40 years of art

In 1973 Joann Booth, a late member of the Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Congregation, had a vision of inviting artists to the church. The church would create a new kind of art and craft fair, one more like a gallery opening than a bazaar.

They wanted original art, for one thing, and they wanted to make money for the church but also to support the artists. They’d keep the price of tickets down and charge no fee to the artists, but instead take a commission.

“They’d set up booths, have an art gallery upstairs, and it would be different from other art shows because we’d have hors d’oeuvres, with white linen tablecloths and silver service,” said Merrie Emmons, who worked with Booth on the first art show and has been involved for the past four decades.

New artists and returning favorites

The show has become a major regional holiday draw, with over 50 booths by artists throughout the Northwest and hundreds attending. About half of the booths are new to the show, says Linda Crossland, the co-chair along with Nancy Press in 2013.

Look for returning favorites such as Engayla’s Design, offering wearable art clothing, leather purses, belts, and jewelry, as well as Earth Art International, Sue Coccia’s animal and totem-based art expressed in journals, note cards, matted and framed art and t-shirts.

Glass artist Heidi Klepper from Whidbey Island brings her lamp work glass beads and jewelry to the show. And this year, look for Stacy Hamm’s fiber art bags and accessories and Botanical Creations, pressed flower designs embedded in clear acrylic jewelry.

Returning to the Food Hall are Walden Lane Gourmet, with their herbs, spices and balsamic vinegars, Woodring Northwest’s preserves, pickles, fruit butters and other toppings, La Pasta gourmet pastas and sauces, the Whidbey Island Fudge Company, Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards and the Poulsbo-based Crimson Cove Smoked Specialities, among others.

Nature-based vendors include the Beekeeper’s Secret natural skin care and wood care products, and Chris’s Country Essence beeswax candles, honey, and bath and body products.

Popular with artists and patrons

The church’s friendliness and hospitality is now legendary among the artists, who feel well-cared for by their hosts, says Emmons.

“We had established a wonderful reputation. We provided a place for artists to stay, we furnished dinner for the artists setting up Friday night, we provided sack lunches for the artists, and runners. They are young people of the church to bring change to the people, sit in their booths when they had to leave, serve them cinnamon rolls and coffee and tea.”

That hospitality extends to the patrons, as well. Free babysitting, free parking, and free hors d’oeuvres continue to this day.

Admittedly, the years of 15 to 20 varieties of free hors d’oeuvres has pared down a bit — the food was so popular that the church printed a little spiral-bound cookbook for years. The standout was the savory Art Show Cheese Squares recipe, first submitted by the church’s founder, Maybelle Chapman.
Back then, food prep alone required work parties of 20 to 30 people.
“We served a couple thousand people,” said Marilyn Warner, who first worked on the art show with her husband Scott in 1992.

The cheese squares were made with Kraft Old English cheese and margarine spread on four sides of an inch-square cube of white Pullman Sandwich Bread. Baked and topped with bacon, no less. “We’d have a crew of people who would sit and butter bread for two or three hours at a time,” said Warner.

Strengthening the church community

The show, with its myriad tasks, has for years been the main community-building event of the year, said Warner. “They try to get everybody in the church involved to some degree,” said Warner. “It’s a large part of the church community working together.”

About $20,000 is raised by the church, which is not specifically earmarked but which allows the church to have a robust social justice program, according to Scott Warner.

Upcoming Art Show

Visit the website for the Northwest Artists’ Holiday Show to learn about the next annual show, which is scheduled on the first weekend in November.