While Redmond has a strong performing arts scene with various theaters, music groups and spoken word organizations, Jessica Lambert feels there is still room for more visual arts around the city.
So to see this happen, the Redmond resident founded VALA Eastside, which stands for Venues for Artists in the Local Area. The nonprofit began in September 2010 and focuses on showcasing local artists’ work in creative venues in Redmond and eventually throughout the Eastside.
“We want to see the arts thrive here,” Lambert said. “Redmond is really receptive to creating new venues for the visual arts and that’s exciting.”
She said VALA is meeting with community groups, the Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce, City of Redmond arts administrators and more to see what type of artwork the community needs and how they can bring it to where it is needed.
As executive director for VALA, Lambert said she also plans to meet with organizers at Shunpike, a Seattle-based organization that assists arts groups in various areas such as fundraising, strategic planning and back-office services.
Shunpike is one of the groups involved in the Storefronts Seattle program, part of which includes displaying local artists’ works in vacant storefronts. Lambert said she would like to see if something similar could be done in Redmond.
In addition to bringing art into the community, VALA is also working to bring art into the classroom.
Christine Cross, vice president of events and education for VALA, said this aspect of the nonprofit has not begun yet as they need funding, but she already has ideas about what she wants to do when it does begin. She said the money would fund venues to display students’ artwork so their parents can see it, adding that these venues would also have emerging artists’ works on display as well.
An artist with experience in journalism, Lambert said getting VALA up and running has been a “slow-going” process as she spreads the word about her organization throughout the local arts community. Lambert was also working out of her home, which did not make things easier.
But this summer, she met Alyssa Magnotti, chief operations officer at thinkspace in downtown Redmond.
According to its website, thinkspace is a company whose mission is to “build a strong community of entrepreneurs, tech startups, small businesses and nonprofits which share similar core values… (and to) passionately operate as a part of each company’s team; celebrating in their successes, contributing to their sustainable growth and creating an environment that inspires.”
Lambert said as a member of thinkspace, she now has a virtual office she can utilize for meetings and events on an as-needed basis.
Magnotti said she and Lambert immediately hit it off when they met and when she learned about VALA, the idea really stuck with Magnotti because she is an artist “on the side.”
“Art and startup all rolled into one — who wouldn’t love that?” she said in an e-mail to the Redmond Reporter. “VALA Eastside has been a pleasure to work with and work for over the last couple of months. Their passion for what they do is evident every moment of each day.”
It has been this passion that has led thinkspace to name VALA as one of its featured entrepreneurs of the month along with newly opened Graces 5 restaurant in Redmond. Both businesses will be featured at the company’s Wine Wednesday on Sept. 14 from 5:30 to 7 p.m., which will feature wines from O Wines in Woodinville.
Magnotti said Wine Wednesday is a monthly event with wine and appetizers and an opportunity for people to learn about the featured businesses and winery. She said it is also a way to “meet like-minded individuals in the local community.”
Lambert said four of the artists VALA has been working with will also be at the event: Donna Wallace, Stephanie Reilly, Gary Gibson and Mary Portteus.
All four artists are from the greater Puget Sound area and Wallace and Reilly are from Redmond.
“We’re really lucky to have them,” Lambert said.