Heidi Elkington is a local artist who works at You & I Framing & Gallery in Downtown Kennewick. We talked about what life has been like in the past year for artists, for the downtown scene, and for small businesses in the Tri-Cities.

I know the “(Insert topic here) in the time of COVID” editorials are getting a little tired, but I think that when it comes to the resilience of communities — like Downtown Kennewick, for example — the topic is still very relevant. What changes have you seen in the past year?

What changes did I see in 2020? As it relates to You & I Framing...

In 2020 I witnessed the disappearance of the usual Downtown Kennewick hubbub. For a long time, I came to work at the frame shop down empty streets and vacant parking lots. We saw very few customers and filled our time with old forgotten projects and beautifying the gallery. We would hear of business closures, and some of our neighbors decided to call it quits, at least for the time being. Our fellow downtowners would stop in occasionally to see how we were faring, and longtime customers called to give their best.

Slowly but surely, business started to pick up for us. Over the last six months, the dribble turned into a stream, and we are now so busy we almost forget to be grateful sometimes! We are encouraged by our neighbors who are still here doing their thing! Many of the businesses in Downtown Kennewick used the time like we did, fixing up storefronts and remodeling the old buildings. It looks good down here! And the people are returning, and the cars too...ugh! So life is good down here.

Who is championing art in the Tri-Cities?

I will miss some businesses and organizations that have been working very hard I'm sure! But here are the ones I am most familiar with:

  • The owners of Roxy Antiques have kept up the Gallery Underground, located in the basement of the Roxy. The gallery features the original work of 10 different local artists. Both Laura Jordan and Travis Jordan have been very kind to do this as the Roxy went through some major changes last year with the passing of Anne Steiger, longtime downtowner and former owner of Roxy. If you haven’t been in to look at the place recently, I would recommend it! They are open Thursday–Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Art sales are up!
  • Barracuda Coffee on Kellogg St. in Kennewick has been so kind to show artist’s work and sell it too!
  • Endive Eatery on Kennedy Rd. in West Richland also promotes local artists and donates their walls to this purpose.

In the time of closed galleries, it has been awesome to find business owners with public walls who are willing to donate space.

What have artists been doing differently this year?

Getting creative! Which is what we are good at. Speaking from my experience, I have been finding other avenues to pay the bills and doing art because I want to, not because I get paid to. This is my preferred motivator, and so I am finding the positive in all these lifestyle changes. I am constantly thrilled by the role of art in our lives, and this pandemic has been no different. Art speaks to my soul in a way that is necessary during hard times. It gives me a healthy outlet, and keeps me keeping on!

Heidi Elkington
ROXY Theatre Antiques
The Endive

Sara Quinn is the Editor in Chief at Tumbleweird. She makes pixel art, writes stuff, reads A TON, and plays a lot of video games ;)

Downtown Kennewick photo by Theresa Will / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)