A Fresh Cut and Perspective: How Bishops Bellevue Opened its Doors to Local Artists
Sierra Sharp made a self-described “modest attempt” to introduce a taste of normalcy back into daily life when she struck an alliance between the Issaquah, Newcastle and Bellevue salons in her district. As the Regional Manager for Bishops Haircuts and Color, her days are spent working with enterprising creatives on her team. But she also recognized that plenty of artists out there in the community were seeking platforms to debut original work during the pandemic.
She got to work. As the virus ushered in constraints on our activities and future agendas, local artists are up against especially grim challenges. Typical outlets and opportunities to share artwork and collaborate are few and far between, or have been revamped to be more COVID-19 conscious, but often still leave artistry on the back burner, Sierra explained.
Her initial concept to feature local artists inside Bishops’ salons quickly ratcheted up into a safe and positive outlet for artists. She created a new program to partner with an expanding list of artists to fill each Bishops location with art, surrounding clients with a localized array of artist.
“I wanted to showcase what people haven’t seen,” Sierra said, noting that all three locations have elected to display art with unique interpretations of central themes related to change, reinvention and the cyclical nature of life and death. “Pieces range from spiritual and metaphysical to funky portraits with an unconventional take on people, places, or things,” Sierra said.
While displaced farmers market vendors, festival performers, artisans and merchants at art walks and fairs are not generally deemed ‘essential’ or ‘high priority businesses’ by state and federal standards, Sierra said artists still need stimulus and sustainable options to fare the pandemic. Artists partnering with Bishops are rotated each quarter as part of the newly minted “New Year, New Friends” campaign, paired with a nonprofit focus that allows each store manager and its team members free rein to nominate a deserving charity to allocate donations.
For example, for every $10 a customer donates to Ben’s Fund, a local organization that empowers children with Autism to excel in Washington state, those donors receive a $10 Bishops Bucks certificate in return. Next quarter, Bishops on Bellevue Way has planned to support nonprofit Escape to Peace based in Bellevue, which raises awareness about sex trafficking through increased education, detection and preventive measures.
When Ashlye Wasnock, a store manager and lead stylist at the Downtown Bellevue Bishops, approached Sierra last year about switching gears from corporate-approved interior design and décor to channel an authentic local angle, Sierra started sleuthing for potential contributors. Countless hours into her investigation, her staff finally landed on two artists and enthusiastically signaled the greenlight for exhibition. Shortly after, word spread quickly, and the emails flooded her inbox.
“It’s stirred up conversation and earned a wildly positive response across all three locations,” Sierra said. “We have an array of artists that speak to the heart of multicultural identities and proudly reflect heritages from around the globe, and as an all-inclusive brand, Bishops embraces individuality and differences that distinguish who we are.”
Her selection process is straightforward, operating on a first come, first serve basis. No matter the discipline or experience, Sierra said all artists are eligible to participate. Interested applicants should contact Sierra (available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org) with inquiries and she will respond in order of submission. To diversify and tailor the artwork to each individual location, managers and staff ultimately have the final verdict on which entries are approved.
“If it vibes with our ethos, we hang it. It’s that simple,” Sierra said.
Behind the project, Sierra said, lies an undercurrent of mental health strain and fatigue she wanted to help improve, and the program emerged as a major motivator and vehicle to uplift her employees and shore up positivity in the workplace.
“Watching them muscle through the pandemic has been difficult, and the virus has magnified a whole swarm feelings, often unexplainable feelings. Then, throw in political turmoil and uncertainty in our communities - it’s really taking a toll,” Sierra explained. “Inviting these artists into the space gives our staff and clients something to look forward to, even if just a little bit of excitement.”
As for what qualifies Bishops as the perfect venue to showcase local artwork, Sierra said the answer seemed clear.
“We are a group of good humans trying to do good things. We eat, play, and live here, and we’re just here to build a connection with the next awesome human, one inch at a time.”
This blog is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.
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