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 1948, 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 the Artist-in-Schools program, and organized exhibits. Early exhibits were held at the old Richland Library and at a furniture store.
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. The eight or so participating artists that year also displayed 3-dimensional art and craft work on card tables. About eight artists participated in that first show. Since then, the Sidewalk Show has been held in several locations, including the Harry Kramer Center grounds and the park across from the Federal Building until becoming the annual event it is today in Howard Amon Park.
Also in 1950, the Association affiliated 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 have included exhibitions here of both the Washington Potters' Association and NorthWest Designer Craftsmen (NWDC). The NWDC continues to schedule a show here every two years. 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 have worked with the Arts Council of the Mid-Columbia on a number of projects, and the Association offers its building for meeting space for other arts organizations.
In 1975, Allied Arts 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 benefited members and the community alike. The award certificate and commemorative gift, a raku vessel by Seattle artist Jean Griffith, are displayed in the building. The recognition was especially significant because no grant money had been used for programs or additions to the building; commissions from gallery and Sidewalk Show sales and a committed Board of Directors and large number of other volunteers keep the building and its activities running. Allied Arts owes much of its success to cooperation from the City of Richland.
Allied Arts celebrated its 50th Anniversary all 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 our 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.
The final exhibit of the anniversary year was a display of historic newspaper clippings and photographs in the Education Wing at the time of Summer Celebration.
Also in 1998, the Richland City Council designated an area along Lee Boulevard from Howard Amon Park westward as an Arts and Entertainment District, with plans to encourage more art-related businesses and restaurants to locate there. Allied Arts Association is proud of its history and its position as one of the focal points of this city project.
History of the Allied Arts Buildings
Over the years, Allied Arts members met and worked in school art rooms, at the Richland Library, Richland Community House, and in the homes of members. Workshops were held in a Quonset hut next to the building now occupied by Allied Arts until the Atomic Energy Commission dismantled the “hutment” in 1954. In 1965, Allied Arts received permission from the Richland City Council to use the vacant building at 89 Lee Boulevard (the Dyer Building, 1909) as a studio for conducting workshops, agreeing to maintain and improve the property. The addition of the Parkside Gallery and Education Wing in 1989 more than doubled the usable space in the gallery. The gallery interior was remodeled and update extensively in 2015.