When times get tough, nothing lifts the spirits more than art, for the artist and the art lover both. Therapy and inspiration are just a stone’s throw away in the tony town of Edmonds, where bespoke art speaks to and for every living thing on this planet, and where a lonely soul seeks — and finds — uplifting resonance.

In 2002, American painter Dorothea Tanning said, “Art has always been the raft onto which we climb to save our sanity.” That’s never been more true today, as COVID-19 sends people inside and ever inward, buffeted by stress, anxiety, and depression.

Artists seek refuge in the canvas of their fertile minds, blooming with possibility. The fruits of their escape flower all around us, if we slow down, breathe deeply, and take a look.

And, nowhere is that truer than in Edmonds, where city officials, community leaders, art patrons, and the merchant next door are only too happy to do their part to share the beauty, truth, and reverence of art.

Spend some quality time getting lost in the walkable streets of downtown Edmonds all the way down to the ferry docks and Puget Sound’s shoreline beyond. Scattered all along your path are paintings, portraits, sculptures, murals, and other artistic revelations, sparkling like jewelry on a lost and found treasure hunt. 

Everywhere you go, there is art, soothing, breathtaking, healing, fantastic art in galleries, shops, public spaces, on the beach…privately commissioned and publicly funded art that sings. Come wander, and see…

Salmon in light and shadow, pieced together with salvaged, fabricated aircraft-grade aluminum, Army surplus forks, and fishing lures — "Breakwater Run" and "Sea Rise Run" sculptures by artist Lewis “Buster” Simpson — seem to float and fly with the breeze along the Olympic Beach Fishing Pier.

The Salish Sea Brewing piggy on Dayton Street stands at the ready, made of spare parts, pretty in pink.

Stick around, because when night falls, 4th Ave. N., just outside Salt & Iron, turns into an airport runway with solar LED lights embedded in the street. Seattle artist Iole Alessandrini’s “Luminous Forest” connects Main Street businesses with Edmonds Center for the Arts, a temporary installation until the city completes a repaving project.

A “Mosquito Fleet” in 3-D of what looks like a murder of crows (19th century ships and boats along Washington’s inland waterways) seem poised for take-off on the side and front of a pale-pink City Hall. Squeak Meisel used recycled copper from the former Main St. fountain, circa 1998, and stainless steel tubing to spell out in shorthand, “You are Here.”

You may find yourself at the iconic "Cedar Dreams" Fountain in the middle of 5th and Main’s roundabout. Everyone does. It’s a favorite gathering place.

During WWII, the roundabout served a different purpose, as Grand Central Station for collecting scrap metal from patriotic citizens. 

Later on, it was where the municipal Christmas Tree lit up.

In the early 1970s, the roundabout became a place for public art. The first fountain was an abstract copper affair by Ed Ballew and Howard Duell. After someone drove through the fountain in 1998, a wooden gazebo took its place temporarily, as a made-for-TV movie prop.

Benson Shaw put up the current installation, the expansive, romantic tale of "Cedar Dreams" in 2000, referencing the spinning sawdust and saw blades of Edmonds’ shingle mills and the Western Red Cedars logged in the late 1800s to mid-1900s, along with jeweled fog droplets found on the foliage in the textured, aggregate concrete pattern in the street, circular concrete benches, and bronze sidewalk inlays.

Whales, boats, birds, explorers, wintry tourists, Coast Salish tribes in a time “Before Edmonds,” downtown Edmonds through the ages…changing scenery…motion picture magic caught in amber brighten up businesses, back alleys, and walkways, thanks to the dedicated Mural Project Edmonds Committee commissioned with opening up unconventional spaces for talented local artists.

Immerse yourself in over 200 indoor art pieces, 35 permanent sculptural installations, and 25 flower basket pole works of art, found in unexpected places throughout Edmonds.

Various galleries, shops, and restaurants/bars support local artists by displaying their art for sale on-premises, as well as hosting showings: Brigid’s Bottleshop, Cascadia Art Museum, crow, Cole Gallery/ARTspot Edmonds, Edmonds Bookshop, Aria Studio Gallery, Gallery North, Christopher Framing & Fine Art, The Curious Nest, Driftwood Modern, The Papery, Walnut Street Coffee, Maize & Barley, and Salt & Iron, to name just a few.

Edmonds is lucky to have The Cascadia Art Museum and we know it! The museum celebrates the rich tradition of the visual arts and design in the Northwest during the period 1860-1970. The Edmonds Historical Museum is also a gem. Small but mighty, it boasts permanent and rotating displays, a model railroad, and outdoor sculptures that tell the story of Edmonds. Tulalip Tribes member and artist Ty Juvenil is  creating a cedar panel carving for the museum to tell the Coast Salish peoples story.

But wait, there’s more! The annual summer Edmonds Arts Festival, scheduled for Aug. 27-29 this year, draws hundreds upon hundreds of art lovers to ooh and aah over the work of over 200 artists bringing their best in a myriad of media, from glass art to fine acrylics. The annual arts festival will be a little different this time around, safer and more socially-distanced, because of COVID-19.

Art Walk Edmonds, currently on hold until Phase 3 of COVID-19’s “Smart Start,” introduces artists to the community in a free, interactive, monthly event every third Thursday, 5 p.m.-8 pm., as merchants turn their stores into gallery spaces. This enriching experience is a great way to make friends with local artists, see through their eyes, and find your special piece of art.

For more of Edmonds Art in Public Spaces, check out Edmonds Arts Commission virtual tour/map and Ellen Hiatt’s “Art in Public Spaces” feature in Welcome Magazine.

Photo of Jonlee Nunn's “Blue Mountains” painting, from the “Rolling Hills Series”©