Smokin' on the Water: 2012 Urban Art Festival

Tacomans festivate at Urban Art Festival 2011 on Thea Foss Waterway! Photo: Lisa Fruichantie

The Urban Art Festival Crew of 2012 has been busily crafting their eighth annual event, which they swear will be the biggest and BEST alt-stravaganza yet! On the weekend of June 30 to July 1, the festival will be jammin’ at Dock Street Park on Thea Foss Waterway.

Of course, it’s the talent and grit of our local artists who make this event happen, and applications are now open for those wishing to participate as a vendor or performer. To get the lowdown on this year’s festival, we chatted with event and volunteer coordinator, Lisa Fruichantie.

Cool as all get out: Lisa Fruichantie.

TACOMA ARTS: Hi, Lisa, pleased to meet you. Before we talk about the Urban Art Festival, please tell us a little about yourself. You are frequently pegged as one of the most creative, civic-minded – and busy – artists in Tacoma.
LISA FRUICHANTIE: My “careers” all tend to be quite circular and complimentary of one another. First and foremost, I work as the Senior Projectionist of the Grand Cinema. Through Transcendence Designs, I work as a fashion and costume designer, and a consultant. This work obviously goes hand in hand with my three other ventures, which are also stage- and costume-related: for Northwest Staging Sound and Design, I enjoy work as a stagehand, video and lighting technician, event planner and production manager. I also serve on the boards of two non-profits: MLK Ballet and Local Life.

UAF takin' it to the streets. Photo courtesy of Lisa Fruichantie.

TA: You are also the mom of three young boys, you create the freakin’ cool 253 heart hoodies, and you manage a burlesque troupe, the Gritty City Sirens. People will be forgiven for thinking you are an urban myth. And the Urban Art Festival (UAF)?
LF: My involvement with Urban Art Festival has been for seven of the eight years of its existence. I have worked predominantly as one of the festival planners, and as vendor coordinator of the performance and visual art.

TA: Please describe UAF for our readers, and what makes it different from other of Tacoma’s many street festivals.
LF: Urban Art Festival’s mission has always been to share, teach, and learn with our community through art and music and everything that encompasses. That mission in itself is very different from that of any consumer-driven, commercialized festivals you will attend throughout the year. Additionally, our goal has been to breathe life into areas of Tacoma often overlooked as not being “festival worthy” or “not ideal locations”.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Fruichantie.

TA: The Urban Art Fest encourages collaboration between artists, and using the festival as a platform for experimentation.
LF: Breaking down stereotypes that surround different art forms.

TA: For example?
LF: Holding a fashion show in a park, seeing the art of graffiti applauded in the bright open sunshine, or classical ballet performed on a grassy knoll. A rocking stage [thronged] by a gang of toddlers and pre-teens just learning to hula hoop to the beat of the music – these are all memories I hold dear that remind me just how very different Urban Art Festival is than any other festival I have ever attended, or had the privilege of being a participant in.

TA: What’s new for UAF 2012?
LF: We have a local artist, Gabriel Brown, in charge of our art installations this year, and we have Dorky’s Arcade putting together a gaming installation during the festival, and hosting an official after-hours party for us, as well. I am working on a vaudeville-style carnival tent as a focus for this year’s festival. Patricia Lecy-Davis of Embellish Salon [is making] an amazing contribution of an organized fashion show featuring all local boutiques and merchants. Needless to say, each year we always find a way to top the year previously and this year will be no exception!

TA: In the seven years you’ve been involved, how has the event changed?
LF: One) location; two) crew. The rest has stayed the same.

TA: What about location? Your choice of festival sites brings people into areas of the city they perhaps wouldn’t ordinarily visit.
LF: We’ve focused our festival at different locations that often go underutilized in this city. Over the years we have been at Wright Park (before the renovation and clean up of that park), Broadway Street downtown, Fireman’s Park, the top of the UW staircase and into the parking lot by The Swiss, Peoples Park in Hilltop, and where we are located now – 2101 Dock Street on the Thea Foss Waterway. Our current location is what we like to consider to be our “home,” and our intention is to stay in that location from here on out.

TA: A dedicated crew has a huge impact in making festival events a success over time.
LF: Our crew has changed hands over the past few years, but what I love most is that even though our original founders can’t make Urban Art Festival a full-time commitment anymore, they still rally together each year to contribute time and energy, even if it’s limited to just a day or two. Without our founders – Matt and Laura Eklund, Linda Honneck, Mandi Webster Martin and Johanna Gardner – we wouldn’t be able to survive. [They offer] their continual support to those that now carry the metaphoric UAF torch.

A: Have you ever thought of joining the Gritty City Sirens onstage? You certainly have the chutzpah.
I won’t pretend you are the first to ask or suggest this, but I will say that my place always has been behind the scenes, backstage, and never in the limelight. There may come a time when that changes, or I will surprise our audience. Stranger things have happened, but for now I can honestly say, “Don’t hold your breath…”
TA: Thanks, Lisa, and see you at Urban Art Fest!

If you are interesting in being a UAF vendor performer, click URBAN ART FESTIVAL 2012-vendor application. Questions? Contact Lisa Fruichantie at 253-921-2858 or

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