Meet The Owner – Apex Art And Culture Center

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Johnny Carswell at a recent artist reception for Going All City NW.

“Baby G” in front of Predator by her best friend “Miles”

The building is being brought back to its former historical glory to house historical artworks in downtown Everett, Washington.

The original fixtures are still in the historic building.

Art will be displayed on every floor of the building.

The styles are diverse and reflect the history of the artform.

The Carswells have been collecting Urban Art and Graffiti for more than a decade.

Johnny Carswell, his wife Abigail and their family have held a secret for some time.

They own what is considered to be the largest and most historic collection of urban and graffiti art in the United States and likely the world.

“It’s been a big secret, we didn’t tell anyone,” Abigail told me earlier this month. “It wasn’t planned, this was our family love project.”

For well over a decade Johnny and Abigail have built their collection by reaching out to artists, sending them blank canvas and asking them to recreate art they’ve done on the street as well as new original works.

Johnny Carswell grew up in southern California, Abigail in the Seattle area. She studied art and he gained a respect and appreciation for the West Coast style of Graffiti art that could be found in the alleys, bridges, overpasses and buildings away from the general public. They’ve both spent their adult lives in the Snohomish area.

Johnny recently purchased the Masonic Temple/Knights of Columbus building at 1611 Everett Avenue. Known most recently as Club Broadway (which stopped operating a decade ago), it lately had been home to an off-track betting parlor in a small portion of the space as the rest sat vacant. The building is on the National Historic Register.

The building is three stories and a “high basement”. At the time it was built in 1921 it was known as the diamond of Everett. It had a gym and swimming pool, a dance floor, billiard hall and theatre. Originally built by the Knights of Columbus as a memorial to the patriotism of 41 Knights of Columbus members who served in World War I the building was sold to the Masonic Order in the late 1920s.

“I want to make the diamond of Everett back into the diamond of Everett,” Johnny Carswell stated. “For the first three months we did nothing with the building but just let it sit and talk to us, to make sure we understood the emotion and personality to the building.”

Carswell is a successful commercial contractor who has owned and operated Northland Contractors since 1990. They are a full-service, boutique commercial contracting company specializing in high-end tenant improvement projects with a niche market in aerospace technologies. Their clients include Fortune 500 companies and notable Northwest businesses.

This latest project is one of passion for the Carswell family. Earlier this month work got underway in earnest on remodeling the building. “We want to restore it as close to original condition as possible using fixtures and furnishings discovered as we went through the building,” Johnny said. “I love this building and am excited to make it shine again.”

The Apex Art and Cultural Center will be an urban art museum and event center. There will be dining and lounges but also classes and demonstrations with guest artists brought in to both teach and create. The Carswell’s have formed a non-profit to assist in their efforts.

Upstairs there will be galleries featuring urban art and graffiti with separate themes – West Coast Graffiti, East Coast Graffiti and Freight Train Graffiti. Downstairs will be a gallery dedicated to the original power of New York Graffiti. The pieces in the collection will rotate every ninety days.

The collection is massive and historic dating back to pieces from the 1960s and the start of the graffiti art movement. Curating the exhibits will be a major task but the Carswell’s have that well in hand. Gloryanne “Baby G” Carswell grew up in Snohomish surrounded by some of the most important artists in the history of the artform. She got her “Baby G” moniker from the UTI “Under The Influence” Graffiti crew out of Los Angeles. Every year they come up to Carswell’s Farm outside of Snohomish and create. They’ve become some of Baby G’s best friends and uncles.

“People want to give graffiti art a negative connotation,” Baby G explained. “These are people with a great human side, they’ve risked life, limb and freedom for their art. Take Miles he was my best friend, so humble and kind. He passed away last August and there are only 13 canvasses of his left.”

Preservation and education of the graffiti and urban art is the driving force behind the Carswell’s efforts. “We preserve family legacies for many of these artists who have passed away,” said Johnny. “I’m excited for this history to be preserved within a building that is also historically preserved and I believe graffiti art and this building go together.”

Carswell wrote and produced a documentary in 2019 that has won several awards. “Prophets, Teachers and Kings” is a sixty-five minute film that documents the graffiti art scene in L.A. and how it has evolved with artists who have risen from juvenile delinquency to urban art influencers and shows the creation of a massive canvas featuring a collaboration of more than four dozen artists at the Carswell’s farm in Snohomish. While featured at several film festivals it has not yet been released publicly.

The Apex Art and Cultural Center is expected to draw graffiti art fans and collectors from around the world to Everett, Washington and should help in the City of Everett’s efforts to develop a “Creative District” in the downtown city core. The Carswell’s hope to open the center before the end of the year. Another example of how Everett is building.


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My Everett News is a hyperlocal news website featuring news and events in Everett, Washington. We also cover City of Everett information and items of interest to those who live, work, and play in Everett.

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