Shawn Vestal: Arts community grows its roots through Terrain
When Luke Baumgarten, Ginger Ewing and Patrick Kendrick were growing up, they understood that there was one thing young, creative, artistic, ambitious people absolutely did not do in Spokane.
Then they grew up and found themselves here – young, creative, artistic, ambitious people in the place that conventional wisdom told them did not have what they wanted.
So they started to build themselves a place to stay.
“I don’t like being told that my city isn’t good enough,” said Ewing, a 34-year-old Cheney native who works at Boom Creative, a design and marketing firm. “If my city isn’t good enough, I’m going to do something to change it.”
Terrain is that something. Now approaching its sixth year, the grass-roots celebration of art and ingenuity is maturing in many ways, from formalizing its federal nonprofit status to forming alliances with establishment arts organizations to having board meetings. And yet it retains the scrappy, do-it-yourself sensibility that makes it the kind of event that is changing Spokane’s atmosphere for young creative types.
It’s cool, in the ways that Spokane is rumored not to be.
In two weeks, on Oct. 4, Terrain 6 will arrive with more artwork, expanded film and theater offerings, and some fascinating-sounding interactive work.
“We’ve upped everything,” said Kendrick, a booking agent and real estate agent.
It’s a bit hard to describe Terrain, thanks largely to its inclusive and expansive sensibility. The organizers call it an “annual, one-night-only, juried multimedia art and music event, celebrating young and emerging artists in the Spokane area.” They pack the “Terrain space” – the former Music City building in the middle of the 1000 block of West First Avenue, across from the Fox Theater – with all manner of creative energy, artistic expression and fun. Painting and sculpture share the bill with performance art and theater. Organizers lay sod and hang swings for their “literature park.”
More than 200 works of art will be on display, selected by a professional jury from more than 700 submissions.
“The idea was trying to create a topographical map of the ridges and valleys of the Spokane art scene each year,” said Baumgarten, 32, a writer and former staffer at the Inlander who works at the Seven2 advertising agency.
When you go to Terrain, especially if you’ve been a party to the grousing about all that Spokane doesn’t have, you might be happily surprised to discover all that it does.
“It is uniquely and specifically Spokane,” Ewing said. “And that’s a pretty beautiful thing, in my opinion.”
If you detect an evangelistic note in her comments, you’re right. Ewing and her fellow co-founders want converts. They are pursuing the Terrain project – a volunteer effort to which they devote hundreds of hours a year – with the passion of true believers. They are tired of hearing about the wonderlands on the coast. They’re tired of the whining. Their vision is big and bold. They’re not putting on an art show as much as they are creating a community.
That entails helping the artists and cultivating an environment in which artists can thrive. It involves reaching out and encouraging people to get creative and submit work to Terrain: This year, they helped host Art Up Weekend, an event that brought artists together to brainstorm projects for the show. Terrain is seeping beyond the bounds of its “one-night-only” format and becoming institutional; organizers plan to begin hinting about a “second major event” at this year’s first major event.
Ewing calls it “building the infrastructure” of an arts community.
“It is absolutely, 100 percent ambitious,” she said. “If we’re going to have an amazing, thriving arts community, you need not only artists, but the people who support them.”
This year’s event will have an emphasis on interactive artwork. The co-founders – and their fellow organizers Sasha Turner, Stacy Bruce and Diego Sanchez – are rushing to get things finalized, working with the fire department to make sure they’re following the rules, preparing the exhibits, figuring out what goes where.
It’s a lot of work for something that’s so much fun.
Check it out, if you get the chance. Head down to the space on West First on Oct. 4. Look at the artwork. Listen to the music. Interact.
Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @vestal13.