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Tuesday, July 14, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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West Central artists shed a light on their community, work

UPDATED: Thu., May 9, 2019

Mardis Nenno and other artists in the West Central neighborhood will open their studios Saturday. (Courtesy)
Mardis Nenno and other artists in the West Central neighborhood will open their studios Saturday. (Courtesy)
By Audrey Overstreet For The Spokesman-Review

The artists of Spokane’s West Central Neighborhood are flinging open their studio doors to the public this Saturday to kick off the first ever West Central Artists’ Studio Tour. A painter, a potter, a printmaker, and a poet are among those who will give visitors free, behind-the-scenes glimpses into their inspiring places and creative processes.

The idea behind the free, self-guided tour is to shine a spotlight on the beauty of West Central Spokane.

“We love West Central and want it to stay quirky, funky, fun and diverse,” said Mardis Nenno, whose pottery studio will be a stop on the tour. “We thought that opening our doors a little bit to the rest of the city, so that people can get a feel for our neighborhood, and where our artists work and live, will highlight that.”

Ceramicist Nenno and printmaker Bethany Taylor, both West Central residents, created the tour as members of the West Central neighborhood nonprofit REACH, (Revitalizing the Economy, Arts, Culture and Housing). The artists believe that sharing the vibrant work going on in the backyards and basements of West Central will benefit more than just outside visitors to the neighborhood. Many local residents don’t realize all the creative work going on, sometimes right next door.

“We have so much to be proud of,” Nenno said. “We get a lot of bad press, of course … but we’d like to help be a part of the reminder that (West Central) doesn’t need to be fixed or totally gentrified.”

A significant element of the tour will be artist demonstrations. Tour co-creator Taylor will open the doors to her backyard printmaking shop, Interpunct-Press, in order to show how she makes posters, cards, zines, and flyers by hand. She will crank up one of the massive vintage letter press machines that she has painstakingly retrofitted and restored over the years with old-fashioned sweat and elbow grease.

“I am the mechanic, so sometimes I have to take a machine out in the yard, tear it apart, and swear at it before I get it working again,” Taylor said, laughing. “I run a love and care triage back here.”

Both Taylor and Nenno are often asked why they bother to spend hours and hours molding clay into pots or using woodcuts to print. Isn’t there an easier way?

“People say to Mardis: ‘I can go to Ikea and get that.’ Or they say to me: ‘I can click control P and get that. Why not do that instead?’ ” Taylor said. “Artists answer that ‘why’ with everything we do, every day, with every passionate moment.”

“We answer those questions in our studios,” Taylor continued. “And then, when we hand people our objects we made ourselves, right here, I think that question is answered for the rest of their lives.”

“We don’t get many chances to see people making things by hand in this really deliberative outmoded way,” agreed Nenno, who, as a potter, uses the same processes employed thousands of years ago. “The oldest objects that we have are made of stone and clay because that is what lasts.”

There will be plenty of long-lasting, locally handmade objects and artworks to purchase along the tour route, just in time for Mother’s Day. “When you see artwork in the place where it’s actually created, there is an extra sense of worth to it,” Taylor said. “These pieces are an experience, not like Amazon or a shopping mall.”

Other artists opening their studios this Saturday will include Wendy Franklund Miller, who will demo some of her famous encaustic processes in the basement of her North Summit Avenue home. The Museum of Arts and Culture will launch a major retrospective of her work and her new book next month.

Metal sculptor Steve Wachholtz will give a rare tour of his studio on West College Avenue. Poet and printmaker Thom Caraway will show what his writer’s den looks like. Local organizations that encourage creativity are also participating in the tour, including Art Salvage, Spokane Print and Publishing Center, and Spark Central.

Educating the public about what is cool about West Central is a large part of the tour. But the daylong event is also about inspiring others to create. “People crave that handmade feel, and were here to fill that gap,” Taylor said.

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