Art encourages people to walk downtown

Sculptor James Kelsey is participating in next week
Sculptor James Kelsey is participating in next week's Port Orchard Art Walk
— image credit: Jesse Beals/Staff Photo

In an effort to show off Port Orchard’s creative side — and maybe bring a few new shoppers to the downtown area in the bargain — local merchants and artists will sponsor the first Port Orchard Waterfront Art Walk on May 15.

“We’re really excited about this,” said Moondogs Too owner Daryl Baldwin, president of the Port Orchard Bay Street Merchants Association. “We hope to draw people who haven’t been downtown for a number of years. We will get people interested in downtown merchants, and give artists a place to show their work.”

At last count, 23 artists and 29 merchants have agreed to participate. Artists and merchants may match up, or the outside space might be used — although this has a lot to do with the weather cooperating.

Art Walks have gained recent popularity in Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Silverdale and Gig Harbor, creating both a social and commercial environment for the town.

Manchester Gallery owner Paul Nuchims, who is spearheading the effort, owns galleries in Bremerton and reports taking in 80 percent of monthly receipts during the art walk.

The Port Orchard event will be different, as there are only two active galleries participating — and one is the Sidney Museum.

Here, the artists will set up in retail stores, restaurants and salons, all of which will stay open the extra hours.

The idea is to get people to come downtown and see what stores are open, then return at a later date according to Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Coreen Haydock Johnson.

“It’s another opportunity for people to get out of their cars and see what’s available,” she said. “Everyone knows about the empty storefronts, what stores aren’t here anymore, but they don’t know what is here.”

Planners have taken care to work with existing events, planning to sponsor the Art Walk on the third Friday of each month throughout the summer.

This doesn’t compete with Bainbridge Island and Bremerton, which take place on the first Friday, or Gig Harbor on the first Saturday.

Old Town Silverdale operates on a smaller scale, with events on the second Friday of March, June, September and December.

Committee Chairman Paul Taylor said the walks bring in from 200 to 500 people into local businesses each month.

“A lot of local artists don’t have a chance to meet the public and promote their art,” Taylor said. “We offer them this opportunity.”

Nuchims notes that downtown Port Orchard “has been pretty quiet for the last few months” and he’s hoping the Art Walk will reverse that trend.

“This is a win/win situation for downtown,” he said. “Anything that brings people downtown will be a good thing for the local merchants.”

In order to mobilize the local business community, the Chamber of Commerce is holding an “after hours” event to run concurrently with the Art Walk, taking place at the Sidney Museum.

Additionally, downtown restaurants are expected to hold special events.

The first Port Orchard Waterfront Art Walk will take place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on May 15.

For more information call (360) 895-4270 or write

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