In 1943, the small farm settlement of Richland, in Eastern Washington State, became a government city to house the thousands of people who came to work at the Hanford Works, part of the secret Manhattan Project to build an atomic bomb. Although the government provided some entertainment for the workers’ leisure time, the residents banded together early on to bring culture to this isolated place, and the arts became a vital part of the community.
Thelma Pearson, an art teacher at Jefferson Elementary School, organized one small group of artists during the late forties. They met in her school art room to paint, support each other, give workshops, and organize displays of their work. In 1947 or ‘48, they wrote a constitution, officially founding Allied Arts Association.
Activities of the group over the years included seminars, art classes, field trips, workshops, and sessions of outdoor sketching. The organization loaned paintings to the library and local businesses, helped art teachers in schools, donated art books to the library, awarded scholarships to art students, contributed to an Artist-in-Schools program, and organized exhibits. Early exhibits were held at places as diverse as the old Richland Library and a furniture store called Skewes.
The first Sidewalk Show was held at Richland’s Uptown Shopping Center in 1950. It was called the Clothesline Show because paintings were hung on clotheslines strung up in the breezeway between sections of the strip mall. Some of the eight or so participating artists that year also displayed 3-dimensional art and craft work on card tables. Over the years the Sidewalk Show was held in several locations, including areas across from the Federal Building. Now called Art in the Park, our major fundraising project is a major community event in Howard Amon Park along the Columbia River.
Another milestone in 1950 was a new affiliation with the Washington Arts Association, which brought exhibits and lectures by prominent Washington artists to Richland. Joint ventures with other arts groups in the state included exhibitions here of both the Washington Potters' Association and North West Designer Craftsmen (NWDC). Allied Arts and Beaux Arts, a Kennewick art group, jointly sponsored a number of art shows at Columbia Center Mall until Beaux Arts took over that task. Allied Arts members also worked with the Arts Council of the Mid-Columbia on a number of projects.
The City of Richland agreed to lease the concrete block structure, built in 1909, on Lee Ave. to the group in 1965. Major volunteer efforts made this and its “carriage house” into spaces for workshops, small exhibits, and meetings. They continued to use other public buildings and business spaces for exhibits and other projects.
In 1975, the Association received the Washington State Governor’s Award. This honored the organization for outstanding, sustained volunteer effort in promoting the visual arts in the community and for establishing a gallery/workshop facility that served members and the community alike. The award certificate and commemorative gift, a raku vessel by Seattle potter Jean Griffith, are displayed in the building. The recognition was especially significant because no grant money had been used for the group’s programs or additions to the building; commissions from gallery and Sidewalk Show sales and labor and prudence of a committed Board of Directors and many other volunteers, along with a paid Office Administrator, kept the building and its activities running. In 1987, local architect Jim Dillman connected the two original buildings with a “Northern Desert” style modern gallery addition and bathrooms, leaving the old concrete block walls of the original buildings exposed as part of the new space. Five years later, Dillman added an educational wing for classes, meetings and storage.
Allied Arts celebrated its 50th Anniversary during the year from September 1997- August 1998, beginning with the Dale Chihuly BASKETS touring exhibition. Battelle contributed a grant which added a lecture by Dale Chihuly to the schedule of events surrounding that celebration. The Mayor of Richland, Larry Haler, proclaimed August of 1997 “Allied Arts Month” in honor of the anniversary, recognizing the organization’s contributions to Richland’s quality of life.
Since that time, the organization received its 501-C3 non-profit designation and has made other advances in business practices as well as physical changes to the building and grounds. A celebration of the 60th Anniversary (diamond), focused on the gems: our volunteers and all that we have done to bring art to the community. As we celebrate our 70th anniversary in 2018, we have a full-time Administrator and more sophisticated ways of doing business than in the early days, but we still depend on our volunteers, including Board members. We are also well aware that we owe much of our success to the City of Richland.