A new, transparent artist’s hub, Graphite in downtown Edmonds is hard to pin down. And that’s on purpose…the whole purpose.

Artists Mary Olsen and Tracy Felix’s inviting, inclusive, creative space for all has been a work in progress from collaborative idea to collective execution, since early fall construction.

The modern, 11,000 sq-ft. community arts building houses open-concept, observational spaces for nook-and-cranny main and flex galleries, a classroom and library, work area, door-less, window-fronting studios for rent, a place to fire up pieces in Julie Perrine and Mike O’Day’s working ceramic studio, a vintage set of lockers from the University of Washington to take care of visiting artists, even a darkroom, and a pearl of a restaurant simply called, Charcoal.

High ceilings and skylights add to the open concept, lending a perfect, natural aura artists crave to create and display, observe and bask, play and work.

An artist’s haven.

The years-long brainchild of artists, moms, and friends — Olsen (Art Start Northwest) and Felix (ARTspot) — Graphite’s been in the process of opening, incrementally, since the public and the media got wind of the ambitious project last year.

Event by event, moment to moment, as if by spontaneous, collective accord…

“Our vision for the Gallery at Graphite has always been to create innovative art installations. We are not a commercial gallery, so we have leeway to present more educational and cutting-edge artwork [website],” Mary Olsen explained.

A call to underrepresented artists for Graphite’s first juried show, Intersections, went out months before any official grand opening.

ARTspot co-owner, artist, and non-binary advocate for the trans community, Mason Fraker, is organizing the show. They’re excited about the possibilities, “presenting a new perspective in my hometown,” in this new, special space: “As a creative community, Edmonds stands to gain so much from artists who look, act, or make art differently. Intersections is a celebration of these different viewpoints!”

Graphite opened for the first time, just in time for third Thursday Art Walk Edmonds (AWE), April 21, with attending studio artists Grit & Grog’s Perrine and O’Day, Kalina Winska (at crow), Andy Eccleshall, Johanne Friedrichs, who shares studio space with Sarah Crumb, Felix, Olsen, and introducing Salvage Arts Inc.’s Bruce Rivera. Graphite artists also showcased a special Earth Day display for the occasion.

Felix likens Graphite on 202 Main St. to a beehive, where inspired creation is always happening around every corridor. “And we’re just getting started! It’s true people have had to wait to get a glimpse inside Graphite, but I think they’ll be pleased to see the progress we are making,” she shared in a recent press release.

Edmonds Art Beat writer Rachel Gardner was one of the first to glimpse the living art in progress early on, giving a brief, but detailed tour for My Edmonds News readers in her Oct. 26, 2021 feature, “A tour of Graphite, the newest addition to our local arts scene.”

She not only discovered great open spaces in the making, but many hands making light work, to help put Olsen and Felix’s dream for the community together.

Cascadia Art Museum’s director of operations, Nate Hegerberg, pitched in on a new installation.

Mary Peterson and Jill Williamson’s Art for All, a grassroots, Seattle organization, donated colorful abstract art on canvas made by many of its artists with disabilities, for a truly warm, thought-provoking welcome.

Olsen’s Art Start Northwest equips art programs in the area with essential supplies and resources for students of all ages hungry to learn. The non-profit organization calls Graphite home, and will generate funds for future fundraising opportunities.

The City of Edmonds gave a major grant to get the ball rolling.

Edmonds-Woodway High School band director/jazz trumpeter Jake Bergevin and KingDow on upright bass christened the premises March 26, as Greta, the mascot cow stood in the background, grooving on the acoustic jams.

Off in a corner, in her own little world, Olsen weaves stencils on paper into a magical tapestry for anyone to see, and marvel.

Donna Leavitt shows fragmentary trees coming together before upturned faces at the gallery, open Sat., noon-4 p.m., as the first featured artist.

Hannah and Cole Nagel’s custom gallery benches. Matt Jones’ work tables.

For Graphite, it truly takes a village to launch, sustain, and grow love of art. Everyone in the Edmonds Creative Arts District, a pantheon of artistic resources, plays a part, somehow.

For Mary Olsen and Tracy Felix, Graphite allows for art to flow freely, whatever the stage, and to spark imagination in even those who may not even see themselves as a part of that crowd.

Oh, but they are. And, they are most welcome here.

“A long-time artist, art educator and supporter of arts in our schools, Olsen had a dream to open a space that would break down the mystery of the artist life, that could invite others into the world of art and to create a bridge for the aspiring artist who might not have the traditional path or resources to learn their medium.” —Rachel Gardner, Edmonds Art Beat, My Edmonds News, Oct. 26, 2021

Bonus: there’s a home-grown, casual-chic restaurant inside, specializing in Argentinian-style, charcoal- and wood-fired steaks and seasonal sides, run by native son, founder, and chef Jake Wilson.

Charcoal opened Nov. 5, 2021 to rave reviews, including a huge mention on Jan. 8th by food writer Tan Vinh in the Seattle Times, continuing to shock and amaze with Instagrammable, indelibly Northwest dishes — yellow coconut curry Manila clams, roasted leek soup, apple bread pudding, pan-seared scallops with Romanesco, golden beet puree, and jalapeno tartar…Charcoal grilled wagyu beef.

Culinary-trained, Wilson worked his way up the Seattle culinary chain, Ray’s Boathouse, Ballard Annex Oyster House, Vios Café, with a three-year chef’s stint in Manhattan, before making his way back home and seeing his own creation blossom into a buzzworthy restaurant.

Feature image: Graphite artists, left to right — Julie Perrine, Bruce Rivera, Tracy Felix, Johanne Friedrichs, Kalina Winska, Bill Whitbeck, Andy Eccleshall, and Mike O’Day.
Additional images, c/o Graphite and Charcoal FB.