Terrain will mark a major milestone Friday with the opening of a new, permanent, visual arts gallery, featuring the exhibit “Oracular Rooftops” by Brooklyn-based artist Heather Hart.
The grand opening celebration and artist reception will be in the new gallery located within the Washington Cracker Co. building in downtown Spokane. The kick-off exhibit was made possible through Range, a partnership between Terrain, Eastern Washington University, Gonzaga University’s Jundt Art Museum, and Spokane Falls Community College, and is part of Saturate, Spokane Arts’ monthlong celebration of artists of color.
“It’s a big step, going from three flagship events to being open all-year round,” said Terrain co-founder Ginger Ewing.
The nonprofit arts organization began nine years ago as a one-night-only juried art show to highlight local, emerging artists. In addition to its original, signature Terrain event and art party held each October, Terrain partners with the Spokane Symphony’s 70-member orchestra in the spring to produce the arts mash-up Uncharted. Terrain’s third flagship event is a day-long art fair in June called Bazaar, where dozens of local artisans and designers sell their wares on the streets of downtown Spokane.
The move to open a permanent gallery reflects Terrain’s mission to foster young and creative people in the community, and to give them more reasons to stay in Spokane.
“We have spent the last year and a half as an organization creating the infrastructure, internally, in order to be able to transition from a solely event-based organization into an organization that can also operate this permanent exhibition space,” Ewing said.
Recent changes made to sustain the new gallery include the hiring of Terrain’s first part-time employee, operations director Jackie Caro, a month ago. Ewing is also transitioning into the position of Terrain’s program director.
Ewing plans to switch out exhibits, which will be about 80 percent local and 20 percent from outside artists, every two or three months. “The idea is to create an exhibition that you can then program around,” Ewing said. “Like if it’s a show about graffiti, than you can perhaps have Spokane’s best graffiti artists come in and do workshops for the duration of the show.”
The current Hart show, Ewing said, is an example of how to surround an exhibit with programming to engage the community and spark conversations.
Last Tuesday, Hart held a “Wikipedia edit-a-thon” session in which participants were asked to create and draft new Wikipedia pages highlighting black artists and community leaders from Spokane. “They are stories that are not told enough,” Ewing said.
On Thursday, Hart will stage another event she called the Black Lunch Table at Terrain in which she brings artists, educators and leaders of color into guided conversation about Black Lives Matter at one table.
The lunch tables of America have ranged from segregated battlegrounds to places where friends share cultural experiences. Gathering artists and academics of color, who are typically under-represented, to the table to discuss difficult questions seems a simple, yet deeply political, act.
The idea was to lay out new productive relationships to continue the movement for dismantling institutional racism. “It’s a conversation we plan to continue through Terrain (and in the arts community),” Ewing said. “And we plan to add more diverse voices from other marginalized communities.”
Friday’s mixed media exhibit “Oracular Rooftops” is Hart’s final participatory event. She will ask audiences to personally add to her works depicting rooftops. Such structures can refer to a home or stability or shelter. But Hart has written that a rooftop can also refer to “an action of reclaiming power – of influence, direction and earth.”
Hart took a line from a classic Funkadelic song “Tear the roof of the mother, sucka,” asking or demanding that the listener “reclaim a space, reveal their true selves, release that which is hidden.” Hart will ask Terrain audiences to add their own traditions and symbols onto her pieces tonight.
In partnership with Overbluff Cellars, located next to Terrain Gallery, Terrain will also continue to co-manage theatrical performances, readings and concerts on the stage outside of the gallery. The new story-telling project Pivot, co-produced last week by Spokane Arts, Spark Center and Terrain, is one example.
“It could be anything from a super avant-garde three-piece theater show to a traveling band to a local band,” Ewing said. “We would love to see more mission-driven events in that space – some to be led by Terrain and some to be hosted by outside people.”
The new gallery and the performing arts space, alone or in conjunction with each other, will be used to engage with the community on a regular basis.
“We are open to anything and everything,” Ewing said. “We hope to redefine for our community what art is and what it isn’t.”
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