ArtEAST signs lease to turn old Lewis Hardware store into arts center

September 1, 2010

By Laura Geggel

NEW — 3:20 p.m. Sept. 1, 2010

Issaquah’s artEAST more than tripled its space Wednesday, creating more room to sell and display art and hold art demonstrations, workshops and lectures.

ArtEAST Executive Director Karen Abel signed a five-year lease today for the historic Lewis Hardware building.

“I handed over the big check,” Abel said. “I kind of recall the very first time it occurred to us to think, ‘Wow, maybe we should move forward and try to make this happen.’ It’s pretty amazing to be sitting here four months later.”

ArtEAST began about five years ago, with local artists volunteering their time to staff the Up Front Art gallery, 48 Front St. N., downtown Issaquah. The new art center, just across the street at 95 Front St. N., will be a larger version of UP Front, Abel said.

At 3,250 square feet, the new art center is about triple the size of UP Front. Abel called the location and the historical significance of the building a “long-term investment” for artEAST and the community.

Issaquah is in the middle of a burgeoning art community, stretching from Issaquah to North Bend and down to Maple Valley.

ArtEAST has about 80 members, but Abel said it serves as many as 5,000 who enjoy it during ArtWalk or through its public outreach with discussions and demonstrations.

With its new expanded space, artEAST could coordinate with Issaquah Valley schools, the Issaquah Valley Senior Center, local art stores, Village Theatre and summer camps, Abel said. The nonprofit group plans to move into the new building by the end of October, and is already planning a grand opening.

No matter what happens, Abel said she is happy to keep the memory of the old Lewis Hardware store alive.

The hardware store operated for 104 years. Its last owner, Steve White, bought the store in 1992 and closed it in 2007.

“Anyone who has been in this community for a while has a Steve White story,” Abel said. “We would love to have him in artEAST, whether he is talking bolts or showing his own paintings.”

ArtEAST has already raised $20,000 for the new art center and hopes to raise more, Abel said. To join or to donate, call 392-3191 or go to the group’s website.

“From the location of Issaquah, to the location of Front Street, to the importance that the hardware store played in the community, this is just an extraordinary opportunity,” she said.

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