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Spokane art community gets into Pride month with Queer Art Walk

UPDATED: Thu., June 6, 2019

By Audrey Overstreet For The Spokesman-Review

One year ago, Spokane newcomer Andrew Whitver attended an art show at Terrain Gallery during LGBT Pride Month. He was psyched to discover local queer art and gay artists, but walked away disappointed. He was further disheartened to discover that no First Friday venues in Spokane were officially celebrating Pride with art.

“I was like, ‘You named a showPink’ in the month of June, and it’s not a queer show?” recalled Whitver, chuckling. “Immediately, my wheels started turning.”

As the months ticked by, the energetic 55-year-old Seattle transplant began collaborating with local artists such as Tiffany Patterson and Jewels and Danni Dietrich, and members of City Council, Spokane Arts, the Downtown Spokane Library, and the Downtown Spokane Partnership to establish Spokane’s first designated First Friday Queer Art Walk. The self-guided, free tour launches today with nine venues – including Terrain – mostly open to the public from 5 to 8 p.m.

“I am so proud of my new hometown,” Whitver said.

Spokane’s new Queer Art Walk is not the first time Whitver has pulled together friends to make the change he wants to see. In 2014, when he was living in Seattle with longtime partner Kevin Brannaman, the pair wanted to elevate avant garde artists in their Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Instead of lamenting the lack of venues, they opened their own pop-up art gallery, called Calypte. They cleared the walls and floors of their own 700-square foot apartment for one night every month, during Capitol Hill’s First Friday Art Walk.

Their first exhibition was a 48-foot long quadriptych scroll drawn by Seattle artist Robert Hardgrave. The sheath wrapped all the way across the pair’s living room and dining room walls. For three years, more than 250 people would traipse through the couple’s home once a month to catch new and established artists in a personal domestic space.

“We attracted amazing artists like Jeffry Mitchell, (from galleries like) Greg Kucera and Gayle Gibson,” Whitver said. “They could do anything they wanted. They had total creative freedom.”

Whitver and Brannaman lived for more than 20 years in Seattle. They decided to relocate to Spokane in 2017 after Brannaman’s successful brain surgery to alleviate some of his Parkinson’s disease. Suddenly Brannaman, who was formerly a successful fine arts photographer, could do things for himself again; simple stuff like brushing his teeth, and fun stuff, like biking again. It was time to make a positive change.

The couple was attracted to Spokane’s bike trails and its affordability. They bought a 100-year-old two-story home in the historic Cliff-Cannon neighborhood. “We never lived in a house before we moved here,” Whitver said. “We couldn’t afford it.”

Shortly after the couple moved to Spokane, Whitver threw himself into the local art scene and joined the Terrain board. Months later he left that position to team up with Coeur d’Alene’s Art Spirit Gallery owner Blair Williams to open a sister gallery across the border in Spokane. Whitver and co-curator Kim Deater kicked off Art Spirit’s new pop-up gallery, AS2, in Spokane’s Wonder Building on First Friday two months ago. AS2 has so far been showcasing work from Spokane and Seattle artists.

“I’m all about cross-pollination and collaboration,” Whitver said. “I want Seattle artists to come to Spokane, and I want Spokane artists to go to Seattle. Because that mountain (between us) has created a great divide.”

Whitver has lived all over the world, but spent most of his life in Seattle, where he developed his love for art, and a particular taste for what he likes. “Cities have an art aesthetic, and mine is Seattle,” Whitver said. “I want to bring more of it here, and artists here, I think, would like to see it.”

Whitver’s Seattle-Spokane cross-pollination aesthetic is in full force for the city’s inaugural First Friday Queer Art Walk. One of his favorite artists, ceramicist Jeffry Mitchell, a former Seattelite now based in Los Angeles, will show at Trackside Studio Ceramic Art Gallery for Pride Month, alongside another contemporary ceramicist Ivan Carmona. Carmona is from Puerto Rico and based in Portland.

At AS2 in the Wonder Building, textile artist Shawn Parks from Seattle will show alongside Spokane’s fiber “craftivist” Margaret Mount in a show called “Threads of Wonder.” Drag Queens Eggy Sue and Baby Toast will be stopping by AS2, and Deejay Irey will play Queer Sounds. Seattle-based contemporary ballet dancer Vincent Michael Lopez will perform at 7 p.m. at the Wonder Building.

Fiber artist Mount will also show her exhibition of onesies on which she has sewed queer affirmations, among other things, on the second floor of First Ave. Coffee. (Tiffany Patterson’s work will be on the first floor.)

“I appreciate that (Whitver) is trying to familiarize Spokane audiences with other artists and art, and also giving Spokane artists a chance to show,” Mount said. “Being celebrated for being queer is something I appreciate too. It reminds me of Saturate, when we focused on artists of color (at venues) all over town.”

“I think this is all part of a new energy in Spokane and new ideas being expressed,” Mount said.

“Andrew is just so positive and has this infectious energy,” said Eva Silverstone, arts education specialist at Spokane’s Downtown Public Library. “He’s a do-er, and he wants to do good for the arts community.”

Silverstone worked closely with Whitver to form the “Queer Space” exhibition at the Downtown Library for the month of June. The name harks back to the days when the city used to hang art in unfinished or empty spaces as part of a campaign called “Raw Space.”

The library’s Queer Space event on First Friday will be a non-juried show with works by first-time artists hanging next to pieces created by established artists. The second and third floors will have installations by more local creatives, including poet Kat Smith and Hobbit House creators Ryan Oelrich and Robert Thompson.

Another must-see is the show at Saranac Art Projects, consisting of solo exhibitions using site-specific sculptural and video installations by Roin Morigeau and Mana Mehrabian. Local assemblage artist Dan McCann will also open a solo show at the Saranac on First Friday.

Dean Davis Photography will feature new figurative works by painter and local Instagram sensation Matt Schwenk.

The Kolva-Sullivan Gallery will exhibit “trauma works” by Jewels Dietrich, a local burlesque performance artist. Her works will bare her vulnerability and inspire conversation.

The Chase Gallery will host a reading by Power 2 the Poetry’s Bethany Montgomery. Community-Minded Television will feature art from members of the Portal Collective, who include Morigeau, Shantell R. Jackson, and Asia Porter. The Emilys will also play live music at CMTV.

And the Terrain Gallery is more than making up for lost time with a packed show called “Take Pride,” featuring the work of Casey Doyle, June T. Sanders, Makayla Miracle, Tiffany Patterson, Kat Smith, Israel J. Gonzales, Cody Magee, and Kayleigh Marie Lang. A live show called Queer Stage by performers from various parts of the rainbow spectrum will begin on the Terrain stage at 7 p.m. June 20, hosted by The Divine Jewels and Terrain in the Cracker Building.

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