When Spaceworks Tacoma threw out the welcome mat for its July 29 Block Party, art lovers set their cultural GPS for Theater on the Square and a celebration of the art exhibits and pop-up stores opening downtown. Shorts and sunglasses were de rigeur as the mixer kicked off with a full lineup of live entertainment on the outdoor stage, fresh catered noshes and a beer garden in which to ponder all of the above (City Council members David Boe and Marty Campbell were among those convening in the outdoor amber hall). Lucky for those who missed the neighborhood shindig, most of the art will be on display through late September.
We started our art walk at the corner of 950 Pacific Ave. where Bloodlines, a luminous installation by Mary Coss, Pamela Hom and June Sekiguchi forms the metaphorical heart of the art beat. This magnum opus is actually three separate works in one, intertwined seamlessly around issues of cultural and creative inheritance – and the holiness of the human body. It’s a lot to digest at one sitting (we’ve already planned a return visit). Down the street at 913 and 915 Pacific Ave., two pop-up stores opened their doors for business: at The Pottery Annex, clay artist Susan Thompson spun magic at the wheel between ringing up sales and chatting to enthusiasts about her fabulous, functional vessels. Next door, at Chiffon, fashion designer Tiffanie Peters was still unpacking boxes from her collection – but no problem, visitors simply pawed at her beautiful, hand-made jewelry, displayed like works of art on the wall.
At 1114 Pacific Ave., filmmaker Isaac Olsen, photographer Joshua Everson and textile artist Meghan Lancaster held court in their new digs inside a bank building converted into a collaborative studio of gi-normous dimensions. The space features a spiral staircase, a shiny vault, a kitchen, corporate meeting rooms – everything except a Guy Friday. Not surprisingly, it is taking the artists some time to configure and utilize the space, though they gamely welcomed visitors on opening night. Stay tuned.
Live music, dance and spoken word poetry energized the crowd at Theater on the Square. The Warehouse provided musical acts including HAIL, a rock band made up of SOTA students; Luke Stevens, Makeup Monsters and Travis Barker. The musicians were still going strong as the sun went down. A hearty performance by Shakespeare in the Parking Lot left no question as to whether 9th & Broadway was the place to be or not to be. Meanwhile, writer/director Aaron Flett and assistant director Cassie Lindberg mingled with visitors on the set of Jesus 4 Less at 906 Broadway. The two were slipping mock bookcovers over some of the thousands of old books there (the movie’s setting is the inside of a Christian bookstore), in order to avoid copyright infringement. The film is being shot in the ornate interior of a former Moroccan furnishings store, an irony that was not lost on us.
Where would a block party be without food? There were audible ah’s from people nibbling the free-of-charge gourmet pupus made by Affairs Catering, and life-giving iced tea provided by Tobin and Maureen of the Mad Hat. We were slowly melting from the heat when we ran into Jeff the Ice Cream Man, whose bike-powered cart was stuffed with the most fascinating ice creams we’ve ever encountered, including pico de gallo with chili (both freezing and blistering at the same time), and a creamy concoction the world has been waiting for, called “Ice Cream in a Tube.” Refreshed, we headed for the Woolworth Building to check out five installations by Zeit-Bike, meadow starts with ‘p,’ Joseph Songco, Gretchen Bennett and Lisa Kinoshita. These installations cover a lot of ground: eco-friendly bikes, deconstructive photography, Tacoma history, doomed bears, the interrelationship of art and play. Making a circuit of the large storefront windows, we thought about what an excellent art venue a department store makes, and how Woolworth‘s, the grand five-and-dime, is as always a most satisfying place to look at art.
There were young people sitting on the ground listening intently to HAIL as we headed for three installations on Broadway. We viewed Ben Hirschkoff‘s work, which situates a translucent cloud inside a window; Tory Franklin‘s jewel-like rendering of the Russian fairytale, The Firebird; and Michelle Acuff‘s blue deer immobilized inside a raw, dystopic modern world. About this time we had a strange feeling. It was exciting to look at so much interesting art – and yet, we were beginning to feel as if we’d just consumed a six-course meal, heavy on the aesthetics, and it was now time for a digestif. So, it was with pleasure we ended up at Jennifer Adams‘ pop-up store, fly, for a dose of retail therapy. We were revived by Adams’ finely edited selection of artist products including squid boxer shorts by Kelsey Parkhurst, Stella Crumpton carryalls made from automotive vinyl, Slide Sideways paper products, and Ashley Mimura feather headbands and hairclips. New items are arriving weekly, so it’s wise to check in often.
Most inspiring to see was Tacoma’s legion of talented artists out in force: poets, painters, dancers, filmmakers, musicians, actors, printmakers, photographers, sculptors, and designers. These people, of varied ages and background, are reimagining our vision of downtown by changing what-ifs into what-is. It takes energy, drive and untold buckets of elbow grease to realize a visionary concept that can shift the outlook of an urbanscape. The Block Party offered a tantalizing glimpse of what happens when creative ideas are given legs. Many thanks to those who came out to show support!