask how the art school was doing.

“She was very cognizant that money was tight, and operating cash was tight,” Bernhardt said. “I had no clue that she had any plans to leave anything to the school.”

Bernhardt called Marott a “caring, passionate woman about the arts” who “deeply loved the school.”

Marott’s and Pickard’s gifts were a boon to the school during the pandemic. Like many institutions, the Pacific Northwest Art School was hit hard by COVID-19. Staff hours were reduced from full time to quarter time. Expenses such as the mortgage and utilities didn’t stop, but without the usual revenue coming in, the school had to dip heavily into its reserve funds.

Now, Bernhardt said these two legacy gifts are giving the school “a little breathing space” as employees start coming back to work.

The money from these gifts will help the school bring in well-known instructors to teach workshops, plan for the school’s future and potentially invest in some wish-list items they haven’t had the funds for.

“So, if you’ve ever wondered if just one person can have an impact, the resounding answer is yes!” said a press release on the legacy gifts.