Warmer weather and longer days herald the coming of spring. In Olympia, they also are signs it’s time to prepare for the Procession of the Species, the annual celebration of Earth Day and human creativity.
This year, those who want to walk, dance or roll through the streets representing flora, fauna, phenomena and the whole planet will have a place to get ready for the 22nd Procession, set for April 23.
Earthbound Productions will host an open house Saturday at its new studio at 406 Water St. SW in Olympia.
“We have a great little studio,” said Procession founder Eli Sterling. “It’s in a great location. It’s a little bit of a downsized model compared to years past.”
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Last year, in fact, there was no open-to-the-public art studio to support and inspire the creative projects — floats, flags, costumes and masks — that are the heart of the procession, which is as much about the do-it-yourself spirit as it is about the species.
The studio’s new home is in a 5,000-square-foot building on the isthmus. Owned by real estate developer Joseph Illing, the building was once home to a state agency and has been vacant for several years.
“He’s a supporter of our organization,” said Jerry Berebitsky, a member of the Earthbound board and the studio coordinator along with fellow board member Kris Geringer. “He offered a very fair deal.”
Organizers expect to be in the space for two to three years.
The studio has 11 rooms, including one filled with varied colors of paint, another devoted to papier-mache and a third set up to be a comfortable workspace for younger children. There’s a room where musicians can practice and another organizers plan to rent as an office or a studio for an artist or musician.
The studio will have a narrower focus than some of those in the past. For much of the pre-Procession season, it will serve mostly organized groups of 10 or more, including Stream Team, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Samba Olywa.
The studio also will bet the site of public workshops on making masks, flags and luminaries, and will be open to the public for 10 days in April, beginning April 3.
“Depending on how many volunteers we have, we’re going to schedule more workshops,” Geringer said.
The space has a smaller stock of supplies than in years past, though it does have plenty of materials for papier-mache, batik and luminaries.
Although the scale is smaller, the intention is as big as ever.
“The idea behind the studio is that it’s supposed to facilitate the basic invitation of the procession,” Sterling said. “It’s an invitation to be creative and celebrate the miracle of nature.
“Our main goal is to make sure the invitation stays alive and vibrant.”
The power of that intention has already inspired some major projects. That’s significant, because last year’s procession didn’t include any new large-scale pieces.
Berebitsky, known for such creations as the 22-foot-tall giraffe that’s been a highlight of the last three processions, is at work on something new. He’s keeping it a secret, but revealed that it will be even larger than the giraffe, said to be the largest nonmechanical puppet in the world.
Geringer is part of a group building an octopus for the city of Tacoma’s EnviroChallenger educational program. The 14-foot-wide creature will participate in the procession, as well as accompanying the program’s educators to the South Sound Sustainability Expo and other community events.
Organizers hope these big creations are a sign of big things ahead — including a larger studio.
Geringer still fondly remembers the years when procession preparations filled James Madison Elementary School.
“We had the entire elementary school for a studio, and we used all of that space,” she said. “Those were the most successful years of the procession.”
It was a bargain, too: From 2000-06, the Olympia School District allowed Earthbound to lease the school for $1 a year.
Berebitsky is optimistic that another such situation can be found.
“I believe that in the future, the city, our community, an organization or an individual will come forth and help provide a permanent home for Earthbound Productions,” he said.
Procession Studio open house
What: Earthbound Productions will celebrate the opening of the new Procession Studio with music, tours and snacks.
When: 1-4 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Procession Studio, 406 Water St. SW, Olympia.
Studio hours: The studio will be open to all April 3-10, 16 and 17. Hours will be 3-9 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. weekends. The studio will also be open for workshops yet to be scheduled and by appointment for groups of 10 or more. For an appointment, contact Jerry Berebitsky at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call for volunteers: Organizers will host a potluck for volunteers at the studio from noon-3 p.m. March 6. Anyone interested in volunteering is welcome.
Procession Gala fundraiser
What: Get revved up for Procession of the Species and help the event thrive at the second annual gala, featuring entertainment, an auction and dinner.
When: 6:30 p.m. March 26.
Where: Red Lion Hotel Olympia, 2300 Evergreen Park Drive SW, Olympia.
Tickets: $50 at Traditions Cafe and World Folk Art and brownpapertickets.com/event/2503384.
What: The procession before the Procession celebrates the element of spirit. Participants carry illuminated lanterns.
When: 9:30 p.m. April 22.
Where: Begins at Fifth Avenue and Washington Street, Olympia, and proceeds to Sylvester Park.
Procession of the Species
What: The 22nd annual procession celebrates the natural world through music, art and dance. Spectators are invited to create chalk art in the streets before the procession.
When: 4:30 p.m. April 23.
Where: Downtown Olympia.
Tickets: Free. Donations to the Thurston County Food Bank are encouraged.
Also: No motorized vehicles, except wheelchairs; no live animals, except service animals; and no words are permitted in the procession. Procession organizers also ask that no candy be thrown.