You could say that in Port Townsend, art is second nature. This becomes apparent upon your first visit. The coffee-shop barista plays cello. The grocery-store clerk paints plein air in his spare time. That giftshop owner? She dabbles in poetry and headlines for local plays.
“You don’t come just to look at the art,” says Stanley Rubin, chairperson of the Port Townsend Arts Commission. “You come here to participate in the arts.”
But even if you just want to applaud, you’ll have plenty of options. Considered the most authentic Victorian-era seacoast town in the United States, Port Townsend is a treasure trove of restored 19th-century brick buildings and a National Historic District. Drop by the first Saturday of each month to peruse dozens of the district’s art galleries while visiting with many of the region’s top artists.
In the heart of the Historic District, look for the 66-seat Key City Public Theatre, home to the annual Playwrights’ Festival. On any given evening in Port Townsend, encounter a free reading at the Northwind Arts Center, a jazz show at the Northwest Maritime Center or a studio-tour weekend. And in September take a seat at the four-day Port Townsend Film Festival.
But don’t be surprised if you return home with an urge to be on the stage instead of in the audience.