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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Finishing the puzzle: Terrain’s increased size comes with logistical challenges

By Audrey Overstreet For The Spokesman-Review

To create a temporary gallery for Terrain, Spokane’s largest and free annual art party, volunteers have spent weeks slinging hammers and revving drills. The rush to convert the 100-year-old Jensen-Byrd warehouse into a venue for the multi-media mashup of visual, literary, theater and musical arts has centered on one pressing need: To build more walls. So many more walls.

“Already we’ve had to take four separate trips to Home Depot to buy more stuff to build more walls,” said Terrain co-founder Ginger Ewing, who is in charge of the visual arts portion of the event. “It’s getting ridiculous.”

Now in its 11th year, Terrain has grown bigger than ever. More artists than ever before will show more works than ever before. More than 250 painters, sculptors, photographers, poets, filmmakers and musicians will exhibit and perform more than 500 works in just one night, across all media.

“The issue is that in addition to just the sheer numbers of artists, the scale of the work is just massive this year,” Ewing added.

An example of a large piece includes a 23-foot long sprawling mural of retail shops and industrial sites along Interstate 90 by Kevin Haas. Another wall is dedicated to a lively collaborative drawing by several artists, including Karen Mobley, Laura Lee Kaschmitter, Mariah Boyle, Ellen Picken, Helen Parsons, John DeRoulet and Melanie Lieb Taylor, many of whom are currently exhibiting a show inspired by nature called LAND/ESCAPE in the permanent Terrain Gallery in the Washington Cracker Co. building.

Kate Lund was originally going to show a 25-by-5-foot drawing, but organizers had to break the news that there was not enough space. Fortunately, she was able to accommodate with a similar piece that still packs an emotional punch, but clocks in at a more modest 17 feet long.

Travis Masingale’s 8-by-5-foot work “Context Is Everything” is an original artwork pieced together from nine years of previous works, including some elements from past Terrains. Caleb Mannan’s “The American Folk Artist & The American Songstress” is a nearly life-size portrait of the artist and his wife Jenny Anne Mannan surrounded by elements of their creative lives. In true pop art fashion, Helen Parsons painted a gigantic can of spray paint that takes up a good chunk of wall, as does Michael Dinning’s thoughtful and exuberant works, one made up of 25 smaller paintings.

In addition to all of these massive pieces covering every available wall, entire rooms have been dedicated to more art installations than any previous Terrain. Dan McCann needed his own brick room to immerse audiences in a space surrounded by maddening metronomes. Shaun Brigman’s full-sized Salishan Sturgeon Nose Canoe had to command a prime spot for audiences to view a lost art form.

The Spokesman-Review’s newsroom archivist and photographer Libby Kamrowski set up her installation “American Split” in a bowling lane-sized portion of the floor. A bowling ball wrapped in a ceramic flag appears to hurtle toward a decimated set of ceramic pins, shot up and splintered, save for two pins left standing to represent the divide in our electorate.

Another small room was reserved for Iranian installation artist Mana Mehrabian, who is an adjunct instructor at Spokane Falls Community College. Her “Attention vs. Inattention” is a surprising white space with a white light focused on one white empty picture frame among a sea of others. Without a light focused on the other identical frames in the room, we see how a lack of attention makes them fade away.

An entire corner is reserved for Colin Horner, the self-dubbed “King of Cardboard.” He goes dumpster diving to find materials to repurpose and paint. Imagery of aliens, bleeding souls, and fierce proclamations jump out from the layers of cardboard. Like this one:

Your soul is a hammer

Smash a hole in reality

Build a shed

Dance, masturbate

It’s your shed.

In addition to all the works on walls and floors, there will be a fashion show by local designer Ronnie Ryno with live models, inspired by famous pieces from the past.

A large theater room has been reserved to project films and moving images on its walls. Audiences will have to ignore three large hot tubs propped against one painted brick wall. There was no simple way to remove them.

“I thought it could be fun to have people sit in the hot tubs to watch the show, but we couldn’t make it work,” Ewing said with a chuckle.

Literature Park, with spoken word performances of poetry and prose, has been moved back into the gallery. For the past two years it had been outside, but extra precautions have been taken to prevent sound bleed this year.

Nine musical acts will take the stage in a large backroom of the warehouse, from 5 p.m. to midnight.

This year Terrain has cross-pollinated with a newly minted 10-day celebration called Foreground, celebrating local and regional art, culture and innovation. Events for Foreground highlight local and regional innovators in the health sciences, technology, and entrepreneurial communities. Partners include the Spokane Angel Alliance, Startup Spokane, the city of Spokane, local universities, VisitSpokane, Spokane Arts, and Terrain.

“The idea was that all of these serendipitous events were happening on the same weekend anyway, so why not kind of brand them and get people excited about what’s happening in all of these communities and in Spokane,” Ewing said.

Despite the explosion of creativity and collaborations at Terrain this year, organizers and volunteers like Terrain board member Carl Richardson remain calm. They concentrate on the work in front of them. Building spaces for art to rest. Richardson, who teaches art at SFCC, is in charge of the crew putting all the hundreds of artworks where they belong in the vast warehouse space.

“It’s a ton of work,” said Richardson, while hammering nails onto freshly painted walls of the space. “But it’s like fitting puzzle pieces together. I love it.”

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