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Annual art showcase Terrain focuses on a new permanent space

From left, Diego Sanchez, Patrick Kendrick, Luke Baumgarten and Ginger Ewing have announced a fundraiser to coincide with Terrain 7 on Friday that will help support the opening of a gallery in the historic Washington Cracker Co. building at 304 W. Pacific Ave. (Colin Mulvany)
From left, Diego Sanchez, Patrick Kendrick, Luke Baumgarten and Ginger Ewing have announced a fundraiser to coincide with Terrain 7 on Friday that will help support the opening of a gallery in the historic Washington Cracker Co. building at 304 W. Pacific Ave. (Colin Mulvany)

This time last year, the organizers of Terrain were toying with the idea of expanding the event into something grander than a one-night-only art and music showcase. And now that plan is on the cusp of becoming a reality: Currently in its seventh year, Terrain has been uprooted and moved to a new location, which will, following Friday night’s festivities, begin its transformation into the organization’s permanent space.

Terrain’s four main organizers – Luke Baumgarten, Ginger Ewing, Patrick Kendrick and Diego Sanchez – have been working tirelessly since getting the keys to their new home a few weeks ago. Long housed in the former Music City Building, 1011 W. First Ave., Terrain now will be headquartered at 304 W. Pacific Ave., next to the train tracks in a century-old building that was once known as the Washington Cracker Co. You may have noticed the painted mural on the highest point of the building – “Home of SnowFlake Saltines” – which currently reads, thanks to a carefully placed banner, “Home of Terrain.”

Terrain will be renting the space from building owners Mark Camp and Darby McKee. The plan for the space includes a wine tasting room for Overbluff Cellars, which Camp and McKee co-own, and a cafe that will serve Camp’s Anvil coffee. Upstairs will house Fellow Coworking, which Baumgarten started last year.

The Cracker Co. building perfectly suits the quirky, DIY nature of Terrain. It’s an airy, open space that’s characterized by exposed brick and lath, and peeling paint. In the days before Terrain night, there’s a makeshift bar half assembled in one corner, old bicycle parts hanging from the ceiling like a sort of mechanical mobile, canvases and frames stacked against walls, and disassembled sculptures in pieces.

The Pacific Avenue location offers about 30,000 square feet of space, some 10,000 more than Music City; Terrain’s permanent space will eventually take up roughly 4,000 square feet of the whole building.

“As soon as Terrain is over, they’re starting construction,” Ewing said. If all goes according to plan, the space should be open by January. “They’ve actually put construction on pause so we can have the event,” she said.

“Nobody has ever thought of this as a potential neighborhood,” Baumgarten said of the area just south of West Sprague Avenue. “Talking with the few business owners around, I don’t think people thought there was going to be a gathering space here anytime soon. And yet there is a lot of creative industry here, a lot of interesting stuff happening in this four-block radius, and to be a part of that is really exciting.”

The organizers’ initial plan was to convert the old Music City location into a full-time gallery space, but they estimate that getting the building up to code – which would have involved installing a new sprinkler system and an elevator – would have cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million. There were even discussions that involved incorporating the neighboring building, formerly Ella’s Supper Club, into the space.

“Three years ago, we started talking about moving, because we thought we’d outgrown the old Terrain space,” Ewing said. “But we just kept on coming back because of the relationships we’d formed (with nearby businesses) and thought it best to stay put. … It’s kind of bittersweet, leaving a location that we’ve been in for so long, and especially leaving our neighbors.”

Along with unveiling the new space, Terrain will be launching a capital campaign and a Kickstarter project to help get their nonprofit gallery off the ground. The organizers hope the so-called “Campaign for Terrain” will raise $160,000 that will go toward the initial costs of putting the space together. They’ll need to install a sound system and a stage, hire part-time staffers and technicians, and construct the gallery itself.

“The ultimate goal is for this to be our full-time job,” Ewing said. “Imagine what we could do if we had more time to devote to this.”

That’s something to strive for, since Terrain continues to grow at a staggering rate and demands more and more volunteer help every year. The organizers say they received more than 1,000 art submissions this year, a 30 percent increase from 2013, and around 60 applications from prospective musical acts. As for art sales, last year’s Terrain brought in roughly $8,000, while Bazaar, the one-day art marketplace they launched in June, accrued over $36,000.

But it’s not enough to simply open a new art space, or to sit back and wait for the community to thrive on its own. The organizers of Terrain say they are dedicated to establishing and maintaining a diverse creative ecosystem, in which different artistic paths are constantly converging.

“We all get in our silos – writers hang out with other writers, bands hang out with bands,” Baumgarten said. “But some really, really interesting things happen when you hang out outside your group, when you engage with the larger community. … One of the things Terrain has been really good at is creating partnerships, where you end up with something nobody could have pulled off by themselves, and we want to keep that going.”

“The greatest image from last year was a band carrying out art they had bought along with all of their equipment at the end of the night,” Kendrick said. “I just thought that was so rad.”

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