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Wall-to-wall enjoyment

Downtown spaces open doors to semiannual arts tour

Tonight, downtown Spokane will be filled with roaming packs of art-appreciators.

It’s the Spokane Visual Arts Tour and if you haven’t experienced one yet, you’ll be amazed at the energy this semiannual event brings to downtown.

This winter installment features some unusual twists, including floorclothes, rollergirls, carousel ponies, collectives, etudes, fire stations, do-hickies and thingies (we’ll explain below).

And all you have to do is wander from space to space, soaking it all in and, in some cases, sampling the refreshments. It’s mostly free – although plenty of art will be for sale. Some exhibits will also stay open on Saturday and Sunday.

A total of 24 spaces will be part of the self-guided downtown tour, along with a number of other, more far-flung spots.

Let’s get right to some of the more intriguing offerings:

• Charlie Wisben: Artwork for Your Floor, Serendipity Boutique, 303 W. Second Ave. – Wisben makes “floorclothes,” which he describes as works of art for your floor.

Don’t be shy, he says; you can walk all over them. They’re painted on durable canvas, made to resist floor traffic.

• Dara Harvey: Half Light, Kolva Sullivan Gallery, 115 S. Adams St. – This young Spokane painter calls herself a “cerebralist of silliness.” You might call her paintings Salvador Dali meets Walt Disney.

Harvey says she creates an anthropomorphic world full “odd characters, bleeps, do-hickies, thingies, scratches, symbols and what-have-yous.”

Edward W. Gilmore: Emotion, Energy, Excitement, Barrister Winery, 1213 W. Railroad Ave. – Gilmore’s been described as a “gentle giant” and these wild, colorful chaotic canvases tell his life story.

Speaking of energy and excitement, the Barrister is always one of the liveliest spots on the Visual Arts Tour. It’s routinely jammed with people listening to live music, viewing the art and sampling the wine.

• Raw Space, Fernwell Executive Suites, 505 W. Riverside Ave., Suite 100 (enter on Stevens) – It’s called Raw Space for a reason: It’s a temporary gallery, just for the Visual Arts Tour, providing space for 90 local artists. Some are new, some are emerging, some are established.

It’s an exceptionally good way to sample a huge variety of artworks in a lively, bustling and downright bracing atmosphere.

• Kim Matthews Wheaton: Columbia Coulees and Rolling Expanses, Stylized Landscapes of Eastern Washington, Second Space Gallery, 610 W. Second Ave. – This Moses Lake artist, who has exhibited internationally, turns her gaze on the coulees and hills of her home country.

The Second Space is a new gallery run by James Hill, a former finance professional who has found a new artistic calling.

The Art of the Carrousel, Chase Gallery, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. (use Post Street entrance) – This exhibition of carousel-related art is part of the centennial of the Looff Carrousel in Riverfront Park. Take a ride – metaphorically – on the painted ponies and let the spinning wheel fly.

Neicy Frey: A Midwinter Night’s Dream, Kress Gallery, River Park Square, third level, 808 W. Main Ave. – This Spokane painter will exhibit her lush, large-scale paintings of poppies, peonies and sea anemones.

• Artwork by the Lilac City Rollergirls, Browne’s Addition Wellness Center, 2013 W. Fourth Ave., No. 2 – Who knew that Spokane’s roller-derby queens were also artists? Here you’ll see their paintings, photography, screen printings and charcoals.

Sheila Evans: Etudes for the Equinox, Tinman Gallery, 811 W. Garland Ave. – This Gonzaga University alumnus uses fading or dead leaves on flowers, which she says are “much more interesting than their young and perfect counterparts.” She is also a painter in oils.

The Tinman is one of the most lively tour venues outside the downtown core.

Slapdash Artist Collective, 5318 E. Desmet Ave. – This will be the opening launch party of a new artist’s collective started by a number of imaginative local artists. You’ll see works by the Burgleteens Toy Lab, Noppy & Friends and Rizzo.

You’ll also hear some live electronic music and see whatever else this group of artists cook up in their “spiffy new warehouse.”

Fire Station art – On Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., you can tour the permanent public art at various City of Spokane fire stations (see listings). This is your chance to see commissioned works ranging from stained glass to large-scale sculptures.

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