Set amidst the captivating scenery of the Pacific Northwest, the waterfront city of Kirkland has attracted talented creatives for decades. Lately, there has been even more reason to visit: The city has launched a dedicated initiative to enhance the diverse arts culture that exists just across the water from Seattle.
In Kirkland, art connoisseurs can find abstract and new-age artwork alongside quintessential Northwest landscapes. Throughout the city, galleries and public art installations like the Park Lane rotating outdoor sculpture gallery give rise to moments of curious contemplation.
“We are seeing a nice resurgence in the art [over the past few years],” says Ryan James, Gallery Director of ryan james fine arts. “And we are definitely seeing it at the city level. In the next three to five years as all of these new buildings go up, you will see more artwork on display for the public.”
Photo: ryan james fine arts
The changes are part of the Kirkland Cultural Arts Commission’s initiative to highlight the city’s arts, culture, and heritage. It was actually the city that reached out to Ryan to ask if he would consider relocating his gallery from Bellevue to Kirkland. At a time when many of Kirkland’s galleries featured traditional pieces inspired by Washington’s landscapes, ryan james fine arts showcased the modern, abstract, and conceptual work of local Washington artists – making the gallery a unique addition to the Kirkland art arena upon its relocation in 2013.
“We are definitely achieving those goals of revitalization,” says Ryan today. “We are seeing more energetic, youth-oriented art popping up in the public area, which I think is very indicative of who is moving into the area.”
It is also indicative of Ryan’s own taste, evident the second you set foot inside ryan james fine arts. 80s and 90s music plays in the background, casting aside any visions of pin-drop quiet associated with traditional showrooms. And on the walls and throughout the space, abstract pieces from Joan Stuart Ross, William Turner, Peter Juvonen, and other skilled artists draw the eye.
The featured artworks each belong to a series, as Ryan only highlights series artists that create bodies of work from the same base theme or inspiration.
Photo: Park Lane outdoor sculpture gallery via Explore Kirkland
They are also all pieces that Ryan connects with personally, and he loves when a client is able to work out the message in the art too. “It’s not so much what you see at face value on the canvas or in the sculpture,” he says. “You have to go beyond that and find out what the artist is trying to communicate to you through that work.”
“They are delivering a message to you. They are trying to say something through the work. And you as the viewer, you get to explore what that is and how that relates to you.”
Despite the abstract nature of the art, many of the gallery’s featured artists are influenced by the Pacific Northwest, which is evident not just in the artists’ color palettes but in the interpretations of the artworks.
“We have nature abstract artists that will be inspired by the movement of a stream of water,” says Ryan. “Or they’ll be inspired by something even as simple as a branch, and that can play into a whole series about the woods.”
The gallery’s current exhibition, 4.2/NO (“four to know”), highlights four contemporary emerging Seattle artists and will be on display through March 31. According to Ryan, this is the ideal circumstance for visitors who wish to purchase art. “Emerging art shows are really wonderful to attend if you are new to buying artwork,” he says. “There’s some really great obtainable, affordable work.”
The Evergreen Association of Fine Arts; Photo: Larey McDaniel
And after a walk-through of the gallery, visitors to ryan james fine arts can actually find another enclave of exceptional artwork immediately next door. The Evergreen Association of Fine Arts – or the EAFA gallery – opened its doors in late 2016, joining long-time residents like the Kirkland Arts Center, Howard/Mandville Gallery, and Parklane Gallery (all three of which participate in the downtown Kirkland Art Walk on the second Friday of each month).
It’s all part of the vibrant arts scene available to culturally inclined visitors of The Woodmark. For insider recommendations and directions, please contact our Front Desk at 425.822.3700.
Featured Image: ryan james fine arts
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