Edmonds is an arts town

Edmonds, like Bothell, is a case study of a city that works. A Rockwell-esque downtown, priceless views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, an engaged citizenry. Mix in the Edmonds Center for the Arts and proximity to a stellar community college, and pretty soon you’re talking Money Magazine’s Best Places to Live (There’s also a “Lesser Edmonds” no-growth faction that, curmudgeon-like, would much prefer you stay in Everett or Seattle.) There’s a salient difference between no growth and smart growth, however.

Edmonds draws the “creative class,” urbanist Richard Florida’s overused trope for smart professionals who gravitate to theater, the arts and vital neighborhoods. There could be more creatives and out-of-towners, but practicing artists, scribes and theater professionals tend to hide their creativity under a bushel (or self-“silo” in bureaucrat-speak.)

Mayor Dave Earling is trying to address the cocooning and corral local artists to work in common cause. Edmonds is a sweet town, but it’s a sweet town without a theme. Visitors know Snohomish for its antiques, Index for its rock climbing, and Darrington as gateway to the North Cascades. Edmonds is the attractive community you pass through on the way to the ferry.

Edmonds already has the candle power to be a Northwest center for the arts. Arts and humanities are a business that, properly harnessed, could have a multiplier effect. Consider that there are 227 arts-related businesses in Edmonds that employ more than 500 people and include nine galleries. Three dozen businesses participate in the Third Thursday Art Walk that attracts several thousand visitors a year. Approximately 75,000 people attend the annual Edmonds Arts Festival.

The list goes on: The “Write on the Sound” writers conference sponsored by the Edmonds Arts Commission; Jazz Connection which garners hundreds of fans a year; and the magnificent Edmonds Center for the Arts which features nationally known performers as well as the Edmonds-based Olympic Ballet and Cascade Symphony.

So, let the cat herding begin. On Saturday, June 29, the city and arts commission are sponsoring the Edmonds Arts Summit, a citywide gathering of the arts community. (The event is free, but registration is required.) The mission is to collaborate — no small feat with artists — as well as brainstorm fundraising and education. The keynote is Randy Cohen, vice president of Americans for the Arts, and an expert on arts and community development.

The good news is Edmonds passes the “duck” test: It looks like an arts community, it sounds like an arts community, it’s an arts community.

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