Although its name suggests otherwise, The Washington Center for the Performing Arts is also a showcase for visual art.
As regular theater patrons and concertgoers know, the center’s multi-level lobby offers ample space for displaying art, including such notable creations as Bil Fleming and Christine Malek’s “Polyethylene Fiend,” a large dragon made of plastic bags and other repurposed materials, and an array of Chris Maynard’s incredibly detailed feather shadowboxes.
With exterior renovations to the building complete, the center is now aiming to draw the eyes of Olympia to its interior, particularly to the gallery as a resource for local artists and art lovers alike.
“We want to build the credibility and the accessibility of the space,” said Anne Larsen, the center’s marketing director.
“We have this fabulous gallery space,” she said. “We want people to come not just when they have tickets to a show, because then you’re distracted. You are looking forward to the show, you are talking to your friends, you are in line at the bar. You are not giving it your full attention.
“You can come here for free and just see the gallery.”
The gallery is open weekday afternoons, and you can also give the current exhibit, “Memoir: Portrait of a Moment,” your full attention Friday at an artist reception.
The exhibit, featuring photographs, paintings and multimedia work by 15 artists, is an example of the gallery’s redirection.
“This is very much a departure from the other shows in that it is the most conceptual,” said Brittania Kerschner, an artist who is also the center’s front of house manager. Kerschner, a 2012 graduate of The Evergreen State College, began curating shows this season.
“I see this exhibit as walking through the pages of a journal or diary, exploring the relationships and experiences of the different artists,” she said.
She came up with the idea as a result of her own interest in archiving and her experience working with family photos.
“I’m interested in the cognitive process of creating art, what memories arise and inspire creation, as well as the experience we as viewers have upon looking at a piece of art.”
While all of the pieces are portraits of moments, not all are portraits in the traditional sense. Kamala Caton’s abstract “My USA” is one example.
“The idea started out as essentially a portrait show but deepened to encompass the stories behind the faces,” Kerschner said. “Caton’s work is very representational of the moment, yet it is still somehow a portrait.”
The show features work by artists from Olympia, Seattle and well beyond, but most are not local household names.
Because the show was inspired by her personal experience, Kerschner chose some artists she knew to be part of the show, including brothers Bryon, Luke and Trevor Phillips, whom she met when she took classes at Centralia Community College.
Kerschner herself has two pieces in the show. “Both are portraits where I explore my relationship to family and attempt to understand more about histories untold and futures not yet written,” she said.
Memoir: Portrait of a Moment
What: The show – which defines “portrait” broadly – explores the intensely personal process of capturing a moment.
When: Artist reception 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday; the show will be on view through April 19.
Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia
More information: 360-753-8585 or washingtoncenter.org
Gallery hours: The gallery is open from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Check in with the front desk of the administrative office when you arrive. It’s a good idea to call ahead as there are times when the gallery space is inaccessible.
The artists: Joe Beck of Phoenix, airbrush; Anne Buck of Olympia, pastels; Kamala Caton of Seattle, mixed media; Race Dillon of Olympia, photography; Rosanne Franciosi of Olympia, oils; Selena Kearney of Seattle, photography; Erica Keeling of Olympia, oils; Brittania Kerschner of Olympia, acrylics and pencil; Bryon Phillips of San Francisco, photography; Luke Phillips of Portland, photography; Trevor Phillips of Krakow, Poland, photography; Maddox Pratt of Olympia, watercolors; Gaia Thomas of Olympia, photography; Emma Tronier of Olympia, photography; Sage VanZandt of Olympia, acrylics.