After Washougal artist Angela Ridgway moved to California over the summer of 2020, the Washougal Studio Artists Tour faced an uncertain future. Local creators questioned whether the annual event, which Ridgway founded in 2018, could continue without her unique blend of altruistic spirit and organizational skill.
“Nobody stepped up to the plate. Nobody was willing to take it on,” said Washougal glass artist Shirley Bishop, who has participated in the event every year since its inception. “Angela was a super-organized, detailed person, and I think she scared a lot of people, like, ‘Oh, I’m not taking that on. That’s way too much.'”
But Bishop didn’t let it go that easily. She eventually concluded that she loved the event too much just to sit back and watch it perish, and if nobody else wanted to take it on, she would. She called Ridgway and said, “I don’t know if I can live up to the expectations or fill your shoes in any way, shape or form, but I really don’t want to let this die.'”
Thanks to Bishop’s efforts, the event is still very much alive. The fourth annual tour will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 8-9, with 15 artists displaying their work at eight locations.
“I’m really excited to have it happen,” said Washougal resident Kathy Marty, who will be showing her handwoven rugs during the event. “I joined in 2019, and it was such a wonderful experience. I just loved having people come to my place. It was fun letting people see (my) process and taking my time to visit with people. It was great to meet some neighbors and people in the area, some of whom I knew, but (also) a lot of new folks. It just felt like such a lovely social gathering.”
The social gathering element disappeared in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced Ridgway to put together a monthlong “virtual studio artists tour” that highlighted artists’ work on social media. Bishop was determined to hold an in-person event this year if at all possible — an idea other artists initially resisted.
“The artists were excited, but there was a lot of strong hesitancy due to COVID,” Bishop said. “I had continued having (my glass-fusing) classes through COVID – I limited it to four people and made sure they were properly positioned, didn’t sit with people outside their own household, wore masks and sanitized their hands. When I said to all the artists, ‘I’ve been doing this. We’ve been working safely. People love it. They’re looking for artistic outlets. And I’m going to have this whether you want it or not,’ they started (coming around). I’ve knocked down a little bit of the fear in some of them.”
Attendees will be required to wear masks and maintain social distance, and most of the artists are planning to display their work outdoors, if possible.
“One can only hope (the tour will succeed),” Marty said. “A lot of it depends on the weather and a lot of it depends on how comfortable people are going to be venturing out. But we’re trying. I wouldn’t necessarily expect the same amount of people this year. I just don’t think everybody is ready to venture out. Who knows? If there’s spectacular weather, people might say, ‘Yeah, I’m dying to get out.'”
Bishop has received some much-appreciated help in her efforts to organize the tour. Ridgway “has been super helpful and always available” to answer questions and provide long-distance support. Marty, a long-time graphic designer, created posters and flyers; mixed media specialist Cyndee Star is handling social media; and ceramic artist Chris Brodigan is updating the event’s website.
“That’s been a huge help, because I know a little bit about all of these things, but not enough to do them,” Bishop said.
“(When Angela moved away), I was worried. I didn’t know if someone would step up,” Marty added. “I think most of us feel like, ‘We’re artists. We’re not coordinators, necessarily.’ But Shirley stepped in, and she’s been great. (Other artists have) stepped up to do our part, and it’s been very reassuring. I’m so happy to see that people have been willing to (do that) and are wanting so much to make it happen.”
Bishop also arranged for a food truck, which will be camped out at participating artist Tamara Dinius’ residence for the duration of the weekend. The Slayton, Oregon-based Runaway Kitchen has a Washougal connection — it’s owned by Jessy and Vinnie Rolfness, Dinius’ daughter and son-in-law.
“They are coming to Tamara’s for that weekend and will be selling hamburgers and hot dogs and all of the stuff that they make,” Bishop said.
Participating artists include Trish Johnston (watercolors), Dana Berghdal (acrylics and watercolors), Stu Ager (mixed media and organic metalwork designs), Marty, India de Landa (contemporary art jewelry), Dinius (mixed media), Toni McCarthy (beaded and metal jewelry), Bishop, Starr, Sharon Ballard (acrylic paintings), Samuel Shrout (casted metal and wood), Anna Wiancko-Chasman (clay and mixed media), Char McHugh (ceramics), Nancy Carkin (acrylic, oil and watercolors) and Jean Hauge (multi-media painting).
“It feels like a very supportive group,” Marty said. “The sad thing about being a part of the tour is you don’t get to go on the tour. The thing about any artists’ work, and certainly my weaving, is that it’s a solitary activity. It’s such a joy to get out to a craft show and talk to people and share your work with people.”
For more information about the studio artists tour, or to view a map for the self-guided tour, visit washougalstudioartists.org.