Ballard Artists Walk Out on Art Walk

The community is creating its own independent art walk after a rift with the Chamber of Commerce.

Ballard will now have two monthly art walks. The reason? Participating businesses and artists in the original Ballard Art Walk felt unsupported by the the Ballard Alliance, formerly known as the Chamber of Commerce, and split to create their own Ballard Night Out.

Maxx Follis, owner and director of the comics-centric Push/Pull, said that since June 2015 she had taken the initiative to not only promote and develop the Ballard Art Walk’s social-media presence and purchase a web domain for the event, but also to bring together the local arts community for meetings to listen to its needs. According to Follis, the lax involvement from the Chamber of Commerce, who was supposed to be in charge of the art walk, made stepping in and taking leadership a necessity. After a number of meetings, Follis learned that the community wanted to be independent of the Chamber of Commerce, who was busy passing its Ballard Improvement Area (BIA) initiative and changing its name to the Ballard Alliance.

The Chamber had run the art walk since 2000, after an independent art alliance dissolved. Follis said the Chamber was not doing an adequate job of promoting the walk, putting artists and venues who relied on it at risk of closing. Follis says that since 2014, more often than not, the “monthly” art walks simply wouldn’t happen.

Sponsorship for an independent art walk, “Ballard Night Out,” had been in the works since last year. Follis created the Greater Ballard Arts organization to oversee the event and had been granted funding from Shunpike, a nonprofit that supports local artists and art organizations. But, according to Follis, the sponsorship was abruptly cancelled in February by the Ballard Alliance.

Mike Stewart, executive director of the Ballard Alliance, denied that they had cancelled any sponsorship. “With the BIA taking effect on January 1, 2017, the Alliance had the mechanisms it needed in place that allowed us to refocus our efforts on the second Saturday Ballard Art Walk,” Stewart wrote in an e-mail.

Follis alleges that the issue with the Shunpike funding arose from the name “Ballard Art Walk,” which is legally owned by the Ballard Alliance. Follis had been planning and organizing under that name since last year, but says she was told by the Ballard Alliance she could not use the words “Ballard,” “art,” or “walk” if she planned to create an independent event. “That’s obviously pretty silly to not be able to use the word ‘Ballard’ when it’s something that’s in Ballard and the word ‘art’ when it has to do with art,” she said.

On Saturday, the two parties finally came to an agreement: Follis will hand over all Ballard Art Walk social-media accounts and the domain name she paid for to the Ballard Alliance, and in return the new independent organization Greater Ballard Arts can legally use the words “Ballard” and “art” in its name. Follis can also move forward with Shunpike sponsorship. “I hope this means we can continue planning really cool stuff for Ballard and that the art community will be supported better,” Follis said.

Ballard Night Out will take place on the third Thursday of each month, and the original Ballard Art Walk will continue on the second Saturday. “While separate events, we anticipate there will be opportunities for collaboration in the months ahead between the two groups,” Stewart said.