Lavone Newell Reim Leaves Art Legacy in Skagit Valley – La Conner Weekly News
If the Skagit Valley artist community could be thought of as family, and if the family had a mother figure, it would be Lavone Newell-rhyme. From 1987 to 2003 she organized and supported this large, family group every year at an event that brought art closer to the public in a reunion, celebration and sale. Newell-Reim, an abstract painter, co-hosted the annual Barn Show with fellow artist John Simon. In fact, much of what has propelled the art scene over the past four decades happened at their home on Fir Island, a former farm run by the pioneering Larson family.
When she died in July of that year, La Conner lost one of her artists and a piece of the valley’s art history. She was both a painter and author as well as a community organizer and patron of the arts and artists.
Born in Upper Skagit Valley in 1931, Newell-Reim received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Western Washington University and taught art and English at Cascade Middle School. She devoted herself to painting relatively late, worked as a student of Kadinsky’s philosophy of abstract art and was supervised by the painter Peggy Zehring.
Around 2000 she met her husband Dick Reim and they later married, toured the world and continued to host the Barn Show each year with the valley’s celebrated artists from Guy Anderson and Clayton James to Kevin Paul, Anne Martin McCool and Maggie Wilder.
Her garden was both a backdrop for her arts and a work of art itself. Fundraising drives, memorials, garden tours, and even political events have drawn people from the valley and beyond. Newell rhyme started planting in 1972. She had a knack for growing plants that were compatible in color, flowering time, species, and visual or structural complexity. The garden grows in a layered effect with additions of rhododendrons, katsura trees, black locust frisia and biblical cedars of Lebanon. Weeping birches and clematis climb over it.
At the age of 85, she began another artistic activity: writing “The Barn Shows” to capture the annual event and its artists, with photographs by her collaborator Cathy Stevens. The book includes nearly 40 artists, including several “emerging” talents who were late for the exhibitions
For those in the art world, however, Newell’s rhyme is best remembered for their conversations about art, life, and how the two express themselves. She spent hours talking to the artists who shared the valley with her. She and Dale Chihuly lay on the floor under his chandeliers to watch the play of shadows, which she told him was as breathtaking as the glass itself.
There are a few things about their people that they may not know. She was a die-hard Mariners fan. She was a talented cook. Her book “Skagit Valley Fare” is still published and sold. She had a very diverse love for music: Willie Nelson was her favorite. As an environmentalist she had great affection for the Skagit Valley and was a member of the Skagit Land Trust, Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland and supported the Museum of Northwest Art and the Skagit Symphony.
However, her greatest affinity was with the artists. Few realized that she was cutting out news and announcements about the accomplishments of each of her fellow painters and sculptors as if their accomplishments were their own. Newell-Reim has also written poems in which she shares in words her views on war, the valley, the growth and the conquest of the fields by the black tip. “Her heart was huge,” said Dick Reim.
“Lavone had an almost childlike enthusiasm and curiosity for so many things,” recalls long-time friend and artist colleague Martin-McCool. Even now, she says. “I have the feeling that she is still in her kitchen or studio doing something special.”
Today her paintings are shown at exhibitions in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. She has paintings in collections throughout the Northwest, Arizona, New York, Germany, New Zealand, Scotland, and Sweden.