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Saturday, July 15, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Arts scene blossoming in Snoqualmie Valley

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

Many Snoqualmie Valley residents are quick to say it's getting harder to keep their hometowns a secret. For the valley's burgeoning arts community, that's just fine.

In this large rural area encompassing Duvall, Carnation, Fall City, Snoqualmie and North Bend and lots of unincorporated parts in between, area artists are hailing a new era of culture fueled by musicians, painters and actors.

From summer concerts in Duvall to acting classes in North Bend with lots of other visual- and performance-art opportunities along the way, a drive down the Snoqualmie Valley is no longer limited to views of Mount Si and rolling farm fields.

Over the past decade, at least seven arts organizations have formed and are working to bring performances to the valley while encouraging their own artists to stand out. For some, it's about the convenience of avoiding the congestion farther west while still having a variety of entertainment options — dozens of concerts, gallery shows and classes.

Take Lee Grumman, for instance.

She moved to Seattle more than a decade ago from Boston. In the city, she established herself in the culture of world percussion.

After a year in Seattle, Grumman moved to Carnation, a town with one pint-sized strip mall and not a fast-food chain in sight. She relished the quiet nights, friendly people and quaintness.

In 2004, she bought the old Miller's building and founded the town's first arts center — Miller's Community & Arts Center. In the process, she's become an arts matriarch of sorts.

Grumman spent the summer of 2004 ripping out drop ceilings, sanding down woodwork and painting walls. She replaced the floors, restored the old display windows facing Tolt Avenue and revealed an original skylight.

Her contemporaries in Duvall and North Bend said she has been key in organizing events in the valley and helping band towns together on a mission of getting residents excited about the arts.

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She's helped reveal artists such as Hubertus Liere, a carpenter by trade whose watercolors are now sold at Miller's. His works sit next to those of Diane Solomon, a local artist whose high-ticket works one painting was going for $1,200 recently seem out of place in Carnation, but not at Miller's.

Acting out in North Bend

For aspiring actors in North Bend, the town better known as the backdrop for the short-lived early-'90s TV hit "Twin Peaks," Gary Schwartz's Unity Theater is the place to be.

Schwartz founded the Unity after a career of movie roles, TV appearances and voice work. Confronted with intense competition from similar efforts in Seattle, Schwartz had to find another way to make his tiny theater, a second-floor room in downtown North Bend, eventually work for itself financially.

So he did what he did best — acted silly and got others in on it, too.

Since the theater's founding three years ago, Schwartz said, more people are taking classes, and the recent addition of children's activities has attracted families.

Still, it's hard to raise money in a small town. A fundraiser is planned next month. He hopes that will supplement donations from local arts lovers and from some of those big names he likes to tout.

Hollywood stars David Arquette and Courteney Cox recently gave the theater $500.

Bringing it together

Ask Carolyn Butler how best to keep her town united as it prepares for a possible population boom and she's got a one-word answer: arts.

"I believe the arts are for everyone in everyday life," said Butler, who sits on the Duvall Cultural Commission board.

Butler is proud that her town of about 5,600 can draw 500 people for some music performances.

And she sees how Duvall businesses are starting to recognize that "good art means good business," she said, with cafes and other businesses starting to feature artwork by locals.

"More and more, people here are recognizing how important art is," Butler said.

"It's getting infectious."

Nathan Hurst: 206-464-2112 or nhurst@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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