Island County’s budget didn’t include art for Camano’s new administrative building, but artist Jack Archibald will see to it that the governmental hub will have art. He’s donating a 7- by 21-foot stained glass mural that will signal to anyone driving by that this is an island known for its active arts community.
Last January, Archibald met with Island County Commissioner Janet St. Clair and gave the county an offer that was hard to refuse — he would charge zero dollars to put art in the county building.
St. Clair said that the county made no plans to incorporate art in the building, so Jack’s generosity made it possible.
“I feel like his art is iconic of the island and I’m excited that this can happen,” she said.
Archibald said St. Clair offered to try to find some money in the budget to at least pay for some of the materials, which include 150 square feet of glass, but he declined payment and told her to use it for more art inside.
“The whole point is to make it an aesthetic place,” he said.
Archibald worked with the architects to fit his design into the existing window system in the architectural plans to be sure that aesthetics meets function.
Meanwhile Archibald was recently awarded a $1,500 Artist Trust Gap Grant, which will pay for most of the materials. The grant helps artists "bridge the gap" between costs and for proposed projects.
“Artist Trust helps us artists by funding continuing education, purchasing materials or assisting in countless ways that support our careers and our projects,” Archibald said.
Back in the 1980s, Archibald learned how to work stained glass in a Stanwood High School night class. Since then, he’s built his skills and his portfolio.
Over the years, he’s donated more than 20 glass murals to public buildings ranging from the Mount Vernon train station to the Mukilteo Library. He likes to keep the donated art close to home. When Camano Center was built 20 years ago, he donated murals for the front entry and received an Artist Trust Gap Grant to help fund materials.
Although some might think it an unlikely business model, his generosity toward local projects has offered benefits on a larger scale. He’s developed an impressive portfolio of major work that competes for projects on a national level. He says that no one asks what you were paid when looking at the portfolio.
Archibald got his first big career break when he got into the Washington State Arts Commission headquarters.
“It was my first public project; I’d give them something big,” he said. “For me this, was a golden opportunity. It opened doors.”
From Florida to Alaska, Utah to Washington, Archibald’s work graces universities, city halls, public libraries, colleges, transportation centers, state patrol headquarters, elevator towers, courthouses, historical societies, airports, train stations, visitor centers, community centers and public schools.
“Every one of those opens a door. When you have those huge monumental glass works, it’ll dazzle you, it’s like a modern cathedral. It’s really something to see,” he said. “All down the line with every project I’ve done, I’ve given a lot more," he said. “I could say, ‘Oh there’s not enough money there,' or I could say, ‘I won’t get this chance again to have art on the front of the entire building,” he said.
Archibald decides there’s money enough. He doesn’t have a storefront. He has low overhead. And he has time.
Besides, he’s inspired by local philanthropists who donate so much money to the community.
“I don’t have money to give, but I can give glass; I can give art. I can be philanthropic without being a moneybags,” Archibald said. “I just want to be part of that. This place has been good to me.”