Centralia area welcomes all to ArTrails

Those who drive to Lewis County for ArTrails of Southwest Washington's Studio Tour can see a historic train depot, a two-room schoolhouse and sweeping mountain views.

And of course they can see art – including paintings, sculpture, jewelry, clothing and papier-mché furniture.

The eighth annual tour includes works and demonstrations by 59 artists arrayed in 29 studios throughout Lewis County and beyond.

Each artist also will be represented by a piece in the exhibition gallery in Centralia’s historic train depot. (Despite the railway connection, the tour’s name is pronounced “art-trails.”)

The free tour, organized by a nonprofit cooperative of artists, attracted more than 1,000 people last year, many from far beyond the county.

“We’re trying to figure out how to make ArTrails an entire week of celebration of the arts,” said Jan Nontell, an artist and the president of the nonprofit, ArTrails of Southwest Washington.

Already, the exhibition gallery, with a piece by each participating artist, is open daily throughout the week, beginning tonight with a reception at the gallery. Last year, 400 people visited on the opening night.

The tour offers visitors the opportunity to meet the artists, view and buy work and, at some studios, even create art of their own.

“It’s hands-on art,” said Nontell, who works in clay and enamel. “It’s not just for children. We want to get people excited about making art.”

She offers visitors to her Verdant Fire Studio the opportunity to create bang pots, which are what they sound like.

“People get a little chunk of clay, and they texture the outside, and we stick a firecracker in it and blow it up,” she said. “I fire it during the year, and if people come back the next year, they can glaze it.”

The pots take a variety of shapes, she said. “It doesn’t ever do the same thing twice. Sometimes, you get a tiny hole in the top and it’s big and round. Sometimes, it goes flat.”

Verdant Fire shares space in the historic Galvin Schoolhouse with Bliss Art Studios, where Renee Bliss Anderson creates fanciful furniture and other highly textured objects from papier-mché.

“I’ve tried to take papier-mché to new levels, figuratively and literally,” Anderson said.

On the tour, seven artists will show at the now privately owned two-room school building at 121 Joppish Road in Centralia.

Many artists share their studio space for the tour with those who work from their homes.

Painter and cartoonist Frank Frazee, for example, works from the third bedroom of his Centralia home. He and two other artists will join Byrn and Joanne Watson in their studio at 194 Summerside Drive in Centralia.

“It has the best view of all of the studios,” Frazee said. “You can see St. Helens, Rainier and I believe Adams. Last year, I watched as a bald eagle flew below me up the river.”