IT ALL STARTED IN LA CONNER – Lavone Newell Reim, an artist herself, pointing out a statement from John Simon, organizer of a 1986 art show in La Conner. That show evolved into the annual “Barn Sales Show.” With husband Dick Reim, Lavonne hosted the annual exhibit of local artists at their barn for 17 years. Sunday they hosted “The Barn Shows ‘Book On The Walls’ Preview Party” to provide a peek of the book Lavonne and Cathy Stevens will be publishing this summer. – Photo by Ken Stern
To preserve an important piece of Skagit magic, Lavone Newell-Reim and Cathy Stevens have teamed up to write a book about a key period in Skagit County’s art history. Starting in the late 1980s, they were involved with local artists participating every November in a phenomenon called “The Barn Shows.” These annual events showcased the most talented Skagit artists of that era. Lavone and her husband, Dick, hosted a preprint celebration of the book, approppriately named “The Barn Shows” on Jan. 27, at the very barn where the art shows took place. Newell-Reim is a painter, and Stevens a photographer. who captured the artists on film through the years. They both kept mementos and photos that are an exciting record. For Reim, Skagit County is known for agriculture but also defined by its art and artists – beauty and bounty all in one. Reim and Stevens have seen many of the great artists that participated in The Barn Shows die; they realized it was important to capture this history by creating a book that will serve as a permanent record. The book starts with 1986, when John Simon, a popular young artist, decided to showcase the local art scene. He invited painters and sculptors, mostly from Fishtown, a nearby artist community. He created a show in a small building in downtown La Conner. The public responded with great enthusiasm and attended in larger numbers than expected. This great success prompted his search for a larger space for the next show. Dick and Lavonne Newell agreed to host it in their large barn by their Fir Island home. The show was quickly recognized as a gathering of extremely talented artists with the bonus of great food, wine and hospitality. Something magical was happening. Thus began an annual event, attracting high-end buyers and art appreciators. As the shows increased in popularity, the Reims faced crowded parking problems on their narrow country road. Then, the county fire chief determined that the 1910 barn posed a fire hazard. After extensive upgrades to the barn, it was still not up to code to accommodate the increasingly large crowds. The shows had officially been loved to death. After 17 years this exceptional art scene closed its doors. Photographs, artifacts hand-written by the artists and final text for the book about The Barn Shows, a “Book On The Walls” exhibit, can be seen through the summer. The draft book is displayed page by page on the walls in artful collages. Schedule an appointment to preview the book and experience the barn with its beautiful surroundings. Call 360-333-1088. The book will have a limited printing. “We are hopeful for a late summer/fall release date,” Stevens wrote in an email. Copies can be reserved. For information and to donate to support its printing, email Stevens at Thebarnshows1987@gmail.com.