Art at Work SWAG is on Its Way

1 Oct

2007: Tacoma's take on the classic Eames "House of Cards."

Each fall, the Tacoma Arts Commission publishes a fabulous catalog for Art at Work Month. This oversized guide (we consider it the Cadillac of catalogs) on thick, creamy paper tells about the hundreds of arts events taking place in T-town during the month of November. It’s also much anticipated for the cunning swag that accompanies it. Everybody loves free booty, especially when it’s artfully done.

We’ve got some mouthwatering freebies on the way for our 10th anniversary, designed by one of Tacoma’s most celebrated graphic artists. In the meantime, here’s a look back at some of Art at Work’s greatest hits.

• In 2008, all 63 artists participating in the open-studio tour received a deck of cards inspired by the classic Eames “House of Cards” produced by Charles and Ray Eames in 1952. Like the original, our pack’s individual cards were slotted on the sides so they could be interlocked and built up in an infinite variety of “architectural” styles. Each artist was given a stack of cards printed solely with one of his or her own artworks, in full color, for distribution on the tour. Visitors eagerly collected these as they made the rounds of studios. Artists also received one complete deck that included an image from each featured artist.

Seven broadsides for seven years.

• In the same year, Art at Work produced a series of seven letterpress poetry broadsides to commemorate its seventh year. These evocative posters featured the poetry of Tim Sherry, Kevin Miller, Kay Mullen, Crystal Hoffer, Diane Toft-Knowles, and Allen Braden; illustrated by letterpress artists Jessica Spring, Chris Sharp, Rick Matthies, Isaac Solverson, Lance Kagey, Chloe Scheffe and David Johnston. The limited-edition prints were available for free around town (and for sale in sets); and displayed in buses for riders to enjoy on the daily commute. Small-scale reprints brightened up the Art at Work brochure.

• In 2006 and 2010, design students were commissioned to create the Art at Work poster.

• The iconic You’ll Like Tacoma poster, reproduced from a vintage photo taken at the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle, was tucked into the Art at Work calendar in 2005, and became an instant hit.

Fold-it-yourself: an origami toy to keep creative minds occupied.

• Other coveted, free surprises have included Art at Work buttons (2002), a paper airplane template (2003), letterpress coasters designed by Chris Sharp (2006), a foldable, origami finger toy (2004), glass and ceramic tiles by Claudia Riedener (2007), the beloved “Tacoma floaty pen” (2007), and a collectible T-shirt by graphics genius Art Chantry (2007).

Cool free stuff, including an Art Chantry T-shirt.

Could fistfights break out over limited quantities of this year’s Art at Work freebies? In a few years, will you find the good stuff on eBay? Hard to say…but stay tuned for when and where to get your swag on!

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