Clea Rome of Port Angeles begins installation of her sculpture, “Abacus,” in Webster’s Woods earlier this week. The large piece is among several added to the park for the Solstice Art Festival this Friday and Saturday. (Port Angeles Fine Arts Center)

Clea Rome of Port Angeles begins installation of her sculpture, “Abacus,” in Webster’s Woods earlier this week. The large piece is among several added to the park for the Solstice Art Festival this Friday and Saturday. (Port Angeles Fine Arts Center)

‘Creativity, fertility’: Solstice Art Fest celebrates summer

PORT ANGELES — A new Solstice Art Festival will fill the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center, along with its Webster’s Woods park Friday and Saturday.

Admission is free to the event, to be held indoors and outdoors at the center 1203 E. Lauridsen Blvd.; activities will range from tours of new art in the park and quick craft projects to making — and wearing — solstice crowns.

From noon to 9 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, visitors can explore the art-dotted forest and meadow, meet local artists, partake in a photo scavenger hunt.

Friday evening from 7 until 9 p.m., musicians can join an open jam session, so “bring your instruments, make some friends, see what happens,” said Sarah Jane, the fine arts center’s gallery and program director.

The Solstice Art Festival’s predecessor is Art Outside, the late arts center director Jake Seniuk’s creation.

Starting in 2000, he brought new sculptures — in all kinds of art media — into the woods. The unveiling of each new crop happened in June, and Seniuk led “Art Ranger” tours of the 5-acre park.

Many pieces still stand among the trees and in the meadow, such as Micajah Bienvenu’s “Pi a la Mode” and Al Adams’ “Salmon Eruption.”

For the past four years, as the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center (PAFAC) transitioned from a city-funded venue to a self-supporting center, no new art has been introduced to Webster’s Woods.

The city of Port Angeles continues to provide care for the PAFAC’s grounds, and city workers helped clear downed trees and brush after last winter’s storms.

But the center is mapping a new course with a three-person staff: Jane, executive director Jessica Elliott and Community Outreach Coordinator Lauren Bailey.

The three have spent recent weeks seeking artists with ideas for new work to go into the woods. Chosen are: Clea Rome of Port Angeles; Katherine Shaughnessy of Boise, Idaho; Ross Brown of Diamond Point and the North Olympic Watercolorists group.

“I have walked in Webster’s Woods countless times. My experience in this place is never the same from one visit to another,” Rome said.

“There are always different qualities of light … different birds glimpsed,” amid the steadfast trees. Rome’s artwork is a response to that feeling of change amid the natural order of things. Her piece, “Abacus,” is a 2-by-6-foot assemblage of movable driftwood and beach stones.

The Watercolorists’ work is a kind of meandering creek of painted rocks titled “Water Colors,” and Brown’s is a set of cast-metal sculptures that act as weathervanes.

Then there are Shaughnessy’s pieces. They make a stark statement: The tiny wooden bridges, made with discarded matchsticks, gold wire and glow-in-the dark paint, are each named for a child who died in custody while seeking asylum in the United States this year.

“It breaks my heart to see what is happening,” said the artist, who has lived near the U.S.-Mexico border in Marfa, Texas.

“These are my way of lighting a candle for the people who are attempting to make it across.”

When the call for artists went out early this spring, many applications came in; Jane chose the final four based on originality and structural integrity. She’ll lead a tour of the park and its art at 4 p.m. Friday.

Festival-goers also can explore “pARTicipation,” the art show inside the center’s Webster House gallery.

The exhibit, which features work by artists from around the United States, offers art people can touch, write on and climb into. “pARTicipation” stays up through June 30 in the gallery, open and free from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Thursday through Sunday.

The festival also features a book launch. Local writer and artist Carmen Germain has published “The Old Refusals,” a poetry collection on MoonPath Press, and will read from it and sign copies inside the gallery at 6 p.m. Friday.

Altogether, the arts play a strong role in keeping a community vital, said Lynn Bedford of Port Angeles.

“The Fine Arts Center is really a gem in our community. We want to support it getting more attention,” she added. Bedford, co-owner with Jim Wahlsten of Coldwell Banker Uptown Realty in Port Angeles is a sponsor of the Solstice Art Festival.

Jane, for her part, considers solstice time high time for this party.

“The sun is at its zenith in the sky, the days are longest,” she said, “and the natural world is bursting with life. Across many cultures, this time of year means abundance, creativity, fertility.

“I hope people will come away feeling refreshed and inspired.”

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