Festival of ‘beauty in unlikely places’

West Central is a neighborhood known for its share of crime, addiction and poverty, but a group of individuals is hoping to change the general consensus by showing that amid decay, beauty grows.

“It’s about building a contemplative eye amongst decay,” said poet and artist Eric Blauer, a pastor at Jacob’s Well in the East Central neighborhood. “In that capacity, art literally saves.”

The Festival of Arts in West Central opens Friday at Salem Lutheran, 1428 W. Broadway Ave. A large room will serve as gallery space, and the sanctuary will be used for poetry readings and music. Across the street, visitors can browse books and fair trade and locally made gift items at the Book Parlor or have a cup of coffee at Indaba.

Many festival participants are West Central residents, including artist Grace Barnes.

Barnes, 24, moved to the area after graduating from Whitworth University, where she majored in studio art with an emphasis in painting. Her paintings, landscapes and figures in dance-inspired poses, will be displayed alongside more than 20 other artists’ work, including Blauer’s photographs and an exhibit he is putting together called “Urban Liturgy.”

Blauer, who will also be participating in the poetry reading Sept. 27, decided on “Urban Liturgy” in an attempt to help others “find beauty in unlikely places.” The collection will include photos taken with phones by community members and is described as a project “designed to capture, cultivate, and celebrate ‘the beautiful’ in our tougher neighborhoods.”

At any given time during the week, festivalgoers might hear a harpist, a violinist or a cellist in the gallery. They might also be urged to participate in an interactive art project which may include crayons – a beneficial medium, said the Rev. Liv Larson Andrews. “I worked as a hospital chaplin for a year where I studied art as a healing tool,” she said. “I learned that coloring affects the brain the same way as meditating does; it engages the good part of the brain.”

Andrews was one of the driving forces behind the festival. As pastor at Salem, she met many area residents and came to the conclusion that they, their passions and creative outlets, as well as the neighborhood, needed to be celebrated.

A self-professed closet artist, Andrews will exhibit some of her own work in the exhibit.

“It’s about celebrating creativity,” she said, “I really hope that others will be inspired to share their passions and find the beauty within themselves and the community where they live.”

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