Western’s Employee Art Show has humble beginnings that arose from a casual suggestion made at the right time and place in Western’s history to catch the attention of a receptive audience willing to take action. It all began back in 1993 when Western was celebrating its 100th Anniversary. Everyone (faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors, administrators, and friends of Western, as well as local and regional community members, dignitaries, and legislators) was involved in celebrating this auspicious milestone in Western’s history. As one of the many on-campus centennial celebration events, the Art Department held exhibits showcasing the artwork of its faculty and alumni, as well as student artists that highlighted how art had enhanced their lives.
It was after viewing the exhibit in early 1994, that Gayle Shipley, then Director of Environmental Health and Safety, noted the absence of artwork by Western’s staff. Western’s community is comprised of highly diverse, dedicated, well-educated and trained employees with expertise in their professions, many of whom are also artists in their own right. As such, all of them should have the opportunity to have their creativity and talent exhibited and proposed that Western have an annual Staff Art Show. She noted that this would also be in keeping with Eileen Coughlin’s, (now retired) Sr. Vice President / Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services, philosophy on student learning within the framework of Western’s campus community. That “students are enriched by everyone they encounter at the university, and the university must strive to create an environment that honors experiences from all sources.
Dr. George Pierce, then Vice President of Business and Financial Affairs, took the idea to then President Karen Morse, who wholeheartedly embraced the idea. She not only provided funding for materials to construct the art display panels needed to hang the first show held on April 14, 1995, but also continued to allocate an annual stipend to cover expenses for materials and supplies until her retirement in 2008. Funding has continued to the present day, first from former President Bruce Shepard and now from President Sabah Randhawa with ongoing support from the Western Washington University Foundation.
In the early years, the annual Staff Arts and Crafts Show was organized and managed by the combined volunteer efforts of classified staff, through the Staff Employees Council (SEC) and professional staff, through the Professional Staff Organization (PSO). When the SEC was dissolved in 2007, the PSO took full responsibility for organizing and implementing all future shows. In 2008, the PSO renamed the show to the annual Employees Arts and Crafts Show and invited faculty to participate as well. Then in 2013, the show’s name was shortened to the current Employee Art Show and will be celebrating its 25th Anniversary April 2-6, 2018 in the Western Gallery.
The annual show is sponsored by President Sabah Randhawa, Western Washington University Foundation, and the Professional Staff Organization.