The idea of a San Juan County Arts Council began as an idea in a critical needs task force- Arts and Recreation – within the community forum discussions organized by the San Juan Island Community Foundation in late 2008. The arts council idea resonated with several task force groups, including the arts and the economy.


In early 2009, a Sub-Committee was formed to study the possibilities of putting an arts council together for all of San Juan County. The committee looked into the history and experience of arts councils across the country as well as to the organizations and activities related to the arts within San Juan County. A rough plan was developed.


A steering committee was formed to create a viable council.  It met with Bitsy Bidwell of the Washington State Arts Commission to discuss the role of art councils and to explore issues as well as the potential for forming one in the county. Letters were sent inviting persons to discuss how the arts council could be an island-wide umbrella organization supporting the arts. The committee drafted bylaws and a tentative business plan. On December 29th, 2010 it received approval as a Washington State Non-Profit Corporation.


The committee spent the year seeking input and sharpening the concept. Open public meetings were held on each island. In October, following publicity on all the islands, the committee sought applications for board members on the Arts Council.  On November 3rd, 2011, at the first general membership meeting, a board of directors was elected. It approved the bylaws of the Council and applied for 501c3 tax status with the Federal IRS. In December officers were elected, committees were formed and the Council became an official entity, redirecting its focus from trying to become something to actually doing something. The new Arts Council held open board meetings monthly, rotating between Orcas, Lopez and San Juan Island, to pursue its work.


1/3/12 - San Juan County Arts Council received authorization as a 501(C) (3) federal non-profit organization with contributions deductibility.  EIN # 45 - 1451879

An on-line membership list was developed (now at 295 in 2015). The Council decided that individuals could become members at no cost. Articles by council president Teddy Deane about the arts council and arts in our communities appeared in island newspapers.

A workshop for artists was held with presentation by the Artist Trust of its sources for helping artists. A Board development workshop with Bitsy Bidwell (5/3/2012), formerly of ArtsWA was held.

Requests for proposals for an Arts Council website were sought and in the spring, the Board contracted with Sircely Marketing & Design of Orcas Island to work with the Council to design, develop and launch a Council website.

The Council participated in the Creative Vitality Index, a new program of the WA Commission for the Arts, to analyze the economic impact of the arts in various regions of the state. Board members attended a CVI meeting in Everett and then held workshops on Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Islands. The Council sponsored a workshop with the Seattle Artist Trust and held two workshops on photographing art. The San Juan Community Foundation included the Arts Council as a designated organization at their booth at the County Fair with a 50% match for donations. Discussion about the website and involvement in its implementation continued throughout the year.


In early spring, the website was launched and Council members began soliciting individuals and organizations to enter their information in the Arts Directory.  The Council considered and declined an offer from Islands Art League to take over their annual art booth at the County Fair. Another possibility that the Council explored was a proposal to begin to assume responsibility for the Lambiel Museum but the plan did not prove feasible.  The Council was awarded LTAC funds for 2015 for a series of videos for promotion of the 3 studio tours. The CVI project continued a second year. Two workshops were sponsored: self-publishing and use of social media.

The Council organized a regional Arts Get Together and 3 members of the Council and Diane Martindale of ArtsWA Commission met with five representatives ofa rts organizations in the Northwest at the Everett Schack Art Center to exchange ideas for ensuring that arts councils remain viable and active.

The Council participated in the San Juan County Regional Arts Forum, July 16 at the San Juan Community Theatre, to meet Karen Hanan, the new Executive Director of the Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA) and with Diane Martindale, ArtsWA Commissioner, to explore how the role of the arts in the local economy can be strengthened as well as celebrated.


By invitation of the Visitors Bureau, the Council solicited 9 photographic works from San Juan County photographers for display on the new Samish ferry. Each selected artist provided an image and funds for framing; Council covered printing and will seek off-set funds for the artists. 2015 LTAC project was completed; 5 videos were made and each studio tour received a video for their website and one video was sponsored on the television advertising program on the ferries. The 3 studio tours and the Council initiated a new co-operative project in which they shared costs of a rack card for the ferries, June-August, with 2015 dates and an emphasis on the tours as annual events.


The San Juan Summer Arts Festival was born as the primary fundraiser for the San Juan County Arts Council. This all-volunteer inter-generational event brought together locals and visitors alike to celebrate the arts and culture of the San Juan Islands.


The San Juan County Arts Council gave it’s first ever grant to the Funhouse Commons on Orcas Island, WA

2018 - Present