Grandpa Jerry Blades
The story of how Lisa Judy, granddaughter of Jerry and Donna Blades, owners of Pier 7 mini mall located in La Conner, WA created an artspace for local artists. In 2011 a non-profit called Artspace.org was asked to do a presentation. The requesting local persons hoped they would be interested in the south end of town notably the Moore-Clarke Building, a centuries old rundown warehouse. The request required nine possible properties before Artspace would consider coming into town; our building was one. Artspace purchases old buildings, warehouses and builds live/work spaces for artists in upper levels and restaurants, shops and galleries in the lower.
Town of La Conner, Artspace and local persons hosted a few workshops that were split between property owners and artists. Pier 7 family was notified and with great interest Lisa attended. There was a whole day dedicated to Artspace mission, projects, and background information about the same. There was a walking tour of all properties submitted and a discussion of each about what it had to offer.
Standing in front of Pier 7 a long discussion ensued as the non-profit had great interest in the building due to it's size, structure and feasibility. Lisa withheld comments as she listened; Donna Blades had passed away two years prior and Lisa was living with Jerry, it was still an emotional time. While the officials were talking about Pier 7 all Lisa could think about was the generations of family heirlooms that were packed away in the attic of the building. When asked about the property it was expressed that the family would not be interested in selling the building because of obvious reasons but mentioned what a great thing if the property south of town could be developed. There was also an empty space in the southwest corner of the Pier 7 building but the nationwide company was not interested in a tiny little space only large buildings.
The next day artists were invited and joined the group from the previous day minus most property owners to discuss what it looked like for the artist side of Artspace's mission. There was a small number of artists in attendance but Lisa listened and in the end had a lightbulb moment... Build it and they will come she thought! The challenge for Lisa and Grandpa Jerry was they were not official artists but there was just a space in the building that needed filled.
The second challenge was to glean information to build the business structure that has evolved through trials, tribulations and huge amounts of support from some of the best artists around! March 31st, 2012 became our anniversary date of the first soft day we opened our doors business! Five years later in March of 2017 after the passing of Jerry the family's estate managers commenced in repairing major structural problems with the building. As a current lessee we were given an opportunity to move into a newly remodeled space in the exact opposite corner of the building. This move to the northeast corner nearly doubled our space and gave us greater visibility to those entering town. Now when you turn onto first street we are where all the bright lights are across the street from the post office! We have shining stars for artists and light up the world with art...come inside and see...
Fast forward to the year 2022 we are blessed to have 25 artists, celebrating our 10th anniversary and still a bit of room to welcome more artists.
What a wild ride it has been and I pray we always can offer a home for artists who need a family!