ArtEast Arts Center opened its doors one last time to celebrate its legacy with friends, family and community members on July 30.
After 14 years of operation, ArtEast has closed.
ArtEast board directors made the announcement on the center’s Facebook page July 18.
“We are heartbroken to share that due to an ongoing lack of critical funding and insufficient cash flow to maintain operations, ArtEast will be closing by the end of the month,” the announcement stated.
ArtEast’s last day of retail sales was Sunday, July 21.
“From its founding days, ArtEast has been a volunteer-driven organization full of spirit and passion. We have often felt that spirit and passion reflected back to us by our students, artists, teachers, loyal customers, neighbors and partners,” the announcement states, now hung in ArtEast’s front window. “There are countless, great stories that have taken place at ArtEast over the last 14 years, and there is no doubt that it has been a special place for all of us.”
ArtEast was a nonprofit organization that supported visual arts on the Eastside through its collective gallery, educational programs and community events.
More than 40 people attended ArtEast’s closing party. With light refreshments in hand and an “I believe in art” sticker on their shirts, attendees shared stories, laughs and a few tears.
Shelly Vollstedt was a clay instructor at ArtEast for the past 10 years. To her, ArtEast was a home away from home.
“It was a really dynamic place to get together and make art,” she said. “It was my home away from home — it was a place to share with others, teach and learn.”
She said ArtEast was a place for people to start in art. “Its goal was to bring art to everyone—include everyone.”
Former trustee for ArtEast and former board member for the Downtown Issaquah Association (DIA) Kathy Scearce said ArtEast was an integral part of downtown.
“Everyone congregated here,” she said. “This was the place to come to. It was a fixture in downtown where the DIA had a lot of events. Now, we have events but no ArtEast.”
ArtEast left a lasting influence not only on the city, but to the people as well. For Art Robles, ArtEast became a form of recovery.
“I was recovering from cancer,” he said. “I came here and saw what was happening. I wasn’t ever really into doing art, but I started painting. I now have a studio over in Gig Harbor.”
He credits ArtEast’s success to the community it was built by.
“It was just the right people at the right time,” he said. “They created something really unique,” he said. “The synergy of people involved made it what it was. It was really the power of community through visual arts.”
The closing party included the removing of ArtEast furniture and fixtures — including the ArtEast sign that hung above the front door.
Mike Bossing, ArtEast’s accountant for the last 11 months of operation, climbed a ladder and removed the yellow and red ArtEast sign. Former board member Monica Phillips and artist David Lutrick guarded him as he removed the sign.
“It’s just really sad,” Bossing said. “It was fun and well-loved, but love don’t pay the bills.”
While there will not be a designated place for art in Issaquah, Lutrick — among many others — believes art will continue in the area.
“There will be groups to grow and expand to fill the need for art,” he said. “There will be replacements.”
“But who’s going to do what we did? I’m afraid that we’ve lost momentum,” she said. “But, I like to think of this as like a spring cleaning. We now have a clean slate, learn from mistakes and start again.”