Living in an Artsy Town

I don’t know anywhere else in the Pacific Northwest where you can look out over a breathtakingly beautiful river that also happens to be a major shipping channel, right from the center of town.

Kalama Totem Poles by Marie Wise
Kalama Totem Poles by Marie Wise

People live where they live for lots of reasons: job, school, family, or simply because it’s where their parents and grandparents have always lived.

Even so, there’s a complicated mixture of social, economic and aesthetic factors that make a place special to people. The unique characteristics of the community itself are often the reason they choose to live where they do.

For me–a mom, wife, dog-owner, and of course, artist, there are a lot of things about Kalama that play a major role in my decision to live here. Artists, you know, are visual people. We see things and like to paint them! But we also like to be in a place that supports us as artists.

People like to say small towns are quaint. Quaint in the sense they are not like other, bigger places where more people live.

I have lots of artist friends here, and because Kalama is a small town, but growing, we can really get to know each other. Here we are at Kalama Koffee for a get together.

Big ship passing by
Big ship passing by

Another quaintness factor is visual appeal. Artists are acutely aware of how things look, and it’s really pretty here!

I don’t know anywhere else in the Pacific Northwest where you can look out over a breathtakingly beautiful river that also happens to be a major shipping channel, right from the center of town. Every time we see one of those huge ships going up or down the river we stop in our tracks just to watch it pass by.

My husband says, “where else can you get a view like that?”

My son lives in tech-giant Silicon Valley and he says, “Mom, do you know how much a view like that would cost where I live?” In Silicon Valley? Yeah, it costs a lot!

Our dog Renoir at the beach
Our dog Renoir at the beach

Visual appeal is one of the reasons we often see local photographers at the Port of Kalama’s Marine Park taking graduation photos of high school seniors, along with all kinds of family photos. Marine Park is one of the nicest things about Kalama, and the envy of surrounding communities! We take walks with our dog there almost every day. It’s not unusual to see a wedding being set up or in progress. Seeing the white dresses and dark tuxedos set against a background of blue water, violet hills and a cloud studded sky makes me envious of that bride’s wedding album!

My plein air artist friends would be envious of the chance to set up an easel and paint the river views. We do that often. Here’s some sketches of flowering lupines at the Port.

Traffic Congestion – Not!
Having traveled a bit, to as far away as Paris to see The Louvre Museum, New York City for the MOMA and Met, and Los Angeles for The Getty, along with the central California coast and Hawaii, I’ve come to realize that people have to deal with traffic. In Kalama we have–wait for it–one stop light. One! On a a really busy Friday night you might have to wait behind three cars. Even better, if we want to go to Portland or Seattle, we just hop on the freeway! “It’s not a maze”, she says, having navigated through Los Angeles!

A better kept secret in Kalama–don’t ask me why–is that several scenes from the first Twilight movie were filmed in the parking lot at Kalama High School. You can see the historic building, along with a picturesque church steeple, from Main Street. My children both graduated from Kalama High School. I know the community is proud of its school system.

Why I Live in an Artsy Town
So back to the reason I love Kalama. It’s an artsy community. The downtown has lots of shops featuring unique merchandise you can’t find anywhere else. Antique and collectible shops dot every corner. There’s a new spa establishment in town–again with the aesthetics–but people do love to be pampered. Restaurants are one-of-a-kind and not the fast-food chain type. Personally I think Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives should visit Kalama! People love to eat at Lucky Dragon and Playa Azul, myself included.

All of these things working in tandem help me feel inspired and energized to work hard at my art. Having artist friends and a friendly community that embodies quaint, is something not everyone can boast about. I’m grateful to live and work here.

Here are some of my earlier watercolor paintings of iconic Kalama landmarks: the totem poles at the Port of Kalama, the former Burger Bar, and St. Joseph Catholic Church (next to the high school where Twilight scenes were filmed). They’re all in private collections, but I can always paint another!

Kalama Totem Poles by Marie Wise
Kalama Totem Poles by Marie Wise
St. Joseph  Church by Marie Wise
St. Joseph Church by Marie Wise
Burger Bar by Marie Wise
Burger Bar by Marie Wise

I can’t count the number of times I’ve painted scenes in Kalama. Here’s a few:

Kalama sunrise view
Kalama sunrise view

Where in the World is Kalama, Washington?
For those of you who don’t know where in the world Kalama, Washington is, here’s the Wikipedia listing. Or just google it, but be sure to include ‘WA’ or ‘Washington’ because there’s a ‘Kalama’ on Maui too. We’ve been there several times, and appreciate how easy it is to get to the Portland International Airport, giving us more time to enjoy our vacation!

You can also heck out my photo album of pictures taken in and around Kalama, Washington.