Tacoma resembles a Rubik’s Cube to artist Dion Thomas. Like the world’s most popular 3-D puzzle whose colorful parts can be twisted into different configurations until it becomes a unified whole, Thomas sees his hometown as an entity thrumming with diversity, but capable of embracing “solidarity and individuality simultaneously.”
Thomas’s vision of Tacoma is on view in an art installation called “Sides of the Town”, at the Woolworth Windows through March 17, 2016. His project focuses on six Tacoma neighborhoods: Eastide, Hilltop, Northend, Southend, Northeast and University Place, and the way these sectors relate to and also differ from one another as the city changes and grows.
“The intention of the piece is to show how dynamic, diverse – and at times polarizing – Tacoma is,” Thomas says. The six neighborhoods are portrayed through “representations of food, clothing and shelter…the most basic of human needs,” as well as recognizable signifiers from each area such as historic memorabilia and photographs. Displayed side by side inside the confines of a 20′-long window, each geographic slice’s unique distinctions jack up the richness of the whole.
Thomas brings broad street-level knowledge of the city to the project. In addition to being an artist and videographer, he is a well-known community activist, and a youth mobilization specialist for the non-profit organization, Safe Streets. Previously, for a Spaceworks Creative Enterprise project he founded the Gallery of Ambition, a vibrant urban showcase for young artists and fashion designers in the Theater District. “Shoot the T”, a photographic competition sponsored by the gallery, invited the public to show their best shots of Tacoma and drew 2,500 submissions.
At the Gallery of Ambition, Thomas’s spot-on instincts as a designer emerged in a line of much-coveted, limited-edition T-shirts and hats that celebrated Tacoma’s diamond-in-the-rough persona. It was one of these boldly graphic designs, the black-and-white “Sides of the Town” tee that spawned the current project. He hopes the concept strikes a chord: “Whether you were born, raised or just moved here, it is important to claim Tacoma as your own….No matter what side [you’re from], it’s all the same town.
“Tacoma is just like a Rubik’s Cube because it is always changing and we are still trying to figure out how all the parts fit together.” -By Lisa Kinoshita
Dion Thomas at the Woolworth Windows, S. 11th & Broadway, through March 17, 2016.