VCA: A Brief History

VCA, once VAA, evolved from the Vashon Arts League, formed in 1949 by Island artist Fred Eernisse and two other notable Island artists, Norman Edson and Art Hansen. Their vision was a simple one – to show art created by Islanders.

Fast forward fourteen years. Phyllis Bradfield and another creative group of Islanders meet to revitalize the League and find their first of many temporary homes. They offer art, crafts and ballet classes at the old Lisabuela school house, off Wax Orchard Road. Today, the school is a private landmarked home. And in the barn a platform is built to serve as a stage for ballet classes held almost 50 years ago.

In 1963, the name and home changes that houses the dedicated visionaries. Vashon Associated Arts briefly resides at Cove Road Church. Led by Shirley Speidel, they find the old Boy Scout Cabin at Ober Park. The year is 1966, also the year they receive their 501 (c) status, making them the oldest private non-profit community arts organization in the State of Washington.

Once again, Vashon Associated Arts finds itself homeless when the Scout Cabin is demolished. But, something becomes permanent – their name. Kaj Wyn Berry calls the group Vashon Allied Arts. However, the new name does not solve an ongoing challenge. Where will they find a place to dig in? For almost a year, VAA finds refuge at the site of Bob’s Bakery and opens their first gallery.

Within the year the gallery closes. For 10 long years, VAA becomes a loosely knit group dedicated to the arts, without a place to call home. The organization nearly disbands and is rescued by Chris (Wheeler) Beck, who creates the current organization we know today, complete with board of directors.

They know they need a place to hang their art, and finally open the Arts Resource Center in 1978, now Granny’s Attic. With a burst of renewed energy, VAA installs public art, initiates Vashon Artists in Schools program, launches the first Art Auction, publishes a book of works by Island authors and stages fantastic musical events.

A year later they move yet again, to the old Lutheran Church on Bank Road, where the Heritage Museum stands today, and name it the Blue Heron Center. Still, stability is elusive.

After only two years, VAA packs up and moves into the Odd Fellows Hall on Vashon Highway.  They bring with them the name – Blue Heron Art Center. And in 1988, they purchase the building; Vashon Allied Arts at last finds a home.

After 31 years at the same location VAA has grown, from a staff of four to a staff of 8 full time employees, from a handful of classes to 120 classes offered every year, from a dozen events to more than 40 per year, a full-fledged dance program, monthly rotating gallery shows and much more. VAA’s roots run deep and now we are ready to bloom into a true arts campus with a new stage, more sophisticated than the lovely barn of long ago. Thank you to all of those that came before us, to those that are here today and to the unnamed of tomorrow. Art is our history and our future.