The breathtaking natural beauty and serene pace on San Juan Island are deeply inspiring. No wonder the island has more working artists than any other county in Washington State. You’ll experience the creative spirit as soon as you set foot in the quaint coastal town of Friday Harbor and are greeted by the beautifully-carved Coast Salish house posts entitled “Interaction” created by Native artist Susan Point. There are seven galleries and four museums within easy walking distance to the ferry landing. We collected our 10 favorite ways to enjoy the arts on the isle and it’s still only a fraction of what all there is to explore. Have so much fun!
1. San Juan Islands Sculpture Park
This 40-acre gem on the north end of San Juan Island displays 150 sculptures from national and international artists along five trails, winding through woods, fields and along beautiful Westcott Bay. Kids are free, pups are welcome. Don’t forget to write down a wish and place it in the Tibetan Wishing Urns.
2. San Juan Island Museum of Art
Just five blocks from the ferry dock on Spring Street, you’ll find the cool building of SJIMA. Explore their exhibitions of contemporary, local artists highlighting the unique beauty of our area, authenticity of expression and a sense of place. If you visit in Summer, take part of the free Family Arts Days each Saturday and leave with your own art in hand.
3. Farmer’s Market
The Saturday Farmer’s Market in the heart of Friday Harbor showcases not only the island’s food bounty, there is always live music, plenty of ready-to eat food (like Paella, yumm!) and booths by island jewelers, potters, painters and photographers.
4. Island Studios
Island Studios on Spring Street represents over 200 San Juan Islands artist and their versatile arts & crafts, like pottery, textiles, music, soap & glass. Here you will find lovely gifts for every budget and every taste. They have the tiniest outdoor sculpture and art garden by a fountain in the back.
5. Waterworks Gallery
Waterworks on Argyle Avenue is San Juan Island’s premiere gallery for unique, local, contemporary artwork, jewelry and sculpture, inspired by the Pacific Northwest.
6. Arctic Raven Gallery
This gallery dedicated to Native American Art offers enchanting masks, wood carvings, cedar bark weaving, bentwood boxes and prints depicting the rich history of our local tribes like the Coast Salish, Kwaguilth and Makah.
7. Paula West Pottery
Local potter, Paula West, makes handmade functional ceramics, so beautiful, you might not want to use them after all. Her studio on Westside Road is open to visitors most days (when the sign is out on the street), her mugs are for sale at Café Demeter downtown and Paula has an art booth at the Farmer’s Market.You know you’re living like a local when you’re sipping your morning coffee out of a Paula West mug.
8. San Juan Community Theatre
San Juan’s fabulous Community Theatre delights audiences year-round with live theater, classical & contemporary music performances, as well as The Met live in HD shows. Come join the locals as everyone laughs, cries and is transported to a different world for a few hours.
9. San Juan Island Artist Studio Tour in June
This fun, free, self-guided tour of over a dozen artist’s studios gives a unique glimpse into how the island’s artists live and work, what inspires them and how their artistic process works
10. San Juan Island Lavender Festival in July
Visit the Lavender Festival at the “height of purpleness” at Pelindaba Lavender Farm, where over 30 local and extremely talented, island artists have their work on display and for sale in the fields, making this lovely event a very good smelling, mini Summer Arts Fair, complete with live and very danceable music by Kubatana Marimba. Admission and parking are free. Bring sunscreen and don’t worry about bugs: lavender is a natural mosquito (moth, flea and mice) repellent.