Tacoma Art Festival

One weekend last August, my girls and I were walking through the University of Washington campus, when we encountered a large, cardboard facsimile of a bus stop. What was this for? My children wondered, and immediately began a long, imaginative game. The bus stop invited us in, and virtually begged for interaction.

This year’s Showcase Tacoma Festival will shift your reality. That is the message Tacoma Arts Administrator Amy McBride would like to get across about this year’s event, to take place in Tollefson Plaza on August 8th and 9th. Don’t expect it to look like last year, or like any other local festival. This year, the event takes on a new motto: Expand, Explore, Explode! I am looking forward to seeing this in action.

We hear a great deal about Tacoma’s arts scene, but at times it can seem a bit distant, fragile (glass, especially) and inaccessible. Showcase planners hope to change this perception, by bringing the experience of artmaking to the community. They would like visitors to leave with not just an appreciation for art, but also a desire to create their own. Showcase has always been about bringing Tacoma’s arts scene to the community, through demonstrations, participatory activities, and performance art. Metro Parks Tacoma and the Tacoma Arts Commission would like to expand our perception of the role of art in our community, to consider new ways of expression, to learn where to take classes, and how to utilize studio space around the city.

Last year, Showcase featured everything from Taiko drumming to live glass blowing. This year, the festival will embrace an even broader array of artists and art forms, from fragile glass pieces, to urban indie craft artisans working in media such as crochet, silkscreen, and jewelry.

We had a wonderful time last August, admiring the chalk art, checking out the wares of local glass blowers and listening to jazz on the plaza. This year, Showcase will take advantage of the Northwest’s long summer nights to bring us interactive demonstrations as late as 7, and music until at least 9 pm. The entertainment lineup will feature a broad range of musical genres. Festival organizers are seeking the right mix of performers to satisfy the entire community, and bring people in off the street to see what is happening.

Even the food vendors will be a part of the community spirit. Showcase has always featured local, downtown restaurants. This year will be no different, but restaurants such as TWOKOI plan to take their participation to the next level, with special extras like sushi-making classes.

I recently spoke with Phedra Reddifer, one of the coproducers of Showcase Tacoma through Metro Parks. “The great thing about Tacoma is that it truly is an exploding art scene,” said Reddifer. “We want to bring art to the street level and make it accessible to all of our community.” Visual art, dance, performance art, theater, music, and crafts will all be represented, and opportunities will abound for interaction between artists, artwork, and guests.

Chalk art is always a highlight of the event. In the past, students from Tacoma School of the Arts have displayed their talents in this challenging, temporary medium. Student artists would begin early in the morning of the first day, and put the finishing touches on their works just as the festival came to a close. This
year, organizers plan to include SOTA students, but also recruit others through a juried selection process, as well as develop large works to which the community can contribute their own artistic touches.

If you have Click! Network, you can shift your reality soon, by watching Showcase Tacoma On Demand programming. You can also visit www.showcasetacoma.org. We will be sure to check it out, and to be on the lookout for more surprises this August.

Jennifer Boutell