For Ginger Ewing, art is not only expression – it’s about creating a sense of place, sparking conversation and connecting the community.
Ewing is the executive director and co-founder of Terrain, a nonprofit dedicated to creating a vibrant arts community through events and programs.
Ewing founded Window Dressing in 2014, Terrain’s storefront gallery program that fills vacant spaces with art installations. She also serves as a commissioner for Spokane Arts and the Washington State Arts Commission.
Earlier this summer, Ewing collaborated with two local digital design agencies, 14Four and Seven2, and recruited 16 artists of color to create a Black Lives Matter mural in downtown Spokane. Each artist painted a block letter in the mural that shares their voices and stories.
“I would love for Terrain to do more of that. It’s just such an important way to start conversations and to start hard conversations,” Ewing said. “I think that art as a tool – whether it’s for activism or starting important, hard conversations – is really needed and really important. To me, through that process, it was also incredibly important to be able to have those voices be heard and I want more of that. I will fight like tooth and nail for Terrain to be able to do projects like that because they are so vitally important to the health and well-being of citizens in our community.”
Creating a sense of community
Ewing was raised in Cheney and graduated from Whitworth University in 2001. During college, Ewing was set on becoming a forensic anthropologist. But after receiving a certification in forensics, Ewing realized there were only two forensic anthropologists in the state and to remain in the field and in Spokane, she would need to teach at the collegiate level while occasionally picking up work on cases.
That’s when she began thinking about other career paths.
Ewing began volunteering at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture and was offered a contract position as curator for cultural literacy in 2007.
“It is through that work that I started to really fall in love with the creative community here in town,” Ewing said.
Around that time, Ewing; her husband, Luke Baumgarten; Patrick Kendrick; Sara Hornor; and Mariah McKay all recognized a trend of young and creative people moving away from Spokane, Ewing said.
They formed an organizing committee for what they thought would be a one-night only event, Terrain, to showcase local artists’ work and foster a sense of collaboration and community.
Terrain has since evolved into a nonprofit organization that hosts events and programs. The organization also operates a permanent gallery and From Here, a storefront that acts as an incubator space for artists to test ideas and sell goods in River Park Square.
Since launching Terrain, Ewing has noticed an increase in collaborations among artists and more spaces dedicated to the creative community.
“I’m seeing a more inclusive community, more indigenous and Black artists – more BIPOC artists in general,” she said. “You are starting to see that open up in a way that wasn’t as clear, at least for me, 12 years ago. Another really interesting thing that’s taking place is people are choosing to stay here because they feel there’s a creative community they can belong to.”
Coronavirus and the arts
As the coronavirus pandemic has forced events to shut down and venues to close, it’s had a devastating impact on Terrain and local artists, Ewing said, adding the organization is expected to lose $326,000 this year due to COVID-19.
Terrain’s annual flagship event typically draws 10,000 to 13,000 people in a single evening and last year, the organization generated $532,000 to support artists, she said.
Terrain is balancing how to remain afloat while finding ways to support artists amid coronavirus-related restrictions, Ewing added. It’s continued to operate, hosting online gallery shows, events and art auctions.
“We had people from across the nation purchase artwork (in the online art auction), so a silver lining in all of this is that our local artists are being exposed to a wider audience because now we are online,” Ewing said.
Terrain also built a website for its retail store From Here. It took nearly six weeks to photograph inventory and create an online system for the store, Ewing said.
The organization reopened its gallery space this past month with very limited access, allowing 15 people in the space at a time.
Ewing works closely with Terrain’s operations director Jackie Caro on day-to-day operations of Terrain that include fundraising, evaluating existing programs and launching new programs and plugging into what’s happening in the community.
Ewing also participates in several Zoom calls, some of which involve discussing statewide policies affecting artists, and serves as a mentor to emerging artists wanting to start programs.
Ewing aims to continue advocacy work for mixed use space, affordable housing and studio space for artists to support Spokane’s creative community.
“Art and creativity are at the heart of who we are as a community … I think art is a lens to see the world through somebody else’s perspective. It helps us connect with each other on a visceral, spiritual level and I am witness to that on almost a daily basis. I certainly could have chose a much easier field to dedicate myself to but again (art) just makes me whole. It makes us whole and I can’t step away from that. I just really believe in the transformational power of it.”