Laurel Whitehurst passed away on November 8, 2022. This was sad news for the arts and for the community as a whole. Laurel was the true founder of the Clark County Arts Commission as well as Arts of Clark County (now Artstra) in 2010. She was a strong believer that art can change the world and little steps can add up to big changes.
During her tenure as vice-chair of the arts commission and chair of Arts of Clark County, she spearheaded the creation of the Anstine Gallery on the 6th floor of the Clark County Public Service Center. She knew that hallway was where people congregated between hearings and council meetings; it was also a place where local artists could be showcased and their work appreciated. Laurel and Don, her partner of 28 years, gathered the track lighting and hanging system and oversaw the installation. They transformed a sterile hallway into a gallery that is welcoming and engages visitors with art.
Laurel also was instrumental in gathering art supplies for the women and families at the Winter Hospitality Overflow (WHO) shelter. Her annual effort was later named Creative Relief and it has become a year-round way for Artstra to provide art supplies and workshops for those who have limited or no access to those resources.
Laurel’s biggest passion was the public art potential in the development of stormwater retention facilities. In 1982 she was on the Kent (Washington) Arts Commission when a major stormwater retention project was initiated. The commission pushed to make it much more than a ditch with a cyclone fence. Rather, they commissioned internationally renowned Bauhaus artist and designer Herbert Bayer to design an earthworks public art piece that also worked for stormwater processing. It is still a work of art first and its function has never failed. Laurel’s experience in Kent led her to lobby Clark County planners and developers, urging them to rethink the minimum effort to retain stormwater and consider how to aesthetically incorporate this important infrastructure into the landscape.
Laurel was a passionate, engaged, and sharing woman whose love of our community and the arts will be missed.
In Laurel’s honor, Artstra has created a fund to support the ongoing needs of the Anstine Gallery, including a stipend for an emerging curator to manage curatorial duties. All donations are tax-deductible per IRS nonprofit rules.