Home Lifestyle Architecture Artfully Edmonds: The next big thing — Graphite, plus what's coming up...

Artfully Edmonds: The next big thing — Graphite, plus what's coming up on stage and screen
Artfully Edmonds: The next big thing — Graphite, plus what's coming up on stage and screen avatar

Make your Motion!
Mary Olsen next to the former Mar-Vel Marble property on 2nd and Main that will be home to Graphite. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

What’s in a name? Graphite symbolizes the creative impulse. The birth of an idea; the spark of inspiration – be it on a sketchpad, the back of an envelope, or perhaps even a cocktail napkin. When creative lightning strikes – when that eureka moment occurs – it’s often graphite that enables us to begin the process of transforming our ideas into material objects.

The Graphite Building has been generating a great deal of curiosity around town. Soon to begin construction on the southeast corner of 2nd and Main, Graphite engenders conversations that begin with “What’s going on with that building down there?” – and which generally end with even the most accomplished mansplainers (I refer to myself here) among us having to concede ignorance.

So here’s the scoop, as best I could gather it from the driving force behind it – long-time resident, artist and art educator Mary Olsen.

Olsen completed a double Fine Arts and Education degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She then spent 10 years as an artist in Washington, D.C., exhibiting her work, doing framing and silkscreen work as a subcontractor for The Smithsonian, The National Portrait Gallery and other museums, before moving to the Edmonds area.

When she arrived here, she wanted to check out the neighborhood elementary school. She arranged to meet the principal and asked to see the art room. I think the blank stare she received in that moment might have planted the seed for Graphite in her mind.

Fast forward 20 years, 17 of which Olsen was actively engaged as a parent and volunteer at Maplewood Co-op – producing art projects, shaping programs, chasing grant money, and teaching students – and you’ll arrive at the present. This spring, she’ll submit a building permit to the city that will lead to the construction of a 28,000-square-foot art center. That’s big, people. That’s 20 of my bookstores, or half a football field, including end zones, just for points of reference.

Mary Olsen, right, and Graphite project manager Bob Gregg, center, talk with a passerby during demolition of the Mar-Vel Marble building last summer. The two set up front-row seats on Second Avenue to watch the demolition. (File photo by Larry Vogel)

Let me take you on a tour. Before you enter the building, be aware that Edmonds parking issues have been taken into consideration. Twenty-three additional spaces will be available in the basement parking lot to people using the facilities. Olsen didn’t want to make parking issues worse, and recognized that artists could be saved the hassle of schlepping their materials down the street in the pouring rain – hence, basement parking.

Upon entering the facility, a reception area and resource library will be the first things you take in. As you move through the first floor, off to the left, you’ll notice a restaurant that will feature Northwest cuisine. The chef is currently in New York doing research for his menu and planning his layout. Plans include staffing from FareStart – a nonprofit program that gives individuals training in the culinary arts and produces some amazing results.

Move further into the building and you will encounter nine artist studios available for rental. There’s much to be said for the synergy of working artists in a common space – networking, socializing and the sharing of ideas and information will all be available here. Successful applicants will have access to the resources of the art center and to each other.

At the center will be a large open studio space available for workshops and to artists looking for temporary space to create. “Think of this area as analogous to going to the gym,” Olsen said. “We’ll have lockers available that will enable artists to come in, make art, and store their equipment and supplies. There will be hours where the space will be entirely ‘open’ for anyone who is looking for a temporary studio space to create.”

Let’s not forget the ceramics area, complete with kiln, or the full dark room available for those doing photographic work. Nor should we neglect the large projection wall that will enable users to view films and other visual projections.

The main floor will also house the gallery. A succession of fine art will be rotated through, available for viewing and for sale.

When you ascend to the second floor, you’ll notice skylights providing copious natural lighting. Here will reside three, two-bedroom apartments, and eleven more studio spaces for those seeking a quieter corner to make art. The second floor will also contain a large life-drawing space, and a modular room that can be tailored to accommodate meetings, gatherings, musical performances and parties of various sizes.

A schematic of the new Graphite Studios, a multi-use arts center planned for Mar-Vel location on Main Street.

That’s the brief tour. But don’t forget, art education will be the primary focus and mission at Graphite.

“My whole passion is art education,” Olsen said. “It makes me so sad that there’s so little out there available to our youth. Art education adds immeasurably to all disciplines, and it’s extremely important to get started early. Kids are malleable – ready to learn. Access to art education is critical from both a learning and therapeutic prospective.

“I want Graphite to be an access point, facilitating teachers, providing resources and guidance to teachers that will better enable them to bring art into their classrooms,” she added.

Olsen also sees Graphite working collaboratively with other art organizations in Edmonds. For example, when etchings are on display at the Cascadia Art Museum, etching classes could be offered at Graphite. When the Rick Steves organization is planning a large group tour of Amsterdam, classes on the art of van Gogh might complement the tour.

Graphite has the potential of contributing greatly in a myriad of ways to the rich art culture of Edmonds. I’m excited to watch it unfold.

The mechanism for applying for studio space and the Graphite website won’t be available for a few months yet, so please be patient. No one can say exactly when Graphite will be up and running, but it’s coming!

~ ~ ~ ~

Thursday, Jan. 11
7 p.m.

Lil Buck & Jon Boogz “Love Heals All Wounds”

Edmonds Center for the Arts
410 4th Ave. N. – Edmonds

The world premiere of “Love Heals All Wounds“ is a collaboration between internationally renowned choreographers and dancers Lil Buck and John Boogz. “Love Heals All Wounds” addresses the social issues we are facing as a nation, as well as seeking to promote diversity, inclusion and empathy as a uniting force.

Sellout Alert – goods seats are going fast on this one!

Visit www.edmondscenterforthearts.org for tickets

~ ~ ~ ~

Ben Lulich

Monday, Jan. 15
7:30 p.m.

Cascade Symphony Orchestra
Under the direction of Michael Miropolsky

Soloist Ben Lulich – Scheherazade

Edmonds Center for the Arts
410 4th Ave N.

Clarinetist Ben Lulich is the featured soloist performing Carl Maria Weber’s Clarinet Concerto Number 2, in a program that will include Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. Lulich is principal clarinet at both the Seattle Symphony and the Seattle Opera.

KING-FM’s Dave Beck will host a pre_concert lecture at 6:30 p.m.

Sellout alert – tickets can sometimes be obtained by arriving early. Add your name to their waitlist for unused tickets that may become available.


~ ~ ~ ~

Call To Artists

Closes Wednesday, Feb. 7 – 5 p.m.

Gallery North
401 Main St.

It’s time once again for Gallery North’s call to artists for their popular small works show. Last year, 75 artists submitted 200 pieces. Online registration for this exhibit closes on Feb. 7. Juried by Seattle artist Barbara Noonan, this show will run throughout the month of March.

For detail, visit


~ ~ ~ ~

Saturday, Jan. 13
10 a.m.

ECA Saturday Matinee: Mary Poppins (1964)

Edmonds Center for the Arts
410 4th Ave. N.

Starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, this magical children’s musical classic is worth revisiting. Enjoy all the great favorites like “Spoonful of Sugar,” “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” and “Feed The Birds.”

All are welcome – as part of the ECA’s Dementia-Inclusive Series, accessibility for individuals with memory loss will be given priority. Great prices available for Teen Tix kids and those eligible for free or reduced lunch. Babes in arms (18 months or less) free.


~ ~ ~ ~

Friday, Jan. 12
8 p.m.

ECA Cabaret Series
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

This Coen Brothers classic brings Homer’s Odyssey to a 1930s chain-gang. Hillbilly, Gospel and Bluegrass music provide the soundtrack to this hilarious and surreal piece of film-making. Come early to enjoy the Seattle-based, high-energy string band The Warren G Hardings. Think Bill Monroe or Flatt and Scruggs – (unfortunately, this portion of the program has sold out- but tickets are still available for the film-only option)

Edmonds Center for the Arts
410 4th Ave. N. – Edmonds

~ ~ ~ ~

Thursday – Sunday, Jan. 11-14 @ Wade James Theatre
Thursday – Sunday, Jan. 19-21 @ The Phoenix Theatre

Thursdays–Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 p.m.

Edmonds Driftwood Players Presents
Theatre of Intriguing Possibilities

Fruits of the Harvest

By Eric Bischoff
Directed by Sean McKay

Maggie, a widow who has been running her small Idaho farm for years, gathers her three grown children around her as she struggles desperately for that one last, great harvest. The battle — against time, weather, a changing culture, and the powerful corporate farms that surround her — may not be winnable. Yet Maggie is willing to sacrifice everything to give her children the future she hopes for them.

Tickets here.

~ ~ ~ ~

Ludwig van Beethoven (Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820)

Saturday, Jan. 13
7 p.m.

Sno-King Meaningful Movies presents:

Following The Ninth

8109 224th St. S.W.
(Home of Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Congregation)

In his final symphony, Beethoven created an anthem of joy that embraces the transcendence of beauty over suffering. Following The Ninth traces the global impact of this magnificent masterpiece.

Trailer here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fXs4u-jfKw8

More information: Www.meaningmovies.org

~ ~ ~ ~

Robert Burns

Saturday, Jan. 20
6 p.m.- doors open

2018 Annual Burns Night Dinner

Presented by Kenmore and District Pipe Band

The Nile Country Club
6601 244th St. S.W.,
Mountlake Terrace

It’s dinner and a show, Scottish style. The great Scottish poet Robert Burns is remembered each year on the anniversary of his birth — well, in this case, on the 20th instead of the 25th. If you’ve never been to a Bobby Burns night and experienced the parade of the haggis, bagpiping and highland dancing – you should give it a whirl. Tickets must be purchased in advance at www.kcpipeband.com.

— By James Spangler

When not actively scheming about ways to promote the arts in Edmonds, James Spangler can be found (highly caffeinated) behind the counter of his bookstore on 4th Avenue.

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