BI arts leader to pursue more virtual services

She comes here after losing job due to virus in Tennessee

Nonprofit organization Bainbridge Arts & Crafts, located along Winslow Way, recently announced its new executive director, Debra Ruzinsky, to lead the historic art exhibit going forward.

Ruzinsky is a glass artist with a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology, School of American Craft, in New York. Additionally, she holds a bachelor’s degree from UCLA in Design. She credits her father, who was an engineer, for her initial curiosity in art.

“Ever since I was little I liked to work with my hands and make things,” she said. “I would follow my dad around the garage; he liked to putter around making things. I would ask him all kinds of questions. I kind of had a creative lens and a desire to understand how things work also. I kind of found a good outlet in craft art.”

The new BAC leader said she was fortunate that one of her first art teachers in college was Richard Marquis, who now lives on Whidbey Island, calling him “one of the masters of the medium.”

“I didn’t know how lucky I was,” she said. “Over time, I just learned from many additional amazing teachers and just got more involved.”

Most recently, Ruzinsky was the director for the Appalachian Center for Craft in Smithville, Tenn., before her position was eliminated due to COVID-19. She started searching for a job and found the BAC opening.

“It was kind of amazing timing,” Ruzinsky said. “I feel very fortunate. It was one of the more brisk job-hiring processes I’ve been through. I think they were motivated to find someone quickly, and I think through the sheer luck of timing, I had what they needed at the moment they needed it.”

Ruzinsky won’t actually be on site at the gallery until Sept. 21. She came to the island last year when visiting a friend.

“It seems really beautiful and a really great community, and I’m excited to be so welcomed into it,” Ruzinsky said.

Looking ahead, Ruzinsky affirmed her commitment to valuing the rich history of the organization, which dates back to 1948, and the immense community support.

“I think those are really valuable things,” she said. “I know they’ve been in the center of town for many years, and get a lot of business in the summertime, especially in normal times when tourists come through.”

As for dealing with a new organization during a pandemic, Ruzinsky said BAC is looking into an online market space, something the organization has never pursued. Things like in-person classes and monthly art opening gatherings won’t be occurring for some time because of capacity limitations caused by the pandemic, Ruzinsky said.

Before implementing too many changes, she said it is important for her to listen to members of the organization, artists, and the Bainbridge community as a whole.

“I’ll certainly be learning a lot from the folks who have been a part of the organization for a very long time,” Ruzinsky said. “I really believe in listening and observing before I insert too much in order to get a sense of the big picture. I want to respect that and then build on what’s already there.”

BAC background

BAC brings free art education and outreach to communities across Kitsap County. It is one of the region’s largest nonprofit galleries, supporting more than 200 Northwest artists and serving more than 10,000 people each year through more than 100 programs. BAC was the first visual arts organization on the island.

BAC reopened July 3 after initially being closed due to COVID. Policies relating to the coronavirus are in place with many signs displayed. Protocols include mandatory mask-wearing, disposable gloves for those handling artwork, touchpoints that are wiped down throughout the day, availability of hand sanitizer, and a limit of 10 people in the gallery at a time (not including staff).

Those wishing to view the work of an artist outside of public hours can make an appointment by calling the gallery at 206-842-3132. BAC hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. For details go to