“Why haven’t I ever heard about these artists before?”
Visitors have been asking that question “constantly” since Lindsey Echelbarger ’74 opened the Cascadia Art Museum in September. Located on the edge of Puget Sound in Edmonds, Wash., just north of Seattle, the nonprofit museum showcases the often “overlooked and understudied” painters, printmakers, photographers and sculptors of the Northwest United States, particularly those active in the mid-19th to mid-20th century.
The museum’s inaugural exhibition, for instance, celebrated early members of the Northwest Watercolor Society, such as Z. Vanessa Helder and Dorothy Dolph Jensen. This summer brought a retrospective of the paintings of John Matsudaira, one of the region’s many influential Japanese-American artists.
Opening in September will be a solo exhibition by Peggy Strong, whose murals adorned public buildings in Washington and Alaska.
Always “an inveterate visitor of historical museums and battlefields,” Echelbarger says it was at Amherst that he “discovered that art history was just another way to look at history.” In the late 1970s he joined his father’s real estate development company in Edmonds (now run mainly by his son Nick Echelbarger ’04), and soon he and wife Carolyn began collecting art to fill their walls.
But where, they wondered, were the works by artists from around the Cascade mountain range?
“In the past 40 to 50 years, other parts of the U.S. have come to rediscover and appreciate their regional art,” he says, mentioning Connecticut’s Old Lyme and New Mexico’s Santa Fe art colonies, among many others. “The Northwest, however, has curiously lagged behind.”