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The History of Art in Kirkland

Art Has Always Been a Part of Kirkland's Culture

Article by Loita Hawkinson

Photography by Provided by Kirkland Heritage Society

Originally published in Kirkland Lifestyle

Art has always been a part of Kirkland’s culture. In recent history, the Cellar Gallery operated from 1959 through 1974 under the direction of Bill Radcliff; and the Creative Art League, which occupies the original Peter Kirk Building on Market Street, was established in 1962. The art center in Market Street's original historic building came about in late 1961 during which time there was a petition to establish an Advisory Art Commission.

According to Bill, only 10 cities in America had art commissions. He must have gotten this information from publications he subscribed to, and this information was not verified to be accurate, but it certainly lets us know that Kirkland was among the very few cities in the United States to have an art commission.

Going back, Jack Shaw (C.G. Shaw) was a professional artist who lived in Kirkland from at least 1936 until his passing in 1947. He was a W.P.A. artist and very successful. According to the newspaper index, Kirkland had an art studio and local art exhibits as early as 1922. If you are interested in knowing more about Jack (C.G.) Shaw, newspaper articles are on microfilm at the Bellevue Library.

Going back even further, Joshua Montgomery Sears was one of the major investors when Kirkland was founded in 1888. He owned half of Kirkland with the other half being owned by the Kirkland Land Company. Joshua built the historic Sears building on Market Street where the lower level was to be Kirkland’s bank and the upper was to be their home.  

Joshua is one of Kirkland’s six founders. He died in 1905, but his Kirkland estate was not sold until 1917 after Lake Washington was lowered. His wife, Sarah, is best known for her photography. Sarah was a brilliant artist, and her work hangs all over the world. Additionally, paintings of her and her family, painted by John Singer Sargent, can be found in several prestigious art galleries.

Sarah came from railroad wealth, and at one point in history, Mr. Sears was the fourth richest man in America. These are the roots of Kirkland, and to the point of this article, art in Kirkland.  

Loita Hawkinson



Kirkland Heritage Society

  • Peter Kirk Gallery
  • The Cellar Gallery