The whole country is about to meet Tacoma’s top arts innovator and the spirited advocate of a vibrant, relevant and diverse arts scene: Amy McBride, Tacoma Arts Administrator, has been selected as a presenter for the 2012 Americans for the Arts Convention in San Antonio, TX, June 8-10. It’s an important spotlight: Founded in 1960, Americans for the Arts is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education. Based in Washington, DC and New York City, they provide programs that meet the needs of over 150,000 members.
“I am honored to be invited to share the talent and innovation that makes Tacoma ‘tick’ with the rest of the nation,” said McBride. “I am joining presenters from D.C, Austin, Houston, and Australia to talk about New Forms/New Frames in public art. It is great because it shows that Tacoma is being looked at nationally for the work we do.”
It’s no secret that Tacoma’s arts administrator is a big-picture thinker and visionary strategist. Over the past decade she has established, with the Tacoma Arts Commission, a number of major public programs that successfully serve artists and art organizations, and enrich the broader community in this city of 200,000. These include Art at Work Month (a well-orchestrated, month-long festival of the arts now entering its 11th year); Spaceworks Tacoma, a three-year old project in which artists activate vacant downtown storefronts with temporary installations and exhibitions; the Murals Project, fighting urban blight and vandalism with strategically sited, outdoor wall murals; and the freshly minted PA:ID (Public Art: In Depth), a free program that teaches professional artists how to expand their studio practice to the realm of public art.
These are the kinds of programs that capture the attention of national organizations such as Americans for the Arts.
No desk-bound bureaucrat, McBride is also a street-level compadre of grassroots organizations and the city’s creative types – it’s part of the secret of her success. She seemingly knows most of Tacoma’s artists by name, and is known to them as simply, “Amy”.
McBride will attempt to spread some of the local magic at the Americans for the Arts conference. “Of particular interest to them is Spaceworks Tacoma – how we use temporary interventions to activate space and how we use opportunities to build the capacity of our artists and creative enterprise,“ she said. Last year, Spaceworks artist James Sinding’s “Letters” piece in Tollefson Plaza was the only public art project in the state of Washington to receive a public art “Year in Review” award, “an extremely competitive honor. I wasn’t able to attend [the AFA conference] last year, but this year, I can spread the word about Tacoma.”
McBride holds an M.A. from the University of Washington in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on urban art and B.A. from the University of Colorado Boulder in French and art history with a year of focused study at the Michel de Montaigne University Bordeaux 3, France. She stimulated both sides of her brain by studying sculpture at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and Fundraising Management from the University of Washington. She has presented nationally on issues of public art, temporary art interventions, and civic democracy. Occasionally, she still finds time to make art herself.
She said she is excited to talk about James Sinding’s “Letters” and “Words” installations in San Antonio. “I think it would be so awesome to be able to show the impact it had on the community by showing images that you, the community, took of the project,” she added.
“If anyone has pictures, would you send them to me? Tell me who you are and if you have any anecdotes related to it. It will help me tell the story of our community and the impact of that piece.” Go, Amy!