Art show gives small takes on ‘It’s the Water’

lpemberton@theolympian.comFebruary 7, 2014 

Longtime locals might assume the fine-art postcard exhibit at South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia with the theme “It’s the Water” would be filled with one thing: Beer art.

But, alas, only about a half-dozen of the nearly 300 works give a nod to the former Olympia Brewery in Tumwater, its famous artesian wells and Olympia Beer.

The 4-by-6-inch pieces explore all sorts of non-artesian water – from raindrops to ocean beaches.

Gallery coordinator Nathan Barnes said he’s fielded “Hey, why isn’t there more brewery art?” questions since the exhibition opened Jan. 13.

“Maybe it’s telling of the participants,” said Barnes, who moved here about six months ago from Idaho.

In fact, he said he had never heard the slogan until recently.

About 75 artists participated in the show, which includes a variety of art forms from pencil sketches and paintings to stained glass and photographs.

All of the pieces were donated and are part of a silent auction open until 7 p.m. Feb. 21 at the exhibit’s closing reception.

Retiree Patricia Gallagher moved to Olympia from Minneapolis about a year ago, and donated a series of waterfall-themed mosaics created with tumbled and tempered broken glass.

“I like challenges, and it was a good cause,” she said.

The show has artwork featuring waves, umbrellas, seagulls, sailboats and mermaids. Some of the pieces have a political overtone, such as a series about debris from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor in Japan that was damaged by a tsunami in 2011.

SPSCC students, faculty members and staff members donated work for the event. There’s also work by professional artists, retired professors and others in the community.

“It’s inclusive – all of the work that was given to us is exhibited,” Barnes said.

Barbara Shincke, an administrative assistant in SPSCC’s Humanities Department, created a series that features salmon swimming in the Puget Sound, going up a fish ladder and returning home to Tumwater Falls near the old brewery.

She also created a few postcards that feature collages of labels and different images that represent Olympia Beer.

Shincke grew up in the area, so for her there was only one way to interpret “It’s the Water.”

“I totally miss the whistle,” she said, referring to the 5 p.m. steam whistle that once signaled the end of the workday for hundreds of brewery employees.

Shincke said she’s happy with the way “It’s the Water” turned out, and she thinks other people will enjoy the show too.

“I think they’re going to experience a whole array of views and perspectives,” she said.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 @Lisa_Pemberton

If you go

“It’s the Water,” is fine-art postcard exhibition that runs through Feb. 21 at the Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts at South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Road SW, Olympia.

Hours are noon-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and by appointment. For more information, call 360-596-5527 or go to

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