Archive | August, 2011

Flashback: 2001 Tacoma Loves a Good Read

27 Aug

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of Art at Work Month, our Flashback series is highlighting 10+ years of Tacoma arts and culture. This week, we salute a popular Tacoma Public Library program, Tacoma Reads Together.

Tacoma Reads Together is T-town’s version of a literary potluck; in the age of whizbang digital entertainment, this tasty sit-down gathering, started in 2001, has achieved unexpected popularity. The city-wide reading initiative has serious underpinnings: it was introduced in the wake of the terrorist attacks in New York City, when Tacoma educator Patrick Erwin saw the need to bring the community together to talk about divisive issues close to home. David Domkoski, Library Community Relations Manager, explains: “Erwin met with Mayor Mike Crowley and others to suggest that perhaps Tacomans should be encouraged to come together to read, reflect upon, and then respond to ideas and issues raised by one good book.” The result was Tacoma Reads Together.

The Northwest Room & Special Collections at the Tacoma Public Library.

Each year’s book choice is selected by the Mayor for the opportunities it presents to discuss critical issues such as “racism and discrimination, the balance between the needs of the individual versus the rights of the State, immigration and cultural assimilation, and the ever-increasing role of science in our lives,” says Domkoski. Perhaps more importantly, it “offers city residents an opportunity to come together with their friends and neighbors and talk. And listen.” Set the table, and they will come.

The reading series’ inaugural tome was Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Since then, the reading list has included The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba (the author’s standing-room only lecture drew 325 people), The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Imaginative programming takes place throughout the city: the Museum of Glass was the setting for a discussion of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, SOTA staged readings of The Crucible, and Wilcox Farms hosted Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food by Barbara Kingsolver (700 people attended). The next book choice by Mayor Marilyn Strickland is still under wraps. Strickland recently appointed Erik Hanberg as the new chair of the community reading initiative.

Tacoma Public Library has a full menu of special events scheduled for Art at Work Month in November, kicking off with a book reading by world-renowned wildlife photographer, Art Wolfe, November 3 at 7p.m. at the Main Library. Check out the library’s Facebook page, and join the literary feast!

Tilt: Balancing History and Modernity

26 Aug

Even if you haven’t been to the newly renovated Cheney Stadium yet, you’ve probably seen pictures of it or driven by on 16, right? And that means you’ve seen Tilt, the large-scale light sculpture by Beliz Brother.

Historic stadium lights provided the inspiration for Tilt. Image: Beliz Brother

Inspired by the old Seals Stadium lights that graced the original Cheney Stadium, Tilt brings historic elements to the new renovated stadium in a distinctly modern way. The LED light system installed within the structure is programmed to change with the seasons and in response to the progress of each game. 24 ColorBurst-6 lights with both spotlighting and washing capabilities are set up in rows to create abstract forms of light and color that change according to the current game in progress.

Beliz Brother’s hope was to preserve one of the most recognizable features of the park for future generations to enjoy. Like Home Run, this large project was also installed in the short space of five months, and was in place in time for this season’s opening game in April. Far from simple, the project not only involved the spotlights, but also reflectors to create the desired effects, and brackets to be installed strategically at the front of the stadium in order to fully support the entire piece.

A great side view of Tilt at night. Image: Beliz Brother

To get a closer look at the lights, learn how they work, and hear more from Beliz herself, come join us for Arts Appreciation Night on Monday the 29th! We’ll have the public art tour at 5:30, a project for kids from the Museum of Glass, and pre-game and in-game entertainment by local youth groups! Remember to order your tickets TODAY – the special $9.95 price won’t be available at the door! Call Graham Stream at the Rainiers at 253.752.7707 ext. 184. We’ll see you on Monday!

Generation Next – Bustin’ Out on the Hilltop

25 Aug

Scratchin' an itch at Fabitat.

Last Thursday was party time in T-town, and not just because it was one of the few scant days of decent weather we’ve had this summer. No, not even crazed climatological activity could’ve checked the migration of artists and Third Thursday faithful who made their way to the Hilltop to celebrate Spaceworks’ first anniversary. Since last summer, this award-winning project linking artists with vacant retail space has supported more than 60 art exhibits, residencies and performance spaces; helped out scores of artists with rent (they don’t pay any); and energized downtown Tacoma in the process.

Fabitat offers computer instruction in their creative lab.

In case you’ve been holed up in the proverbial cave, a cluster of new Spaceworks art and performance venues have sprung up like mushrooms in the fertile soil around 11th St. and Martin Luther King Way (long-time stomping grounds of the Fulcrum Gallery). Scads of young people crowded the sidewalk at Fabitat, Fab-5‘s headquarters for the urban arts. Tacoma, meet Generation Next! It took about five seconds to grasp what an important and electric scene Eddie Sumlin, Chris Jordan, Kenji Stoll and Katie Lowery, the collective genius behind Fab-5, have hatched on the Hilltop through their non-profit, arts mentoring and instructional lab. The Fabitat program is a magnet for youth who on this night were celebrating with art- and music-making outside, while talking art and clicking away on computers inside. The place looks fantastic; what had been a lifeless commercial space has been beautifully reanimated with art and dance studios, and throbbing wall-size murals by local youths.

An added treat: guest performances by a Fab-5 neighbor, DASH Center for the Arts. DASH (“where Dancing, Acting, and Singing are always in Harmony!!”) offers affordable performing arts education to the youth and families of Tacoma. Continue reading

New Light Rail Artwork has Arrived!

23 Aug

Workers installing etched glass panels designed by Chandler O'Leary

Tacoma got a new public artwork today! We caught workers busily installing Chandler O’Leary’s etched glass panels in the two new light rail stations at Commerce and 11th today. The stations are directly in front of Tacoma School of the Arts’ Ted Brown building and are arriving just in time for the new school year.

One of O'Leary's early scketches of the piece

Read more about the artwork here, and make sure to check it out before the end of the summer!


Salmon Art at Cheney Stadium? A Home Run, If You Ask Me…

22 Aug

Since the impetus for our upcoming Arts Appreciation Night was the installation of two new public art pieces in the newly renovated Cheney Stadium, we thought it would be fun to put a spotlight on those two pieces this week so you can get a jump start before you go on the tour!

A closer look at three of the aluminum salmon. Image: David Franklin

First up is Home Run, the series of aluminum fish swimming along the outside of the stadium. Each salmon is fitted with bright LED lights on the inside, which cycle through a full spectrum of colors at night. David Franklin, the artist, found his inspiration for these fish in the salmon that populate Northwest waters every year: “The Salmon are designed in a modernized Salish style of design and are meant to honor local indigenous tribes and be a symbol of pride in the NorthWest,” says David, “[and] the nightly colorful transformation of the Salmon is meant to imitate the transformation of the Salmon as they move into the fresh water as they return each year.”

Cheney Stadium underwent a huge renovation over last fall and winter. David came on board to create some artwork in November 2010, and noticed some structures with potential during a site visit: “The Stadium had a number of concrete columns with power to the top that were not being torn down in the remodel,” he reveals. “Part of the inspiration behind my project finding a way to use these structures in a way that made them look like they were there for a purpose.  They became the perfect structures to support my school [of fish], and were ready to power the lights.”

The eleven salmon range from four feet to six feet in length, and were fabricated at Davinci’s Workshop in Burien by Kurt Nordquist. The entire process, from design to completion and installation, only took 5 months; Home Run was successfully installed in time for the Rainiers’ opening game at the beginning of April.

David will be at Arts Appreciation Night next Monday – will you? Don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity to meet the artist and hear more about his inspiration and process! Remember to get your tickets this week – that $9.95 deal with the food voucher won’t be available at the gates, unless you want to pay the original $23 for it! Call Graham at the Rainiers at 253.752.7707 ext. 184 today!

A wide shot of more Home Run fish, lit up at night. Image: David Franklin

Fab-5 Ups the Ante with FABITAT

19 Aug

“The Motherboard” by Fab-5. Commissioned by the Intel Corporation, April 2010.

The City of Tacoma has a surprisingly cozy relationship with graffiti art, one that is embraced in many aspects by Mayor Marilyn Strickland, the Tacoma Arts Commission and a range of community organizations. More importantly, it is supported by members of a discerning public who are able to distinguish between the kind of deft, freestyle wall spraying (e.g., sanctioned graffiti and mural painting) that helps snatch buildings back from the edge of urban blight, from the type that illegally defaces properties, scaring the neighbors.

Maestros in the making: Fab-5 students choreograph a live "scratch" routine on turntables.

One of the most stunning local examples of sanctioned graffiti is The Garages on Tacoma’s Antique Row – an organically mutating, covered-parking-lot-slash-art-gallery where for years taggers and commuters have coexisted peacefully. In 2008, enforcement officials deemed The Garages’ surreal artworks “graffiti” in violation of City code, and the building’s owners, Lorig & Associates, were ordered to paint them over. But through the efforts of the property owners, local nonprofit Fab-5, and Tacoma’s Safe and Clean Team, in 2009, The Garages’ three large parking bays were legally reopened to artists working under the classification of “free form painting.” Such aerosol paint-friendly venues are known in street parlance as “free walls.” Far from becoming a magnet for gang activity, as detractors feared, The Garages have instead become Tacoma’s most beguiling, unsung museum hosting the explosive yet phantom-like imagery (here today, gone tomorrow) of some of the country’s most skilled street artists. And, you can still park there.

Not a blank slate: a community effort saved The Garages' murals (many created by unknown artists), from oblivion.

Eddie Sumlin, Chris Jordan and Kenji Stoll form the core of the art group known as Fab-5; they are best known for their color-slashed, acidic graffiti murals that cover indoor/outdoor walls all over town. A fourth member, Program Associate Katie Lowery, is the group’s strategic and administrative lead. Continue reading

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