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Terrain’s arts celebration opens for sixth annual one-night show

It’s just four days before Terrain, the annual one-night-only celebration of Spokane’s art and music scene, and you get the feeling that the event’s main organizers – Luke Baumgarten, Ginger Ewing and Patrick Kendrick – haven’t had a moment to sit and relax in awhile.

They’re on the third floor of the former Music City Building, 1011 W. First Ave., an open, high-ceilinged space, and there’s a flurry of activity around them. Pretty soon, Terrain will have occupied every square inch of the building, filling it with art installations and musical performances; artists are already trickling in and out, carrying pieces of their displays and hanging their work on the walls. It’s all starting to come together.

Now in its sixth year, Terrain has started to move more like a well-oiled machine, with the support of volunteers and local sponsors that help keep the operation running smoothly. But Terrain is an organism that never stops evolving, and the coordinators have made it their mission to make each year’s event bigger and better than the last.

“The first year we do anything, it’s always a noble effort, and then the second year it tends to get pretty good,” Baumgarten said.

“Yeah, we have trouble failing and moving on,” Kendrick added. If something doesn’t work the way we want it to, we’re going to make it work.”

The layout for this year’s Terrain will be mostly familiar to anyone who attended last year. The first floor is centered around the main music stage, with a new act playing a set every hour. The bar is on the second floor. And all the way up on the third floor is a makeshift theater where film submissions will be screened, as well as a corner of the room known as Literature Park – there’s sod on the ground and few trees here and there, a couple of swings and even a hammock – where spoken word and theater pieces will be performed.

And there’s art everywhere you turn, more than 200 individual works – paintings, sculpture, photography, film, etchings, murals and interactive pieces. It’s a lot to process, and more than 5,000 people showed up for last year’s Terrain.

This year, the organizers say the space will be less crowded than usual – the fire marshal has dictated a stricter capacity law – but the exhibits have been laid out in a way that will keep the flow of people moving as steadily as possible. They’ll also be closing First Avenue between Monroe and Madison streets, and the street will be filled with food trucks and local vendors.

As Terrain continues to develop and expand, the coordinators are working on attaining nonprofit status and hope to eventually have a permanent space where they can display art year-round. But right now all of their focus and energy is zeroed in on Terrain 2013.

“We were stressed all day, and then I actually get here and there’s a team of people already working,” Baumgarten said. “Instantly some of that stress goes away.”

“There’s three separate installation pieces going in right now behind us,” Kendrick said. “If you are stressed, you can take a moment to look around and say, ‘God, this is really coming together.’ It’s insane.”

They all agree, though, that Terrain could never have existed as long as it has without the support of volunteers, business owners and the local arts community in general. Terrain’s mantra is, after all, “We all build this,” and Ewing said she’s still surprised by the enthusiasm other people have in keeping Terrain going.

“We’ve essentially never been told ‘no,’ ” Ewing said. “The community has been absolutely amazing. And it makes me feel blessed to live in a community that cares so much and gets so excited. I don’t love my city more than right around Terrain.”

“That’s part of the stress level, too,” Kendrick added. “We have to do this right, because there are so many people that are saying ‘yes’ to us. But we’re addicts: We want to make it bigger. We want to blow people’s minds.”

As the light starts to fade outside, and as the noise of the hammering and drilling intensifies in the background, Baumgarten, Ewing and Kendrick decide it’s time for them to get back to work.

“Do we really want to go back to all the stress?” Ewing jokingly asks.

Kendrick responds, “Yeah, we literally have to go move a wall right now.”