Visual Arts Tour lures big crowds with wide variety

Last spring, the crowds got so large outside one Spokane Visual Arts Tour venue, the entire sidewalk (and part of the street) was jammed for nearly a block.

And that was just a fraction of the 5,000 people who typically attend at least part of this semiannual art-walk-on-steroids.

It’s a party of the mind with 36 venues, and it’s also an event with an exhilaratingly broad definition of visual art. You’ll see kimonos, Kenyan batik, 7-foot-tall outdoor lamps, functional wine holders, “altered” books and witches made of fiber.

You’ll also, of course, see paintings, sculptures and ceramics (check the accompanying schedule to see the entire scope).

Meanwhile, here are a few selected venues to consider:

Terrain 2011, 1011 W. First – Terrain is an artist’s cooperative of mostly young artists and this year it will feature 150 juried works of art along with nonstop performances of music, dance and poetry. Eight bands will play and the event continues until 1:30 a.m. – long past the usual tour closing time of 9 p.m.

This is the event that caused that sidewalk-jam last year.

“I’m really excited about this one,” said city arts director Karen Mobley. “They’re pushing the envelope.”

Hotel Ruby and Sapphire Lounge, 901 W. First – Ric Gendron’s giant-sized musician portraits already festoon the outside walls of this hotel. Now, you’ll be able to can see many more of Gendron’s colorful portraits in this special exhibit. The Ruby and Sapphire will create a new party spot this year: They’ll close off part of the parking lot/courtyard and turn it into an outdoor art-and-music space (just down the street from Terrain). A band will play and videos will be screened.

Kolva-Sullivan Gallery, 15 S. Adams St. – This is the 10th annual Archie Bray Resident Artist Exhibition from Helena, Mont., and yes, that’s a big deal.

“If you were to think of all of ceramics residency programs in the world, the Archie Bray would probably be in the top 10,” said Mobley.

So you’ll be able to see a selection of world class ceramics, from sculpture to installations to coffee cups.

Gallery of Thum, 2910 N. Monroe – The theme is “Celebrating the Artistic Life,” with works by Melinda Martin, Linda Nalcom, Denise Steen and gallery owner Cecile G. Charles. This show will have some extra emotional heft because Charles is currently struggling with serious health issues. You’ll see a retrospective of Charles’ works.

This might also be a good anchor venue for a short North Side excursion, which should include Garland Avenue and …

Tinman Gallery, 811 W. Garland Ave. – Tresia Oosting will present her mixed-media sculptural works, “Semblance,” in which she refashions everyday objects into “semblances” of their former selves. She’ll also lead a workshop on altered books. Bring in an old book and she’ll teach you how to paint, cut and otherwise alter the pages to create a new piece of art.

Saranac Art Projects, 35 W. Main – Two artists will show off contrasting styles: Kurt Madison with “Plight of the Mind” and Carrie Scozzaro with “G-Force” (not to be confused with G-rated).

Mobley called this show one of the more “conceptually challenging” exhibits on the tour, and yes, that’s a good thing.

Chase Gallery at City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. – This is a “fine crafts” show, featuring the Northwest Designer Craftsmen. Artists from around the region will exhibit their work in clay, wood, glass and other media.

The Brick Wall Gallery, 530 W. Main – Chip Phillips is a Spokane Symphony clarinetist. He’s also a talented photographer, whose outdoors photos work will be on exhibit.

Barrister Winery, 1213 W. Railroad Ave. – Barrister is one of the busiest and happiest stops on the tour. Ben Joyce, one of the most popular of Barrister’s past artists, will be exhibiting his “Abstract Topophilia” – an unconventional, to say the least, approach to landscapes. There will be wine; there will be music.

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