Make It Work! Seattle's Arts Enablers: Stuart Smithers


Category: Arts + Events Articles


In 1993, Stuart Smithers, a professor of Buddhist studies at the University of Puget Sound, began work reinventing an old dairy farm near Arlington as a 360-acre arts utopia. Fifteen years after its inception, Smoke Farm (; named after the original owners) is now a place where local artists of all types gather over the summer months to weed gardens, plant vegetables, restore creeks, share documentary films, read poetry, play croquet and sing around the campfire. Smithers and his founding partner, architect Craig Hollow, host a range of activities from spring to autumn, from retreats for arts- and community-minded high schoolers to medieval feasts to workshops on site-specific art and architecture. Travis Nichols

Q. How does Smoke Farm encourage local art and artists?
A. We are experimenting with the idea of a sustainable art and culture collective. Most of the players in this experiment are Seattle artists who have visited the site and been inspired by what they have found—a vast and beautiful site, brilliant and playful minds, a genuinely welcoming atmosphere, the kind of dinner conversations we’re all craving, campfires and debates that go on past my bedtime.

We live in a society that emphasizes production, and artists are forced to live under the same demand. At Smoke Farm, we are trying to de-emphasize the need for immediate result and support artists who are experimenting, developing and thinking about projects. You can imagine how exciting it is to be around people who are very much in the middle of projects. A lot of cross-pollinating takes place at the farm, ideas are shared and boundaries are pushed. I suppose you could say we are incubating artists, supporting artists and their visions. We are farming the future.

Q. Do you think Smoke Farm might help raise Seattle’s arts profile nationally?
A. It might, but that isn’t our main concern. We’re more like the slow food movement: Think globally, cook locally and enjoy the results. We’re serious about developing a sense of community with artists, teachers and thinkers, and about serving the Seattle community in a unique way.