Most Bainbridge Islanders know that we live in an incredibly creative society. The island boasts a large and diverse population of artists from every genre, and we’re constantly celebrating and promoting their talents with annual art shows, the First Friday Art Walk and through the many non-profit organizations in our community.
The earliest of these non-profits began in 1948, when an article appeared in the Bainbridge Review in January of that year. The purpose was an invitation to discuss the formation of an organization that would provide a creative platform to educate and promote the arts here on Bainbridge Island. The meeting was a success, and by the end of the year, classes were held at private homes, studios and in the local schools. Classes included drawing, painting, wood carving, photography, china painting, lampshade making, ceramics, macramé, mosaics, sand casting, doll making, leather crafting, jewelry, metal craft, silk screening, creative writing, rug making, and lectures on various artistic subjects. By 1952, it was clear that this endeavor was here to stay, and a group of volunteers opened a retail space where the ferry holding area is now. Soon after, they converted part of the space into a gallery to showcase local artisans’ work and called it Bainbridge Arts & Crafts (BAC). In 1954, the gallery held its first children’s art exhibit and incorporated themselves into a not-for-profit organization. In the early 1960s, an as yet identified disaster, caused extensive damage to both the building and its inventory, which caused the move to Winslow Way. By the early 1980s they’d outgrown the building and moved to their current location across the street. In 2018, to celebrate their 70th anniversary, the space was renovated to create a larger display area for exhibited pieces, artist merchandise, art education, and community engagement.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with the new executive director of BAC, Debra Ruzinsky. Debra is an accomplished glass artist, and has held several positions in the arts and cultural community across the country since the late 1980s, including owning her own glass studio. In addition, she’s lectured and held exhibitions and workshops on various art related subjects. She recently joined BAC in September, having come from her previous position as Craft Center Director at the Appalachian Center for Craft in Tennessee.
As Debra explained, BAC’s gallery carries an eclectic variety of works by local and regional artists in mediums such as clay, fiber, glass, jewelry, mixed media, paint, photography, printmaking, sculpture(s), and woodworking. The sale of these pieces not only support the artists, but BAC as well, which in part allows them to continue their long and storied tradition of providing community enhancement through art.
At their core, BAC is an educational and community outreach center. They hold a variety of classes, programs and artist lectures throughout the year, including participation in the island’s First Friday Art Walk, Artist’s Insight (learning art through artist demonstrations), Paint Out Winslow, Art After 60 (teaching art through a mobile art project at local residential retirement houses and centers), Creative Connections (teaching mobile art at Stephens House and Bainbridge Island Special Needs Foundation), and youth programs an classes.
They also offer scholarships for young artists, and are proud sponsors of the Amy Award for Emerging Artists, which was awarded last year to local artist, Natalie Godfrey. Natalie came up through BAC’s youth outreach program, and her work is currently on exhibit at the gallery. Natalie isn’t alone in her success as a professional artist through her affiliation with BAC, several of their students over the decades have also become accomplished artists.
Additional projects include grants to teachers to supplement their supplies and program budgets and Art Lending, which leases out pieces to local hospitals and care centers to encourage healing through art. In addition, they have a collection of donated art-related books and publications for sale, the proceeds of which, are donated to the Bainbridge Island Public Library.
Each month, BAC holds group exhibits which begin with First Friday and run through the entire month. Their current exhibit, “Argot” features works by James Allen, Natalie Godfrey, Sarah Maker, Cicelia Ross-Gotta, and Mark Smith.
Although, BAC is now open under Washington State’s Phase II re-opening plan, there are restrictions, please click here for their Covid-19 information, there are also restrictions regarding the education and outreach programs, click here to learn more. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram to receive updates on current and upcoming events and programs.
Bainbridge Arts & Crafts is located at 151 Winslow Way E, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110, Phone (206) 842-3132. Hours: Monday through Saturday 10am to 6pm, and Sunday 11am to 5pm.
*Photographs by Margaret Millmore, logo used with permission by BAC