Archive | November, 2011

Native American Cultural Center and Bookstore Opens

24 Nov

Deborah Lightfoot mans the desk at Native Quest.

Recently in this column we bemoaned the dwindling number of bookshops in Tacoma, wondering whether brick-and-mortar booksellers were a cultural dodo on the fast track to extinction, or a hardy species clinging tooth and nail to the endangered list. Since then, we are pleased to have discovered Native Quest, a newly opened Native American cultural center, bookstore and café at 2354 S. Jefferson Ave. (formerly Commencement Bay Coffee Company). This non-profit organization bucks the tide – and represents an important addition to local cultural life – with its showcase: a wonderfully airy, light-filled bookstore boasting 80,000 volumes and 6,000 titles covering all aspects of Indian history and culture. The collection is amongst the largest of its kind in the world. Native Quest is a great place to meet for coffee or lunch, to have a meeting, or to learn about the historical underpinnings of Tacoma and its tribes. The public is invited to enjoy it all: Native Quest’s storefront and art-lined walls, restaurant, music and scheduled performances.

Live music and storytelling take place on Native Quest's performance stage.

Of course, books and lattés go together like Strunk & White, and between browsing the aisles one can hit the café where Jeff Medicine Bear whips up specialties including savory buffalo stew, Northwest salmon and turkey sandwiches, down-home pastries and pies, as well as a mean espresso. The café is open 7am-7pm, Monday through Saturday; the bookstore is open 9am-7pm.

Native Quest also features a performance stage where live music and storytelling take place (click here for upcoming events); other areas of the voluminous space are being developed to hold a museum, a library, a research center, and meeting rooms.

Buffalo stew is on the menu at the Native Quest café.

The non-profit community center is run by members of tribes from across the country, and will serve more than 10,000 persons of Alaska Native and American Indian descent, in Pierce County alone. A major goal is to assist Native Americans in tracing their tribal heritage through its reference center. Native Quest offers a valuable information resource for all members of the Tacoma community.

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Call to artists and artisans: on Saturday, Dec. 10th, Native Quest will hold its First Annual Holiday Bazaar from 10am-5pm.

If you are a Native American craftsperson and have items to sell, Native Quest is asking a $25 donation for a 6′ table display area on which to sell your goods. Call 253.627.8033 for more details or to sign up.  Spaces are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. The public is invited to attend this all-day event!

Business Skills for Artists, This Weekend

16 Nov

WHAT: Tacoma Arts Symposium, informational and educational sessions for artists and arts organizations
WHERE: University of Puget Sound campus
WHEN: November 19 & 20
REGISTRATION: Pre-registration is required as space is limited. Sign up for all general sessions online http://www.11artssymposium.eventbrite.com. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis.
SYMPOSIUM COST: $20 for unlimited sessions both days, $12 for unlimited sessions on either Saturday or Sunday, or $7 for one individual session. Financial assistance is available; please call Naomi at 253.591.5191.
INDIVIDUAL BUSINESS CLINICS: We are running two low-cost, one-on-one, confidential consultation clinics this year. Clinics are $20 for a 30-minute session.
Shunpike is offering an Arts Business Clinic on Saturday, November 19. To register, please call Naomi at 253.591.5191.
Washington Lawyers for the Arts is offering an Arts Legal Clinic on Sunday, November 20. To register, please call Washington Lawyers for the Arts at 206.328.7053.

You’ve created the paintings, written the novel, choreographed the dance, photographed the portfolio…Now what? Join us for the sixth annual Tacoma Arts Symposium, an event dedicated to providing local artists and arts organizations with nuts-and-bolts information in order to become and remain successful in the arts. This is a very low-cost way to get valuable business-related information from professionals. The symposium is open to those in the visual, literary and performing arts.

Need funding? Looking to use Facebook and social media as a marketing tool? This event includes exciting conversations, workshops and panels designed to get your creativity flowing and take your arts career to the next level. Saturday features a keynote address by Gigi Rosenberg, author of The Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing. Sessions include: Continue reading

Hip-Heart: an Open-Mic Event for Young Writers

14 Nov

WHO: Tacoma Poet Laureate Josie Turner and local writers
WHAT: An open-mic jam session for high school and college-age writers
WHERE: King’s Books, 218 St. Helens Ave. in Tacoma
WHEN: Nov. 27 at 2pm
ADMISSION: FREE and open to the public

“Young people have such fresh ideas and so very few public venues in which to share their work. I am hosting this [open-mic reading] for the community to hear and support the work of young writers,” says noted poet Josie Emmons Turner of Hip-Heart, an upcoming literary event at King’s Books. Aspiring scribes are invited to read their poetry or prose at King’s on Nov. 27 at 2pm. Hip-Heart was conceived as a part of Art at Work Month, celebrating the arts in Tacoma.

While originally the event was intended to be just for young poets, Turner has opened the reading up to prose writers who would like to read a shorter-length work, or excerpt from a full-length manuscript. Writers may select their own topics, the sole guideline being that it is representative of their best writing.

Participants may sign up for the 90-minute, open-mic jam session beginning at 1:30pm. Slots are limited, so sign up early! This event is free and open to the public. Josie Emmons Turner is the 2011 -2013 Tacoma Poet Laureate. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University, and teaches literature and writing at Clover Park High School.

Walking the Walk on the Prairie Line Trail

13 Nov

On Saturday, glowering skies drenched the opening of Temporal Terminus: Marking the Line, an exhibit of temporary art installations sited along the Prairie Line Trail. The deluge did not scare off the large crowd who turned out for a guided tour of the art works starting at Tollefson Plaza, winding down to the Tacoma Art Museum and Thea Foss Waterway, continuing along the esplanade by the Museum of Glass, and back up to the University of Washington-Tacoma. Rain or no rain, it was a great opportunity to see how this half-mile, $5.83 million legacy trail – the western terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad, completed during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency – will link up Tacoma’s major cultural attractions.

The rain started on Friday as the eight teams of artists commissioned to create art for the pedestrian/bike trail project now underway began installing their works. It became an all-out battle of humans vs. nature as the weekend progressed. By the time the tour began on Saturday, well-wishers had girded themselves with umbrellas, raingear and high spirits to view the temporary installations along the trail. Here’s a glimpse of the eight new public art works on view through Nov. 26:

UW-T Campus
Title: Ghost Prairie
Artists: Thoughtbarn  (Lucy Begg & Robert Gay)

Thoughtbarn’s installation speaks to the railroad line’s namesake. Inspired by the mysterious Mima mounds in Thurston County, and the plight of the diminishing prairie, this installation introduces a piece of ‘artificial prairie’ along the rails running through the UW-T campus. It is a playful referral to both the railroad’s history and its new landscape-driven future as a bike and pedestrian path through the city. For its duration the colorful, intriguing object will catch the eye of local pedestrians and drivers. Those most curious can get up close to run their hands along the ‘grasses’, which also glow at night.


UW-T Pedestrian Bridge

Title: Envision
Artists: Jeremy Gregory, Diane Hansen, Ed Kroupa

Gigantic eyes look down on the campus from the pedestrian bridge. Are they benevolent? Visionary? Judging? That depends. The eyes are those of Abraham Lincoln, the visionary whose dream it was to complete a transcontinental rail that would meet the Pacific. Is he overlooking his accomplishment or wondering about this particular route’s demise and our crazy modern lives? Walking over the ped bridge, one experiences a different viewpoint and inspiration for the endurance of vision.


Grassy area by UW-T
Title: Manifest Destiny
Artists: Maria Meneses, Nicholas Nyland, Elise Richman

Manifest Destiny was a phrase that justified the territorial expansion of the United States as if it were a divine sanction. A series of markers reminiscent of the Northern Pacific Railroad signs act as a historical timeline of Tacoma, starting in 1870, three years before Tacoma was designated as the western terminus for the transcontinental railroad. A stepping stone begins the journey and the subsequent signs track the growing population of the city over 140 years at intervals that represent the largest jumps in population.

Dock Street Grassy Area
Title: Zero Down
Artists: Chris Jordan, Chandler O’Leary, Claudia Riedener

From a series of ‘footprints’ that occupy the grassy area, colorful shadows extend.  The images are rendered in temporary paint and continued in chalk, the forms span the grass and onto the concrete morphing into forms human and imagined.  Each brightly colored shadow represents the diversity and complexities of humans’ personalities. Seen here, a ghostly profile that will fade over time.

15th Street Overpass
Title: TACOMABALL
Artists: Kyle Dillehay, Lisa Kinoshita, Oliver Doriss

The curve of this overpass is the inspiration for TACOMABALL, a monumental, temporarily interactive pinball-style game which will come to life during the Prairie Line Trail tour. Gigantic red balls will be bowled down the curve interacting with various obstacles depicting both notorious and beloved local icons. Racing stripes and imagery reminiscent of the game will remain on the ramp (assuming nature cooperates) through the course of the exhibit making every pedestrian a player in the game.

Hood Street
Title: Rogue Rhizomes
Artists: Chris Sharp, Lance Kagey, James Sinding

This section of the Prairie Line Trail is a ragged remnant of an industrial heritage that has witnessed dynamic transformation all around, while remaining itself, virtually unchanged over the last 100 years. The fringes of this space are a competition between structured plantings and wildness trying to reinsert itself into the landscape. This installation explores the rogue elements of organic invasiveness, between city and wildness. Using brightly colored markers and a three-dimensional letterform the eye is drawn from a distance and evoke ideas of giant flora. Organic patterns around the base of each light pole emanate outwards over time making use of positive and negative space and ‘invade’ the surrounding area.

Photo: Holly Senn

Tollefson Plaza
Title: Link
Artists: Bret Lyon, Janet Marcavage, Holly Senn

Link makes visible the connection between the rail lines and highlights how the Prairie Line Trail linked Tacoma to the communities of Tenino, McIntosh, Wetico, Rainier, Yelm, Roy, Hillhurst, Lakeview, and South Tacoma. Floating yellow orbs, iconic of the yellow and black railroad signs will re-enact the stops along the line that connected with these communities.


Photo: Kristin Giordano

Under I-705
Title: Wild Wilderness
Artists:  Jennifer Adams, Kristin Giordano, Kenji Stoll

This work comments on the diminishing open spaces in our world and the impact on animal habitat.  In addition, it calls attention to the wild spaces that exist within our urban midst. Peeking from the interesting, dense vegetation near Tacoma Art Museum, a variety of animals that would be hard pressed to co-exist inhabit this newly created environment. Think: mega fauna.

SOTA and Thoughtbarn Team Up on “Ghost Prairie”

11 Nov

Budding artists from SOTA are assisting on a public art project with Thoughtbarn. Photo courtesy of Thoughtbarn

Thoughtbarn's Robert Gay gets the goods at FedEx. Photo courtesy of Thoughtbarn

Austin artist/architects Robert Gay and Lucy Begg (Thoughtbarn) rolled up their sleeves this week to build Ghost Prairie, their public art work for Tacoma’s Prairie Line Trail. Energetic students from the School of the Arts (SOTA) are assisting in assembling and installing the 25′-long sculpture, which glows at night and will be sited in the heart of the University of Washington-Tacoma (UWT) campus. Ghost Prairie and seven other temporary art works by Tacoma artists will be unveiled tomorrow, Nov. 12, during a free public tour starting at 2pm at Tollefson Square. Congratulations, artists!

Finishing touches: SOTA students attach zip ties to a cardboard armature. Photo courtesy of Thoughtbarn

Architect-artist Lucy Begg working on "Ghost Prairie." Photo courtesy of Thoughtbarn

Temporal Terminus: Marking the Line

10 Nov

If you’ve been keeping track of the progress of Thoughtbarn on the public art plan for the Prairie Line Trail, you’ll be excited to learn more about the other temporary installations along the trail. Don’t forget about your chance to see them in person and hear from the artists! This Saturday, we’ll be holding a free public art walking tour that will explore all eight installations – collectively known as Temporal Terminus: Marking the Line.

In 1873, the Northern Pacific Railroad fulfilled Abraham Lincoln’s dream that the transcontinental railroad reach saltwater.  This historic achievement occurred right here in Tacoma, where water would have first been spotted by railroad workers at about 17th and Pacific Avenue.  Trains were still running on the tracks through the University of Washington campus and downtown Tacoma up until 2003.

Now the historic line is undergoing a new transformation.  The proposed $5.83 million walking, biking and interpretive trail follows the historic rail corridor linking the University of Washington-Tacoma campus, the Brewery District, the Museum District, Thea Foss Waterway and eventually will connect with the Water Ditch Trail and South Tacoma.

Come celebrate this transformation of the Trail from railway to linear park. Along with Thoughtbarn, seven artist teams created from our PA:ID program have created site-responsive works, and they’ll be in attendance on Saturday to explain more about their installations.  But for now, here are some interesting tidbits about each piece! You can also view the CommunityWalk map, which will show the location of each piece.

(Click for descriptions…)

“Ghost Prairie” is Coming to Town

9 Nov

Laser-cut components for "Ghost Prairie." Photo courtesy of Thoughtbarn

The design team of Lucy Begg and Robert Gay (Thoughtbarn) flew in from Austin yesterday to begin assembly of their public art installation, Ghost Prairie, on the Prairie Line Trail. Begg and Gay, with Philadelphia-based urban planner, Todd Bressi, have been charged with creating a public art plan for the highly anticipated walkway/bikeway project now underway. But this week, the artist/architects will be switching laptops for work gloves as they install a light-emitting, 25′ x 4′ sculpture at a site on the University of Washington-Tacoma (UW-T) campus.

A preliminary sketch for "Ghost Prairie." Photo courtesy of Thoughtbarn

Ghost Prairie is one of eight temporary public art projects that will be unveiled on Saturday, Nov. 12, along the half-mile landmark trail, which marks the terminus of the 19th-century Transcontinenal Railroad. The other seven projects are by Tacoma artists and participants in PA:ID (Public Art In Depth), an intensive program created by the City of Tacoma to provide selected professional artists free training and mentorship in how to apply for and advance through the process of creating public art works. Saturday’s demonstration project is “the pilot for a public art program that will enliven the new civic artery,” says Begg. “We’ve been working in tandem with urban planner Todd Bressi, who is devising the public art masterplan for the trail.” The public-art strategy is being developed with support from a planning grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

An abstract interpretation of the prairie. Photo courtesy of Thoughtbarn

Guidelines for the eight commissioned works indicate that recycled, reused or reclaimable materials be used in construction. Thoughtbarn’s installation is made from laser-cut, industrial-weight cardboard with long, feathery zip ties, and will be illuminated at night. The enigmatic design, suggesting an insect or a chiton, was inspired by a visit to the Mima Mounds Natural Preserve in Thurston County. The startling natural landscape of undulating, uniform mounds is best described as resembling an upside-down egg carton, multiplied outward, and blanketed in prairie grass.

“Several theories compete for how the mounds came to be,” says Begg. “Earthquakes, erosion, giant gophers…” She and Gay chose the title, Ghost Prairie, in “playful reference to the once-vast prairies in southern Washington that the rail-line crossed to reach Tacoma.” Of 160,000 acres originally managed by Native Americans, she says, only 3% remain today. “We were inspired by both the plight and the poetry of the prairie. Our 25′-long undulating structure will be covered with a field of zip ties, simulating a grass-like effect. The goal of it is to be a tactile, intriguing object. We want it to invite people in to touch it, but also catch eyes from afar.”

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