Art studio tour draws crowds first weekend


Artists hailed the first art studio tour a success after a sweeping turnout painted downtown Blaine, Semiahmoo and Birch Bay as arts destinations.

A semi-formal gala set the weekend event into motion April 29 as over 150 artists and art connoisseurs alike mingled while enjoying hors d’oeuvres and fine wine. The event served as a gathering place before artists sectioned off to home studios and businesses like the Blaine Welcome Center and Living Pantry for the April 30 studio tour.

Blaine Chamber of Commerce director Sheila Wood said she was happy with the first studio tour’s turnout and hopes the next two tours, May 28 and June 25, garner just as large of a turnout. Wood said she saw 60 people visit artists at the welcome center and a handful of people waiting in line to buy art from Semiahmoo artists. Most attendees were local, while a few came as far as Seattle to see everything from watercolors to textile design.

“The artists were really excited to show their artwork,” Wood said of the gala. “It inspired people to go the next day and see the artists.”

For Bellingham artist Kevin Hoover, the studio tour allowed him to share his work to friends and family in the town where he grew up. Hoover took art classes at Blaine High School but didn’t start creating abstract modern art seriously until the pandemic. Although Hoover has shown his work at Allied Arts in Bellingham and a Seattle gallery, his exhibit at The Vault Wine Bar and Bistro last weekend was the first time he’s displayed his art solo.

“Making art is very gratifying but so is the sharing of it and convening with other people,” he said. “People want to talk and learn about it so that’s pretty fun too. It was a great opportunity for that.”

Hoover said he spent a lot of time creating works and preparing for the tour in the weeks leading up to the event. He creates art from his subconscious, following wherever his mind leads him on the canvas.

“It feels really gratifying and I can recognize art is so subjective,” he said. “Even the people who love and know me, the art may not speak to them. You can gauge if your work was good based on how you felt doing it.”

Hoover said the studio tour helped him get his name into the community and connect with fellow artists. The art community is now prompting informal discussions on how to strengthen Blaine’s identity as an arts and tourism town, he said.

Living Pantry co-owner Shawna Morris showed her art at her downtown Blaine zero-waste store. She said a steady flow of people stopped by the store to learn about the impressionistic acrylic paintings that she’s been focusing on for the past five years.

“My favorite part of the weekend was talking with people,” she said. “I loved discussing art with people and sharing that creative expression.”

Morris also encouraged attendees to paint on a community canvas that she will likely hang in Living Pantry after the last art studio tour in June.

“I was really proud of our community,” she said. “We have a lot of stellar artists in Blaine. I knew there were a lot of artists, but the caliber of talent in our little town is incredible. It felt inspiring. I felt proud being part of it.”

Blaine textile design artist Judy Newland shared a home studio on Runge Avenue with two friends. Newland, a retired professor of anthropology and textile history, started spinning, weaving and dying in the mid-70s as a way to create greater connection to nature.

Newland said she was excited to tell people about sustainability of natural dye materials and seeing younger people’s excitement about the environment.

Event organizer and artist Kay Dee Powell had four artists showing work at her home studio. Powell said she was nervous because she has never organized an event like this before but the gala exceeded her expectations and thought the tour was well-received.

Powell said people enjoyed visiting different artist locations and many people said they’d come back for other artists at the next studio tour. For the next tour, Powell said she hopes to attract more Canadians.

“I think it was something we needed here,” Powell said. “This is a strong arts community but we haven’t had any way to show it.”

Artists say they’re eagerly awaiting the second and third studio tours, May 28 and June 25. For more information on the upcoming art studio tours, visit


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