Artist residency center to open in Eastsound

A new space in town will soon be a haven for visiting artists. Orcas resident Linda Lewis has founded an artist residency nonprofit named iolair (Gaelic for eagle: pronounced eye-oh-LAIR) at 190 North Beach Road.

Nestled next to Olga Rising, Lewis has envisioned the space to inspire creative practice for visiting artists from around the globe. It has a private living and studio area, and when an artist isn’t in residence, the retreat can also host small gallery shows, workshops or arts events to benefit the local arts community. Residencies can range from a few weeks to months and artists will be invited to collaborate with local schools, organizations, artists and the island’s landscape.

“I feel honored to have a chance to support artists in this way,” said Lewis, who dreamed of offering an artist sanctuary for over a decade. “It’s said that a month spent in residence — providing dedicated time and space for their work — can be as fruitful as six months in an artist’s home environment.”

Construction began two years ago and is wrapping up this month. It was designed by Seattle studio GO’C and built by Orcas-based Bluebird Builders. Island artists Zack Leck and Pete Welty’s outdoor sculptures are also featured on site.

An official opening is scheduled for this fall, but Lewis has invited a series of regional pilot artists, who will immerse themselves in the retreat over the summer. Seattle photographer Eirik Johnson is here now, and will host an open studio on Friday, June 21 from 2-4 p.m. Sculptor and painter Cathy McClure, also from Seattle, will arrive in July, followed by bronze sculptor Squire Broel from Walla Walla in August.

“I think of iolair’s pilot artists as completing the final stage of construction this summer, helping us launch thoughtfully and with intention. We look forward to opening applications and developing island programming in the fall,” Lewis said.

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