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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

YWCA Women of Achievement: Ginger Ewing nets arts and culture award for Terrain work

Ginger Ewing stands in front of an art piece in the Terrain Gallery. (Nina Culver / The Spokesman-Review)

Terrain co-founder and executive director Ginger Ewing didn’t imagine she would become an advocate for the arts when she was young. She had her sights set on something far more scientific.

“I’m an Unsolved Mysteries girl,” Ewing said. “I’ve always been fascinated by true crime. thought I was going to be a forensic anthropologist, but my life has obviously taken a different turn.”

Her tireless advocacy for the arts has prompted the YWCA to give her the 2019 Women of Achievement award for arts and culture. She is one of 10 women selected by the YWCA to receive an award at the organization’s annual luncheon set for 11:30 a.m. Oct. 11, at the Spokane Convention Center. Tickets are $125 and available by calling (509) 789-9312.

Ewing grew up in Cheney and earned degrees in history and biology at Whitworth University before earning her certification in forensic science. She took a job at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture funded by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. She then worked as the museum’s curator for cultural literacy.

That introduction into the world of the arts was all Ewing needed.

“I started to see how very necessary artists and creatives are to the heart and soul of the community,” she said.

At that time young creative people often left Spokane to pursue careers elsewhere, Ewing said. She wanted to do something to bring emerging and established artists together and she and her husband, Luke Baumgarten, along with three friends, launched the art event Terrain. It included visual artists, musicians, poets and theater groups and was a resounding success.

“We realized we had tapped into something really special,” she said. “It grew from there. We never intended to start an arts organization.”

The annual Terrain event now includes hundreds of artists and attracts thousands of people. The organization also launched two art markets, a summer one called Bazaar and a winter one called Brrrzaar. In the past, Terrain has partnered with the Spokane Symphony and asked artists to reimagine a classical piece of music and create art around that.

Terrain has an art gallery in the Washington Cracker Building on West Pacific Avenue in downtown Spokane, where it also has office and performance space. There’s a coffee shop on the first floor and a community workspace on the second floor. “We view ourselves as a community building,” Ewing said.

The point of Terrain is to increase opportunities for artists, Ewing said.

“We believe really strongly in the power of art to transform communities,” she said.

Since Terrain was launched 12 years ago Ewing has also started other initiatives to promote artists. She created Window Dressing, a program that puts art installations and displays inside vacant storefronts. Creative Enterprise is a professional development program for artists, which can include having their work displayed at the “From Here” retail store inside River Park Square.

Ewing said she’s not an artist herself. “I have a really good eye, but I don’t think of myself as an artist,” she said. “I view myself as a community organizer and an arts advocate and an educator.”

She said it’s impossible for her to pick a favorite type of art.

“I’m consistently moved with what a profound experience art can facilitate,” she said. “I’ve had those kinds of experiences at music shows, looking at a piece of art, sitting in a theater and being at a poetry slam.”

Ewing said she wants to emphasize that she hasn’t done her work alone.

“Terrain always has been and always will be a group effort,” she said. “There are a whole bunch of people who got Terrain to where it is today.”

When she was contacted by the YWCA about her award Ewing said she initially thought the organization wanted to arrange an art donation for an auction.

“I was stunned and shocked,” she said. “For me it’s also validation that I’m doing the right thing and having an impact.”

Forensics still fascinates her and she hasn’t given up watching “Forensic Files,” but Ewing is certain she made the right choice.

“It’s still something that rivets me, but I’m doing what I should be doing,” she said. “It’s a really incredible time to be living in Spokane. How lucky am I that I get to be one piece of what Spokane is becoming?”

An earlier version of this story inaccurately reported where Ewing attended college due to a reporter’s error.