Olympia’s Arts Walk, happening for the 59th time Friday and Saturday, is a celebration — part street party, part gallery walk.
The twice-yearly event brings more than 10,000 people downtown to stroll the streets, check out artwork, listen to music and watch performances from juggling to dance. They come, in other words, looking for fun.
But art also makes powerful statements about serious issues, and while that’s always been part of Arts Walk, this year even the cover of the event’s map is taking on a subject of global importance — the consequences of migration and immigration, whether chosen or forced.
Faith Hagenhofer’s “Held Dear,” the piece the city commissioned for the Arts Walk cover, incorporates a baby’s onesie set against a lighter area dappled like a cloudy sky, with the composition framed as if within an architectural niche.
“That little figure is moving toward more light,” Hagenhofer told The Olympian. “It’s sort of stopped mid process, because there’s that border. It’s trying to move, and this other piece frames it in a way that it’s not moving.
“It’s about considering loss, vulnerability, people’s movement, the places where children find themselves without having made choices to be there,” said the artist, whose art speaks about uprooted people even as it’s grounded in Thurston County, incorporating wool from sheep she raises on her farm near Tenino and dye from plants she grows there.
The jury that chose Hagenhofer to create a piece for the map cover wasn’t making a political statement, Arts Walk organizer Angel Nava told the Olympian. “The jurors liked her work because it connects to place and belonging,” she said.
“It’s about bringing thoughtful attention to an important issue,” Nava added. “Art can sometimes be about the most controversial topics that our community is divided on. We have to be respectful and thoughtful about how we present those.”
While many of the pieces in Hagenhofer’s Arts Walk show, on view at Art House Designs, call to mind the children separated from their parents seeking asylum at the border between Mexico and the United States, the artist sees her work addressing migration happening all over the world.
“The U.S. border situation … is horrible, but it’s minute by comparison,” she said. “People are having to leave their homelands and have no place to be. My work is a call to look: ‘This is what’s happening in our world. Give it a look and see what you can do.’ ”
And Hagenhofer is not the only artist taking on migration and immigration, Arts Walk organizer Angel Nava pointed out.
“There’s something really powerful about people talking about global migration,” she said. “That’s something that’s really resonating with our community right now.”
Mixed-media artist Lucy Gentry has created two installations for a group show at LGM Studios, both speaking directly to the situation along the nation’s southern border.
“Border Christening” represents the border wall with razor wire and the children with antique christening gowns Gentry treated with plaster so they are three dimensional, looking as if they were worn by invisible children.
In “Cost of Crossing,” Gentry used flattened baby clothes, again stiffened with plaster, in reference to possessions reportedly taken from children in the encampments. “They are like artifacts that have been left behind,” she said. “Crossing” also includes shoes encrusted with salt, meant to represent “a hope for cleansing and reunion.”
“The piece is looking at hope and justice for the children,” she said.
Arts Walk 59
- What: The free twice-yearly event showcases visual and performing arts at 70 businesses and other locations in downtown Olympia.
- When: 5-10 p.m. Friday and noon-5 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Throughout downtown Olympia
- Maps: olympiawa.gov/artswalkmap and at participating businesses
- More information: 360-753-8380, olympiawa.gov/artswalk
- Faith Hagenhofer: See Hagenhofer’s textile art — including “Held Dear,” the image on the cover of the Arts Walk map — at Art House Designs, 420 Franklin St. SE, Olympia. Art House is also showing oil paintings by Jennifer Lauer and is hosting a performance by Dennis Hastings’ Free Range Quartet from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday.
- Lucy Gentry: Gentry’s installations, along with work by Jean Mandeberg and Maura Frances Donegan, are on view at LGM Studios, 114 Capitol Way N., Olympia.