If you’ve been peering into the glass walls of Cascadia Art Museum (CAM), hoping to see signs of life, you’re in luck. The first-of-its-kind museum devoted solely to NW artists — then and now — reopened Feb. 4, following Snohomish County reentering Phase 2 of the Healthy Washington – Road Map to Recovery Plan.

Four shows illuminate CAM with the variety, depth, and interest you’ve come to know and love about this jewel in Edmonds’ crown.

CAM extends the shows of Kenney, Williames, and “Gifts and Promised Gifts…” Sept. 17, 2020 through May 23, 2021 just for this reopening. Smith’s exhibit is brand new, showing Feb. 4-Nov. 28, 2021.

Spokane-born Kenney saw this world a little differently, in molecular structures fused to a surreal universe — ever contracting and expanding, in nods to mathematical precision, “living” geometric symmetry, and purposeful, all-encompassing beauty. 

In the early 1930s, he and his family moved to Seattle, where, at the tender age of 24, he found himself celebrated as a Seattle Art Museum find, with his own solo show — the youngest artist to enjoy this honor, in his time. SAM’s founder/then-director Dr. Richard Fuller recognized genius early on in Kenney’s budding career, buying an egg tempera painting (“The Inception of Magic”) for SAM’s collection when the artist was only 20. 

Leo Kenney, a tireless, intense artist devoted to his intuitive craft, dreamed in geometric shapes, and colors wanting to change into another organic organism entirely, realized in oil- and water-based mediums, like tempera and gouache.

Shedrich Williames’ photographs force you to look deep within, and without, unabashedly. His subjects invite intimate, uncomfortable discussions about those deeper issues at play, whirling around us — the elephant in the room, bleeding itself dry: a black man’s fingers entwined with a bronze lock to a closed wooden door…a young, black woman staring back without shame, daring you to contemplate more than her nude body. CAM presents the 87-year-old Portland, OR-to-Chicago-based photographer’s first solo exhibition.

NW’s forgotten and famous coincide on CAM’s fifth anniversary of its founding in “Gifts and Promised Gifts…” exhibit. Donations include momentous, historic works by the late artists Evert Sodergren, Edmonds’ Guy Anderson, and John Takehisa Matsudaira. Of note: CAM is the only Washington art institution to own an example of Sodergren’s 1953 “Sculptured Chair”… Matsudaira’s “Quiet Motion and Blue” painting once showed at Seattle’s 1962 World’s Fair.

“Some of the other regional artists might be familiar names, while others reflect our mission to rescue and elevate the reputations of forgotten figures who deserve to be remembered for the high quality of their work and contributions to our visual culture [website].”

During his illustrious career, Charles W. Smith combined his knowledge of industrial design and art with his passion for applications in form and function, biomorphic, human form abstractions, Japanese sculptural techniques, geometric metal work, and Northwest Native wood carvings in his later years. Enlivening the practical and the everyday into a heightened sense of the aesthetic was his forte.

The Woodside, NY native served in the U.S. Air Force (1943-1945), making the most of the GI Bill by learning all he could at the American Art School and Pratt Institute, graduating in 1948 with an industrial design major, before teaching design and drawing, and delving into the wonderful world of sculpting. “And They Called Her Woman” earned major notice in the Seattle art world, the first of three masterpieces to make a home at the Seattle Art Museum.

Time Magazine chose him as one of its “Newsmakers of Tomorrow” in 1953.

His commissioned works were used for Seattle Center’s overpass and parking garage and a large, metal-and-glass wall relief for SeaFirst Bank’s Eastgate location, as well as sculptures at the Seattle Central Community College and Eastern Washington University’s Kennedy Memorial Library.

More to Come

Other exciting events to come at CAM include virtual Valentine’s Trivia | Art After Hours, with a Scratch Distillery Hibiscus Gimlet in hand, Feb. 12, 2021, 6 p.m., and Cynthia Gahan Heart Art Healing’s Self-Love Self-Portrait | Virtual Family Art Workshop, Feb. 27, 2021, 11 a.m.-noon. It might be too late to reserve your place (and gimlet) in Valentine’s Trivia Art | After Hours. Do call (425-336-4809) ahead with any questions.

CAM is also offering 10 percent off for visitors, as a part of the special reopening.