As the last dry days of summer come to an end, the clouds roll in, and the world is on the hunt for pumpkin-spiced lattes, Tacoma will be showing off its artistic side. October is Tacoma Arts Month, an entire month dedicated to showcasing arts and culture and bringing people together in the community. And the stage is nearly set for one of the signature events – the Tacoma Studio Tour – where inimitable South Sound artists will be showcasing their creativity for all to experience.
Art in the City of Destiny
One doesn’t have to look far to see the role art has played in City of Destiny. “We are a city that has traditions that are deeply ingrained, in our Native arts and new traditions, but also growth and portrayal of our communities in action,” Daniel Garcia, Community Programs Specialist at the City of Tacoma, said. “In Tacoma, art is activism, justice, freedom, and a part of the voice of the city. It’s not that it is set apart from the world, but it speaks to the world to say we are here, and we care for our community.”
For this reason, Tacoma devotes an entire month to the sheer talent of the community. “The vision of Tacoma Arts Month is connecting our communities in Tacoma with the artists in the community,” adds Garcia. “Tacoma has many rich and longstanding art traditions, from theatre and dance to glasswork and pottery, visual and audio arts, and everything in between. The goal of Tacoma Arts Month is to honor and celebrate our community’s artists and cultures and to make connections between these communities.”
Tacoma Studio Tour
When it first started in 2002, the Tacoma Studio Tour was to be one of the highlights of Tacoma Arts Month. “We had 13 artist studios on the tour, and it was an opportunity for the community to connect with artists and learn more about the art that was being made by their literal neighbors,” says Garcia. “Since then, we have grown to 80 artists participating in 50 studios this year!”
This free, self-guided tour allows people to not only explore and connect with different neighborhoods in Tacoma but also offers a chance to speak with the artists, purchase one-of-a-kind pieces, and learn how work is made through demonstrations and hands-on activities. As visitors follow the art tour, they have the option to use a “passport” that can be stamped by each studio visited. Once a visitor collects at least seven stamps, they have a chance to win some hand-crafted artwork by some of the artists participating in the tour.
“Many artists enjoy having people come to their studio, so they can share their process in making their art and what inspires them,” Garcia continues. “It’s revealing of some of the inner workings and magic of their art. It really comes alive for visitors and shows the artists’ work and determination to express themselves. This really connects with attendees, who also get a chance to try some of this magic and artistic process themselves!”
Focus on Artist Dionne Bonner
Dionne Bonner, a Hilltop native and one of the artists showcased on the Tacoma Studio Tour, shares the sentiment. Bonner, a creative who dabbles between realism and expressionism, recently led a team to create the BLM mural on Tollefson Plaza in downtown Tacoma. She joined the Tacoma Studio Tour to “reacquaint with the community and learn about the kind of work that I do. When people come, I’ll be painting, showing specific layer techniques. [It will be] a nice, relaxed setting that allows people to connect with Black artists working in a space that isn’t usually available to them.”
Focus on Artist Rich Hall
Rich Hall, another showcased abstract urban artist, wants people to walk away from his art with questions still in their minds. Originally hailing from Queens, New York, Hall’s work Garcia calls “both playful and musical, with colors that draw you in, and give a sense of play, and challenge notions of reality.”
“My art does have a lot of great little details that isn’t just a color or a shape,” says Hall. “It could be an eye. It could be a robot, something. I want them to really walk away thinking what they maybe missed in a piece, that they have to go back and look at it again, and get trapped in it, and really process it so much that they have to sit in their house and enjoy the labyrinth of the piece.”
Whatever the genre, the Tacoma Studio Tour will be a spectacle of styles that truly embody the rich arts culture of the South Sound. Garcia thinks it may perhaps inspire future artists to pick up a paintbrush and get started themselves. “I hope the people in the South Sound come out and see the incredible work our artists are doing and feel inspired,” he says, “and come away with the knowledge that they, too, have a voice, a vision, and a movement inside them that can be expressed.”
The Tacoma Studio Tour occurs on October 14 and 15, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. An interactive map is available on their website here. It is absolutely free, and all ages are welcome. And be sure to download the Tacoma Studio Tour Passport here.