Visitors to downtown Mount Vernon might not have noticed the Lido Building in the past, even though it’s right next door to the popular Skagit Valley Food Co-op. Once housing the Lido Theater, the building was used as the Skagit Democrat headquarters for the last ten years, but since April it has been the home of the Lido Collective, a local art showcase founded and run by the Mount Vernon Downtown Association.
The shop, newly remodeled into a bright white space with pale wood flooring, now holds paintings, photographs, wood furniture, cases of handmade jewelry, glasswork, handwoven scarves and knitted hats, cards, printed clothing and linens, all by local artists.
“The Downtown Association has always seen supporting the local art community to be a key part of its mission,” says Ellen Gamson, executive director of the Downtown Association. “Skagit Valley has a strong and deep vein of creative energy.”
For the last few years the Downtown Association has been running a pop-up shop space, available monthly to applicants, which is frequently rented by artists. A regular downtown art walk has also been popular.
“We’ve always used art as a tool for the revitalization of downtown,” Gamson says.
During the pandemic, seeing how much artists had been struggling, she decided to create another venue. The Downtown Association received a Nonprofit Community Recovery grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce that paid for the remodel, fixtures, and the first two months of rent. Since then they have been paying full rental price for the space, and hope the shop will become self-sustaining over the next few years.
They decided that they wanted the shop run professionally, so they tapped local businesswoman Kate Pickett, who owned the specialty clothing shop Embellish for many years. Gamson gives full credit to Pickett for her merchandising vision. In addition to Pickett, the shop employs two part-time sales associates. They hope to add e-commerce soon, to expand the market for the art being sold.
“We want the whole experience to be quality,” Gamson says.
The shop carries work by over 30 artists, but Gamson feels there is room for more. “We don’t want to be cluttered but we want to have a lot.” Currently featured work includes hand printed fabrics by Kristin Loffer Theiss and ceramics by her husband Chris Theiss, resin and wood pieces by Caroline Hall, woodcut prints by Gene Jaress, glass mosaics by Katie Walton, and much more. Selection will change over time, not just as artists bring new work in, but as the displayed work changes seasonally.
The effect is elegant and colorful, but with plenty of room to appreciate each piece. Even before they started showing art, Gamson says, “One of the things I appreciated about this space … is that there was light and air.” Now that the shop is open, she says, “it’s a space full of light, air and beauty … it’s a reflection of the valley.” 300 S. 1st St., Mount Vernon, 360.503.3626, lidocollective.org