Jansen Art Center: Art and Its Making

by Megs Thompson

Across the street from “JoFish Seafood & Grill” and two blocks down from the town windmill sits what was once the small town of Lynden’s combination city hall, jail & firehouse. Originally constructed in 1929, sold for $1 in 2011, and reopened (after extensive renovations) in August of 2012, the Jansen Art Center features 6 individual studios with space enough to accommodate a variety of artistic styles, and a full range of studies, as well as a café, fine art gallery & gift shop.


At first glance, I was already head over heels in love with place, and I immediately knew I’d be coming back again – whether to try my hand at throwing a little clay, designing a new piece of jewelry, attempting to paint something worth hanging, or simply to enjoy the atmosphere and stick to what I know – words. While the renovations completed were major, the designers embraced the fact that a portion of the building was originally the old firehouse – keeping fire engine red as a key accent color, as well as leaving some subtle reminders of what once was. For example, the “town hall safe,” which still resides in the basement and is used for storing important paperwork, as well as the city’s two original jail cells still standing, only now they house pieces of art, and not hardened criminals (Although, if we’re being honest, the “hardest” criminal they ever saw was most likely a gent who’d thought “borrowing” his neighbors cow would be amusing.).

“And, as I took a quick tour of the building, careful not to disturb the young prima ballerinas, or master artists in training, it was almost palpable – the creative energy that eked from the walls.”

On my recent visit, there were numerous eclectic pieces created by local artist Jennifer Bowman decorating the walls of the Fine Art Gallery – their brilliant hues casting a glow on the room. And, as I took a quick tour of the building, careful not to disturb the young prima ballerinas, or master artists in training, it was almost palpable – the creative energy that eked from the walls.

While my visit was mid-afternoon on a surprisingly sunny Tuesday (it was just warm enough for the large bay doors in the café to be opened, letting in the crisp spring air and a refreshing breeze) I opted to treat myself to the aptly named “Northwest Breakfast Panini” (egg, tomato, pesto aioli, & spinach on fresh focaccia bread) & a glass of wine (Layer Cake Cab Sauvignon – delish) – and relax for a bit as I took in the varying pieces displayed in every direction. With subjects varying from a voluptuous older woman so kissed by the sun that the hue of her skin is now much more akin to leather than actual flesh, sporting a lemon yellow bikini, and carrying a cherry tipped cigar – you can’t forget the cigar – to a series of charcoal portraits, an underwater scene of brilliant tropical fish, and the metal ravens soaring from the rafters – the center really is like a breath of fresh air!

As a part of their mission to “be a place for artists
to create, teach, share, and engage
 the community in the arts,” the Jansen Art Center invites artists from Northwest Washington and British Columbia to exhibit and sell their original works within the center, and are always on the lookout for new and exciting methods of artistic expression. Their class offerings currently include options for all ages and all facets of the arts – from children curious about musical theater to working with sterling silver, acrylic & watercolor painting, throwing pottery, weaving, stringed ensembles, the list goes on.


The Jansen Art Center & Firehall Café are located at 321 Front Street, in Lynden, Washington, and are open weekly, Tuesday-Saturday, from 9am-5pm.

For more information, give them a call at 360-354-3600, or check their website (www.jansenartcenter.org) for a complete list of the many courses being offered (remember, these are all open to anyone & everyone), as well as for an up-to-date schedule of live music performances (Wednesdays weekly from 12-1pm in the Firehall Café), and other events.