Arts Walk transforms downtown Olympia into a sprawling festival, where something worth seeing might be happening around the next corner or inside the next shop. Stumbling across sweet surprises — street performances, thought-provoking exhibitions, stores with free snacks — is part of the charm. And one of the biggest topics of conversation on the street Friday and Saturday is likely to be what to see next. Get started on your exploration with The Olympian’s Arts Walk picks.
Arts Walk center
In the spring, the city expanded the Arts Walk offerings for children and families, creating a gathering place with seating, a pop-up arts and recreation center, and shelter from the rain. The new hub — at the intersection of Washington Street and Fifth Avenue — was a hit, said Arts Walk organizer Angel Nava, and it’s back this weekend, with seating and food trucks open during Arts Walk hours, and kids’ craft projects, a pop-up skate park, ping-pong, giant chess and more happening from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. The spot also has space for street performances, with Studio West Dance Theatre dancers showing their stuff from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Friday.
The orchestra at your command
On Saturday, members of the Olympia Symphony Orchestra and Student Orchestras of Greater Olympia will gather outside The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, and they’ll be “ready to play when a brave conductor steps on the podium and raises the baton,” said symphony executive director Jennifer Hermann, who was inspired by an Improv Everywhere video that shows random New Yorkers conducting a Carnegie Hall orchestra. The symphony does need a new conductor — maestro Huw Edwards has announced that he’ll leave the post at the end of the season — but this experiment is open to all. Would-be conductors and the curious can check out the musical mischief from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday outside the center at 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia.
As big a deal as fall Arts Walk is, the spring edition is the one that many people look forward to all year long. The reason: It includes the Procession of the Species, Olympia’s annual April celebration of the natural world and human creativity. Revisit the glories of Processions past this weekend at the first show of Samba OlyWa costumes. Featuring the elaborate creations of samba dancers Judy Cook, Heather Hilf and Carol Riley, “Samba, Oly Style” is on view during Arts Walk at Chinese Healing and Movement Arts, 606 Columbia St. SW, Olympia. Rumor has it that there might be a few Samba OlyWa drummers on hand, too.
A festival within a festival
One of Arts Walk’s longtime traditions is Fiddle Fest, which showcases local musicians playing tunes from many lands. Among the eight ensembles that will play Friday at New Traditions Café are the Sassafras Sisters (6:30 p.m.), who opened Tuesday for bluegrass phenom Molly Tuttle; brother duos River and Sage Scheuerell (5:30 p.m.) and Dante and Eros Faulk (8 p.m.); and Les Gens des Chutes (8:30 p.m.), a band so big that its members don’t all fit on the stage. The 16th annual fest happens from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday at the café, 300 Fifth Ave. SW, Olympia. It’s free, but reservations are suggested if you plan to eat dinner. Call 360-705-2819.
Olympia in oil
When it comes to the arts, Elizabeth Lord has done more than most; she’s a storyteller, director, producer and emcee, just to name a few of her talents. And for the 59th Arts Walk, she’s up to something new: She has curated her first art show, focused on the work of painter Joseph J. Haraburda III. The show, on view all month at The Brotherhood Lounge, 119 Capitol Way N., Olympia, is a retrospective of the photorealistic oil paintings Haraburda created before moving to Korea seven years ago. Brotherhood owner Pit Kwiecinski asked Lord, a friend of Haraburda’s and admirer of his work, to put it together. “This show is really special,” Lord told The Olympian. “It’s a retrospective celebration of an Olympia artist who raised the bar — way up high.”
A living painting
Remember the joys of finger painting? With a technique she calls “body pour,” Olympia artist Ash Cox takes that interaction of flesh and paint several steps further. On Saturday, she’ll demonstrate the form, creating abstract art by pouring different colors onto the body of performer Veronica Franco, who’ll be positioned on a canvas on the floor. The process, which will be photographed by Stephenie Rae, is intended to capture both movements and emotions, said Cox, who hopes the demonstration will inspire viewers to commission their own body-pour portraits. The free demonstration is set for 3 p.m. Saturday at Gallery Boom, 520 Adams St. SE, Olympia, and Cox will talk about the process at 5 p.m. at Grand Vin Wine Merchants, 1003 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia. More of her work will be on view at both locations for Arts Walk. Find out more at ashcoxstudio.com.