Rexville Grange Art Show: a short history

Here is a tale…

 of an old, leaky Grange Hall and the local artisans who grace it with their work twice a year. Built in 1927, the Rexville Grange is the oldest grange in the Skagit Valley. As a farmer’s “community center,” it was well-used as a grange hall, and for dances, potlucks, weddings, meetings, performances, and memorial services. In its’ later decades, the Grange’s use (and maintenance) had declined, but it still hosted local events, weddings and middle school drama performances. In the Fall of 2000, a few committed artists painted the hall, cleaned the very old kitchen, added good track lighting, installed a hanging art system, mowed the lawn, made a front door arbor and opened the “Rexville Grange Gallery”. Twice a year they present the amazing “Rexville Grange Art Show” of extraordinary original, local artwork that has grown steadily as people return year after year, with more friends in tow.

From a beginning with no heat and an unusual collection of old appliances hidden behind displays of art, the Grange installed a (very glorious) propane heater, the artists cleaned the windows and carted off the old useless junk and painted the trim, now each November and April, the practical old hall is transformed into a space of warmth and beautiful fine crafts and art. With the art and conversation and laughter and coffee, it has become the center for a community of artists and a community of art lovers, friends and supporters. 

Now its own tradition, the show had its origins in the Pleasant Ridge Pottery and Gallery that was just across from the Rexville Grocery for 16 years. Marguerite Goff and Kit Muehlman had their pottery studios in the back of the building and a gallery in the front where they sold their ceramic work and a wonderful eclectic collection of local art and craft. If you stopped in to this “charming haven of locally produced pottery, jewelry (and) clothing”*, you could find luminous pastel landscapes by Janet Hamilton, Anne Martin McCool’s extraordinary watercolors, masterful weavings by Arlene Summers, clothing designed by Michelle Beach, herbal delights by Beth Hailey, jewelry by Julie deRoche and Kathleen Faulkner, and serigraphs by Nancy and Lewis Spaulding.

When the pottery and gallery had to close, in May 2000, Marguerite Goff, Janet Hamilton, Arlene Summers and Beth Hailey gathered and planned what became the next chapter in the story. Emerging from the sadness and loss of the gallery closing they wanted to find a way to save some of the wonder that it had been. With the Rexville Grange just down the road and willing to permit a show there, the founding four made plans, gathered artists, painted walls, (hid old appliances), got out the word and opened the doors in November 2000 for the first show. A second show was added as part of the Tulip Festival in April 2001 and that format has continued.

Over time, the show has included many events such as demonstrations by artists, wreath-making classes, teas, trunk shows, raffles and poetry readings. New artists and styles are always being folded into every show. The show has become a special place for many of these artists to show their work. Artistry has included hand-felted hats, stained glass, blown glass, fused glass pieces, pottery, ceramic sculpture, oil, pastel and watercolor paintings, collages, block prints, woven scarves, shawls and towels, beaded and sculpted metal jewelry, masks, carved gourds, herbal products, spices, soaps, candles, fine photography, welded sculpture, birdhouses, benches, unique purses and bags, hemp clothing, wood-turned tools, bowls and cutting boards, hand-bound books and expert basketry. Some of the present and past artists include include Lucinda Van Valkenburg, Nancy and Lewis Spaulding, Katherine Lewis, Kathleen Faulkner, Irene Lawson, Teri Silva, Anne Martin McCool, Wendy Ross, Nancy Dean, Carole and Steve Bryant, Joan Enslin, Carol Merrick, Susan Cohen-Thompson, Marie Nelson, Makiko Ichiura, Alison Hogland, Irene Lawson, Tom Bird, , Michelle Beach, Amy Han, Jessamyn Tuttle, Deb Lowery, Geraldine Gross, Lynne Irelan, Debbie Aldrich, Molly LeMaster, Lois Bertolino and many more.

As time passes there is joy in new meetings and friendships, but there is also the sadness and grief of losing well-loved companions. Arlene Summers, an extraordinary weaver and friend was seminal to the founding of this show. With Arlene on the team you also had her husband John, helping, solving problems and supporting Arlene in her creative ventures. Although never in the show as an artist, John was a talented wood worker whose beautiful pieces were used to display Arlene’s weavings. Arlene and John both passed away in 2020. We will miss them as we have this first show without them. 

The Rexville Grange Holiday Art Show is always scheduled for the two weekends before Thanksgiving. This year the show will run from Friday, Nov.12, 10am-8pm, Nov.13 & 14, 10am-5pm and Nov.20-21, 10am-5pm. The show has always had a Friday night Reception at 6-8pm with refreshments and live Celtic music by Campbell Road (though this year’s music will only be CD’s, due to covid, and masks will be required). Location is 19299 Rexville Grange Road – Mt. Vernon, WA.     www.rexvillegrangeartshow.com

When covid-19 hit we were all were bereft as the shows were canceled. 2020 was to be the Rexville Gallery’s 20th Anniversary Show, but (if all goes well), it will be celebrated this November instead! The artists are thrilled to be back in this building full of memories, showing and selling their backlog of new creations to happy customers. We hope you will join us.

*Washington, Off the Beaten Path, Todd Litman and Suzanne Kort, The Globe Pequot Press, 1993