A selection of Esther Webster’s historically significant paintings includes scenes of local industry, business and recreation. Photo by Nora Pitaro

A selection of Esther Webster’s historically significant paintings includes scenes of local industry, business and recreation. Photo by Nora Pitaro

Exhibit, events explore creativity of Esther Barrows Webster

In time for Women’s History Month, the North Olympic History Center is teaming up with the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center to explore the life and legacy of a remarkable Port Angeles artist.

Esther Barrows Webster (1903-85) is described as “a fiercely independent artist” whose life took her from rural Oregon to the art world of New York City and finally to the Olympic Peninsula, where she lived and worked for more than 50 years.

Websterbecame an award winning painter as well as an outspoken community leader and champion of the arts. Upon her death in 1985, she bequeathed her home and estate to the community to become the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center.

An exhibition of Webster’s modern paintings, prints and sketches in February at the gallery that now occupies her former residence.

Jointly curated by Sarah Jane, the arts center’s gallery and program director, and Amy McIntyre, the North Olympic History Center’s executive director, “Creating a Scene: The Legacy and Vision of Esther Webster” includes work from both organizations’ permanent collections.

“Creating a Scene” is the first substantial exhibit of the artist’s work to be mounted since 2004, and two upcoming virtual events will provide a behind-the-scenes view of the curatorial process and historical research leading up to this exhibit.

On Saturday, March 6, beginning at 10 a.m., Jane and McIntyre will team up to discuss “Curating Esther” at the latest installment of the Arts Center’s buzzy virtual ArtBites discussion series.

The duo will share how their understanding of Esther and her creative practice developed over the course of researching this exhibit. “This project felt surprisingly intimate at times,” said Jane, adding, “although neither of (the curators) had the chance to meet her in life, I think we both felt that we came to know Esther as a person and as an artist.”

In addition to outlining the curatorial work behind the finished exhibit, the curators will highlight a few artworks and discoveries that didn’t make it into the final show.

Tickets to the virtual ArtBites event cost $12 each, and may be purchased online at pafac.org.

A week later, at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 14, McIntyre and Jane will reunite at the History Center’s virtual North Olympic Voices event.

“The History Center is thrilled to collaborate with Port Angeles Fine Arts Center on the ‘Esther’ exhibit,” McIntyre said.

“As Sarah Jane points out, our collection is curated by Esther herself. And the pièce de résistance may be Esther’s plaid three-piece suit. For our research we leaned heavily on the book, Olympic Leaders by Helen Neal Radke and Joan Ducceschi, and mined the memories of local residents and our own organizations.

“We hope this is the first in a series of joint exhibitions.”

North Olympic Voices is a free, public monthly arts and lecture series of the North Olympic History Center. Presentations are live-streamed every second Sunday of the month at 2 p.m. Pacific time; visit clallamhistoricalsociety.com for more information.

“Creating a Scene: The Legacy and Vision of Esther Webster” is sponsored by KONP and will be on display through April 25 at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center, 1203 E. Lauridsen Blvd.

The gallery is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday; admission is free by donation.

Those interested may learn more at pafac.org.

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