Artist Natalie Niblack works amongst her project entitled ҳ3 Birds / Three DegreesӠduring the setup for Exploring The Edge at Schack Art Center on Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Everett. The paintings feature motion-activated speakers that play each birdճ unique call. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Artist Natalie Niblack works amongst her project entitled ҳ3 Birds / Three DegreesӠduring the setup for Exploring The Edge at Schack Art Center on Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Everett. The paintings feature motion-activated speakers that play each birdճ unique call. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Artist Natalie Niblack works amongst her project entitled ҳ3 Birds / Three DegreesӠduring the setup for Exploring The Edge at Schack Art Center on Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Everett. The paintings feature motion-activated speakers that play each birdճ unique call. (Ryan Berry / The Herald) Artist Natalie Niblack works amongst her project entitled ҳ3 Birds / Three DegreesӠduring the setup for Exploring The Edge at Schack Art Center on Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Everett. The paintings feature motion-activated speakers that play each birdճ unique call. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Editorial: For 50 years Schack Art Center there for creation

The art center is more art studio than museum, supporting artists and fostering creativity in kids.

By The Herald Editorial Board

Fifty years ago, Everett was in the midst of an evolutionary transition, from a mill town employing shift workers making lumber and paper to — with the arrival of Boeing — an aerospace city of engineers and machinists.

At the same time the city and Snohomish County were also home to a community of artists and patrons who celebrated that mixture of blue-collar workers and creatives and recognized the need to foster visual and performing arts.

Among the key contributors to the work of art in that transition is this year celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Schack’s “matron saint”: What’s now informally known as The Schack, got its start in 1974 as the Arts Council of Snohomish County, a nonprofit organization supporting visual and performing arts. In time, it concentrated its focus on visual arts, and it sought to support regional artists by showcasing their works in storefronts and in offices and by hosting exhibitions, supporting scholarship programs and hosting events that brought the community in to appreciate and support the arts.

The Schack Art Center, now marking its 13th year at its home at 2921 Hoyt Avenue, has grown to attract visitors and participants by numbers that rival the population of the county’s cities.

That home is named for two Everett patrons, now both deceased, John and Idamae Schack, residents who adopted the city as their own during that transition and donated generously to the arts council, but also to numerous other public projects, including the Imagine Children’s Museum, the Everett Public Library, the Everett Symphony, the Historic Everett Theater, the Greater Everett Community Foundation, Everett Community College and Providence Everett Medical Center’s Pavilion for Women and Children.

Idamae Schack, who died in 2021, enjoyed the opening of the art center’s home, but initially demurred at the suggestion to name it for herself and her husband. But the “matron saint of the arts in Everett,” as a 2009 Herald profile called her, with the approval of family, agreed to the new name. At its opening, Schack told The Herald she was “especially excited about the focus and opportunity the center will provide to young people in our community.”

A place of creation: That space, along with two gallery spaces, artist studios, a glass-blowing hot shop with huge windows allowing views from the main gallery and its Arts Loft residences for working artists, has become a focus for downtown Everett’s revitalization and a major player in the region’s visual arts community.

Exhibitions in recent years have explored the war in Ukraine, featured the region’s Mexican and Chicano artists, described climate change and its effects on nature, examined the rise of graffiti from tagging to legitimate art, and provided a retrospective of renowned Snohomish County artist Chuck Close.

For 32 of those 50 years, Judy Tuohy, who also serves on the Everett City Council, has helped direct Schack’s programs and efforts, two years on its board and the last 30 as its executive director.

“We started out with a mission of helping and fostering visual arts and artists, because there was nothing here,” to provide that support, Tuohy said. “I think that we have really filled a huge void in many ways and continue to do that.”

From the start, the art center included community artists on its board, to help guide programs and partnerships.

“It wasn’t a board of just people who liked museums. It was actual working artists who knew what the needs were,” Tuohy said.

Far more than providing walls to display art, Schack has fostered partnerships throughout the region to encourage the creation of art throughout the community, with artists, with local governments and with other nonprofits, but importantly, with schools.

A focus on youth: As expectations to expand curricula in public schools grew and funding for the arts as part of the school day were scaled back over the years, the arts center ramped up its work in public schools and with at-risk youths, including its program at the county’s Denney Juvenile Justice Center, which continues today.

A hallway at The Schack, just off the main gallery space, provides exhibition space for local school children and youths, a showcase more public than the family fridge. Currently, the work displayed there includes art by Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program classes, said Raedle Alburn, the development and education director for Schack.

A grant through Schack supports an arts instructor who goes into all ECEAP programs in the county, integrating the program into the schools’ curriculum. A similar program provides outreach to public housing developments in the city, seeking to offer art to children with limited transportation.

The children get the same message about the importance of art and in supporting the creation of artists.

“A point we highlight even with the students when they come in, we’re not a museum; we don’t collect art. Alburn said. “But we create as many opportunities as possible for artists to display and sell and teach. And create as many opportunities for the public to come engage with the artists to get to know them, to get to know their artwork and to be able to support them.”

A message as important, especially for justice-involved youth or the residents at Denney, Alburn said, is the role of art in developing talents, abilities and interests. Both youth and community come to recognize that worth, she said.

“Here are people who have value. Look at what they’re creating,” Alburn said.

Celebrating 50 years: Schack is marking its anniversary throughout the year, including this weekend’s partnership with the City of Everett’s Sorticulture festival. Schack is providing space in its First Floor Studio for Sorticulture’s garden and art classes and workshops. Later this August, Fresh Paint will feature more than 100 artists booths, many of them creating art live during the festival. The year’s main celebration, in addition to its popular Schacktober Fest and its glass pumpkins, in October will feature 100 local and regional artists, many who have worked with Schack over the last 50 years

As art is a reflection of society, the Schack Art Center in its 50 years, has reflected Everett and Snohomish County over those same decades, displaying their vibrancy, their challenges and the power of creation and artistic labor in those efforts.

“This has always been a working man’s town,” Tuohy said “And it’s a working artists town. So instead of a museum, we wanted to be a visual arts working center. That’s why we’re successful in our community and in the county. Because we wanted to make sure that artists were able to work here, people were able to come and learn and were able to also celebrate the art through our exhibits.”

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