The Creative District is accomplishing big things | Guest Viewpoint

Tess McShane
Posted 7/6/22

As you drive into town, a sign greets you: “Welcome to Port Townsend, a Victorian Seaport & Arts Community.” 

It’s a great sign, but the power of that message is more …

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The Creative District is accomplishing big things | Guest Viewpoint


As you drive into town, a sign greets you: “Welcome to Port Townsend, a Victorian Seaport & Arts Community.” 

It’s a great sign, but the power of that message is more important—because being an arts community means you can see it and experience it — we ARE an arts community!

I, along with several others, am a volunteer member of the Creative District subcommittee. In addition to our jobs, we set aside time to plan and discuss how we can expand the arts economy in our community.

In May 2020, Port Townsend was named Washington state’s newest creative district by the Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA). This designation was the culmination of a successful application submitted by the Port Townsend Creative District subcommittee under the auspices of the Port Townsend Main Street Program. 

It is an important designation. Washington’s creative industry, according to 2017 data, contributes $23.7 billion to our state economy and has gained each year since ArtsWA started tracking it. In a nutshell, art and artists not only make places more beautiful and interesting places to live and visit; they contribute in meaningful economic ways too.

Creative Districts help Washington communities thrive. This award-winning program works to grow creative sectors across the state. ArtsWA provides resources, grant opportunities, technical assistance, training and networking, and tracks each community’s creative economic progress.

Port Townsend’s Creative District encompasses the downtown and uptown historic neighborhoods and the historic campus of Fort Worden State Park. A lot has been accomplished since May of 2020. A strategic plan was written, a website was developed and launched; a juried call to artists took place; and way finding sculptures have been created and installed — all during a pandemic — all of this happened thanks to an infrastructure grant from ArtsWA and matching funds raised from community donors.

Whether you love the sculptures or have other strong opinions about them, they are here for a positive reason: to help guide and encourage people to explore all the amazing art and creativity our city has to offer. The sculptures are crafted from reclaimed old-growth fir which carries its own past. They are symbolic in many ways and are meant to evoke a link to our past, our present and our future.

“I built these sculptures in veneration to the very long story of the craftspeople,” says Jonah Trople, the artist, “the wood-workers, and all the creative makers here now and historically. As the sculptures stand in town, they become part of that living story. Like us they age, they weather and fold into this history.”

But the Creative District is much more than these sculptures. We are also launching a signature event called “Soundcheck” this summer. This locally-focused, multidisciplinary arts festival starts with music in the clubs on Friday, Aug. 19, and runs through Aug. 25, spanning the week before THING festival. 

“Soundcheck” offers many free arts performances throughout Port Townsend’s Creative District and will provide jobs and opportunities for dozens of artists. Look for live music uptown and downtown, Uptown Street Fair fun, an extended Concert on the Dock, dance events, a songwriter’s showcase, outdoor movies, and participatory arts events in several outdoor downtown spaces. See more at

Next steps of the initial strategic plan also include completing a comprehensive assessment of the needs of artists and commissioning a long-term Arts and Culture Plan to identify the most effective and practical strategies to support a year-round creative economy. We hope that you’ll take part in this process. 

The Creative District is the heart of our arts community. It is about the people who live and work here, the principles we value and the future we want to create. To learn more about the Creative District or to become a volunteer, go to 

Creative District Subcommittee Members include:  Dominic Svornich, KPTZ 91.9 FM; Melody Sky Eisler, Port Townsend Public Library; Rob Birman, Centrum; Denise Winter, Key City Public Theatre; Owen Rowe, Port Townsend City Council; Kris Nelson, restaurateur/PT Main Street Economics Committee; Eryn Smith and Mari Mullen, Port Townsend Main Street Program.

(Tess McShane is the communications and marketing manager at Northwind Art, a nonprofit organization formed when Port Townsend School of the Arts and Northwind Arts Center merged in January of 2021. She is also a member of the Creative District Subcommittee. Prior to moving to Port Townsend, she was a public relations consultant in Seattle giving voice to good people and good places.)