Community

Art for art's sake

Three long-term members of the South Kitsap Artists Association, (left to right) Melba Moran, Helen Stoner and Toni Nelson, stand in front of the group’s ongoing exhibit at the Sidney Art Gallery in downtown Port Orchard. - Kaitlin Strohschein/Staff photo
Three long-term members of the South Kitsap Artists Association, (left to right) Melba Moran, Helen Stoner and Toni Nelson, stand in front of the group’s ongoing exhibit at the Sidney Art Gallery in downtown Port Orchard.
— image credit: Kaitlin Strohschein/Staff photo

The South Kitsap Artists Association is celebrating its 50-year anniversary this month in Port Orchard.

“Just the little things” made the club special through that time, says 89-year-old Melba Moran, the only surviving charter member of the group.

The club started meeting in 1961, as a group of Port Orchard women getting together at each other’s homes, sharing art-related tips. Since then, it has become co-ed, grown, shrunk and grown again.

Its members have continued meeting faithfully — learning about art, displaying projects throughout the city and inspiring young artists.

In the early 1980s, the group started meeting at South Kitsap High School. They displayed their work at an indoor-outdoor exhibit in the high school auditorium and on a sidewalk during the local Days of 49 festival.

“We were amazed that the high school students were interested in our work,” Moran said. “Later, we gave scholarships because of that interest.”

The artists association gave one scholarship per year throughout the ‘80s to an aspiring art student at the high school.

“You really feel good inspiring those youngsters,” Moran said.

The group has also shared paintings for displays at local businesses and government buildings.

They decorated one wall of Kitsap Bank with a different painting each month for two years, said Linda Carr, who belongs to the association.

The group also decorated two walls of the lobby at the Kitsap County Courthouse on Division Street, and auctioned off paintings at the South Kitsap Mall.

Currently, the group has an ongoing exhibit at the Sydney Art Gallery and participates in the Port Orchard Art Walk each summer.

But the group’s focus hasn’t been exclusively directed toward the community.

The club’s leaders have worked to develop the group members’ talents through paint-outs, practice and lessons.

“It’s one big family, really,” Moran said. “It’s because we did painting together.”

Moran remembers one of the paint-outs, when eight South Kitsap artists brought chairs and stools to an open-air setting at a log cabin on Lightner Road.

“We laughed, because none of our pictures looked alike,” Moran recalled.

The group’s leaders have also invited well-known artists from Tacoma, including Marshall Johnson and Betty Meyers, to give lessons.

The more expensive projects, like hosting lessons from local artists, were easier for the group when its membership base was larger.

It had, at most, 60 members. Recently it shrunk to 10, but has since doubled that number, said Roy Carr, the group’s current president.

The group includes a variety of artists, from “wannabe artists to professionals,” he said, and they use a variety of media including pastels, colored pencils, charcoal, acrylics, watercolor, oils and mixed media.

They meet the fourth Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Sydney Gallery near Bay Street, to work on projects and learn together.

Local artists who might be interested in joining the group are welcome to visit.

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