On Friday and Saturday, Olympia will undergo its twice-yearly transformation from downtown to fairground, thanks to Arts Walk, the city festival that spotlights creativity and community.
The 56th walk includes 92 venues where downtown denizens and seldom-seen suburbanites alike gather to look at paintings by internationally and locally renowned artists, admire drawings by local preschoolers, listen to music, watch dance performances and more.
Among the pieces this Arts Walk are three mosaics commissioned by the city as focal points for music al fresco. Each artist-designed mosaic honors a local musician who’s left a lasting legacy and defines a place where music will be heard in the months to come.
The event includes significantly fewer participating locations than at past spring Arts Walks. (The spring walks, offered in conjunction with the Procession of the Species, are typically bigger than those in the fall.) April 2017’s walk, for example, listed 117 participating locations.
It’s a change event organizer Angel Nava of the city’s Parks, Arts and Recreation Department attributes to firmer deadlines for registration, a change that’s allowed for a redesigned Arts Walk map.
The map, which divides the downtown into quadrants, has expanded to cover a broader swath and now includes icons that highlight art demonstrations, live music, food for purchase and public bathrooms, among other features. Food trucks in special locations for the event are marked on the map, too.
“Arts Walk is so complex, and there’s such a range of activities,” Nava told The Olympian. “We are trying to offer people a way to navigate. If I were a mom with kids, I’d want to know right away where the family-friendly activities are.
“I’m excited about continuing to highlight and build up Arts Walk,” she added.
The mosaics are part of an effort to extend Arts Walk-like excitement well beyond the current two weekends a year and to weave music into Olympia’s public art collection. The city is calling the effort Music Out Loud.
“The Arts Commission was interested in elevating the visibility of music in our community,” said Stephanie Johnson, Olympia’s arts program manager. “They will create a living legacy of music with the performances that will happen.”
The trio of sidewalk mosaics will serve as a focal point for the Olympia Downtown Alliance’s Third Thursdays, set to begin May 17. The events will include rotating street closures to create a gathering space with family activities, special menus at downtown restaurants, and happenings such as art shows and book signings, said ODA spokesperson Stephanie McManus.
“It will be like Arts Walk light,” she said. “Our goal is to have the same sense of community as at Arts Walk.
“It’s not just about looking at art,” she added. “We’re really embracing all of the experiences you can have downtown.”
Third Thursday events might happen at any time of day, but the alliance is focusing on getting people excited about hanging out downtown into the evening and encouraging shops to stay open later than usual. “Our focus is from 5 to 8 p.m., when most people are off work,” she said.
“A lot of people would like to see Arts Walk every month,” Johnson said. “To pull off something of that scale every month is just not possible, but if we can harness and direct that energy to a monthly event, I think that would be great.
“Art doesn’t just happen in Olympia during Arts Walk. Art happens in Olympia every day.”
What: The free twice-yearly celebration showcases visual and performing arts of all kinds at 92 downtown venues and on the streets of Olympia.
When: 5-10 p.m. Friday and noon-8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Throughout downtown Olympia
More information: 360-753-8380, olympiawa.gov/artswalk
Map: The Arts Walk map is available at participating businesses and at The Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. NW; Olympia City Hall, 601 Fourth Ave. E; and the Downtown Welcome Center, 301 Fourth Ave. E.
Music Out Loud
Three mosaics portraying local musical icons will mark gathering spots for acoustic music performances. They’ll be dedicated from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday on a walking tour beginning at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Chestnut Street, Olympia. The musicians featured are:
- Verne Eke, singer, musician, musical director and more, was instrumental in the founding of The Washington Center for the Performing Arts. His mosaic, designed by Jennifer Kuhns, is outside the center at 512 Washington St. SE.
- Steve Munger, a highly regarded saxophone player, was at the center of the local music scene for decades, playing and recording with many well-known bands in multiple genres. His mosaic, designed by Nathan Barnes, is at the southeast corner of Fourth Avenue and Chestnut Street.
- Bert Wilson, world-renowned saxophonist, composer and leader of the internationally known jazz combo Rebirth, had a profound influence on Olympia’s jazz scene. His mosaic, designed by Michele A. Burton, is at the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and Capitol Way.