Open Space teams with Island organizations to hire artists and create public art.


What does an event space do when it cannot have events? Vashon Island event space Open Space for Arts and Community is finding new ways to continue supporting the same mission: elevating artists and bringing community together. The solution is !Attention! Artists at Work, an initiative to hire artists who have been financially impacted by COVID-19 to create public displays of art in partnership with Vashon Island Visual Artists (VIVA) and UMO Ensemble.

All over the country, artists and artisans are losing their jobs and income. Vashon artists face the same economic catastrophe. Artists are losing traditional opportunities for sales, commissions, and artistic fees as well as their day jobs. The goal for this program is to secure funding to provide local artists and artisans with work during the COVID-19 shutdown and the economic crisis that threatens to last well beyond the actual shutdown.

The !Attention! Artists at Work (AAW) program is comprised of a series of public arts projects.  Open Space for Arts and Community is fundraising for these projects and is collaborating with Vashon Island Visual Artists (VIVA) and UMO Ensemble to connect local artists with a project. All projects sponsored through AAW are for the public and designed to be easily accessible to anyone on the Island. Investing in public art now will put food on artists’ tables, create public art for all islanders, and send a message to the future. AAW projects will be free to the public.

According to Open Space for Arts and Community Executive Director Jiji Saunders, “!Attention! Artists at Work is going to bring free, public art to Vashon at a time when it is needed most. But at its core, it is a jobs program. Our primary goal is to make sure that artists who have been financially impacted by COVID-19 have more opportunities to work.”

There are two projects in the works so far as part of the program. The first project of this initiative was inspired by large public art murals, as well as the AIDS quilt. Rather than one large painting, the mural will come together as a quilt of paintings, each as one-of-a-kind as our community. The “mural quilt” will consist of about 60 panels from many local artists that are 32 inches by 32 inches each, forming a collage of island. So far, the campaign has reached $6,000 of its $30,000 goal. The call to artists is available online at and the application deadline is July 17th, 2020.

Mural location on the East end of Open Space for Arts and Community building.

The second project in the AAW program is Distance Dance. This project highlights dance and awe-inspiring physical performance (at a safe physical distance) to create a drive-by spectacle. Five choreographers will work with dancers to put on 2-3 shows each, for a total of 10-15 shows this summer. Look for these shows at one or more locations around Vashon. The call to artists is available online at and the application deadline is July 13th 2020.

The US has a strong history of successfully putting artists and artisans back to work during hard times. During the Great Depression, Roosevelt did it through the Works Progress Administration (WPA). In the 1970s, CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) offered artists and artisans meaningful work at fair wages. The resulting artwork stands as a testament to the strength and solace art lends during adversity as well as a message from the past. !Attention! Artists at Work is inspired by the successes of these Federal programs.

There are many ways to join this effort. All profits from online store sales will support this program. If you are a Vashon-Maury Island-based artist who has been financially impacted by COVID-19, please visit the Open Space website to send us your information. If you are a local property owner who would like to display public art, or if you would like to help support the cause financially, please visit or email to learn more. Follow Open Space for Arts and Community on Facebook, Instagram, or in their newsletter for updates about the project.