Artist-Pastor Jason Dorsey is launching an art and history project called The Bridges of Redmond. It will culminate with an art show of 365 original watercolor paintings by Jason – one for each day of the year – and a coffee table book that weaves art with stories of people who live along and love the Sammamish River. For Dorsey, who moved to Redmond in 2015 to be the pastor of Redeemer Redmond, a presbyterian church that meets at the Hilton Garden Inn, this project is a way to learn about his roots and “come to terms” with his new home.

When Jason moved to Redmond, he discovered his family roots here. His dad, legendary northwest artist Jack Dorsey, grew up on a fifty-acre farm where Microsoft East campus now sits.

Jack attended Redmond elementary. Here is the second-grade class at Redmond Elementary. Jack is second in on the second row, left side.

Jack served on the Redmond “Warriors” Jr. High Annual in the 9th grade, and also painted the “Warrior” mascot in the gym.

Jason has other family connections to Redmond. His uncle Chuck Bay, Jack’s half-brother, also grew up in Redmond. Chuck married JoAnne whose parents, Ben and mom Emily Stenquist, owned Redmond Cleaners, a dry cleaner shop in downtown Redmond. Chuck and JoAnne raised their four children in Redmond. Read more here. 

“When our family moved to Redmond in 2015, I discovered the rich history my family has in this place,” Jason says. Through the Bridges of Redmond project I want to learn about the history of Redmond and, in particular, the Sammamish River that threads its way through our town.” Jason also hopes to “come to terms” with his new home. When Jason, his wife Jenny and his two youngest children moved to Redmond in August of 2015 they moved into Riverpark Apartments that looks onto the Sammamish River at Luke McRedmond Landing Park and the Redmond Way bridge.

“Jenny and I walked the river trail almost every day,” Jason says. Sometimes we’d go south to Marymoor Park. Other times we’d walk north past the City Hall. I began to notice all the wonderfully diverse bridges along the river. I wondered what their stories were. I asked Dad and he told me there used to be mini hydro-planes that would race up the river and that a small gold course sat along the river.” Jason was intrigued. He wanted to learn more of the history of the river, here the stories of people who had lived along and loved it.

Walking the river daily Jason experienced its beauty through the seasons. “It was awesome to see the salmon spawning that first September. Then there was the fall with its bright colors and melancholy mood; then the many browns and grays of winter and the sparkle and sprinkle of fresh snow; then the soft greens and pinks and pastels of spring; then the and the rich greens of summer. And each bridge has its own character and beauty, and, I’m sure, its own story. I loved it all.” Jason began to take photographs, capturing impressions of the river’s daily changes.

In 2019 the Dorsey’s moved to Avignon, an apartment complex that sits along the Sammamish further north (where 160th comes to a dead end). Their favorite walk now is north to Sixty Acres Park. “We turn around at the bridge there. It takes about an hour there and back,” Jason says. “I walk the river at all times of the day: early morning, lunch, afternoon, evening. The sights along the river change with each hour, each day, each season.” Parishioners join Jason for these walks. “It’s better than meeting with someone in an office or even a coffee shop,” Jason says. It’s very therapeutic to be immersed in creation.”

At some point, Jason conceived of The Bridges of Redmond project. He wanted it to be similar to his very popular Beaches of Camano that tells the stories of the beaches of Camano Island and people who live on them and love them. “Beaches of Camano was a way for me to come to terms with leaving Indianapolis after thirteen years of ministry in the city and our family putting down roots there. That move was hard. Working on the beaches book was a great way for me to process coming home.

Jason’s first painting of the Sammamish, a dramatic winter sky, was purchased by a parishioner.

In January, 2021, Jason began painting for the series in earnest. “I have a long way to go,” Jason says. “But there is no end of impressions of the Sammamish I want to share.”

“I am going to need a lot of help to pull this off,” Jason points out. “I need people to tell me their stories.” He is beginning to interview people, both old timers to Redmond and newcomers. He wants to learn the history of the Sammamish River, the salmon, the reclamation project, the memories folks have of the river, fishing, walking, and biking it and why they love it now.

Jason calls it The Bridges of Redmond not only because of the many diverse, picturesque bridges that tie Redmond together, but because bridges are symbols of bringing people together. “One of the first things I noticed was how many people walked, ran and biked the Sammamish River trail,” Jason says. “The second was how diverse those people were.”

Jason hopes through art and storytelling to build bridges, to bring people together: bridges between the old-timers and newcomers, bridges between the young and old, bridges between the people that come from all over the world and who call Redmond home with those who grew up in Redmond, bridges between past and the future, and bridges between culture (the architecture of the bridges) and creation (the beauty of the Sammamish River in its varied moments, moods and seasons).

Jason would love to hear your story of your life along and love for the Sammamish River. If you would be willing to share it please reach out to him at j.dorsey23@gmail.com or 317.209.6768. 

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