Art will abound downtown this weekend as Olympia celebrates its 52nd Arts Walk, a twice-yearly festival of creativity and community.
Businesses will be open late, streets will be closed off and kids will be getting their faces painted.
The city’s Arts Walk map lists 122 businesses that will be serving as galleries or performance spaces for the event, and about 400 artists will be participating.
“Arts Walk is an amazing snapshot of our community,” said Luke Burns, who organizes Arts Walk for the City of Olympia. “It’s a snapshot of what people are inspired by. It’s a snapshot of the businesses and people who are involved with our community.”
That great big snapshot shows just how diverse the city’s passions are. There’s an outdoor craft market (5-8 p.m. Friday outside Little General Food Shop, 313 Fifth Ave. SE). There’s Brazilian jazz by Itamare (6-9 p.m. Friday at Art House Designs, 420 Franklin St. SE), a demo of Ashtanga yoga (7 p.m. Friday at The Bandha Room, 119 Capitol Way N.) and drawings and paintings by the children of the East-Side Co-op Preschool (at Orca Books, 509 Fourth Ave. E.).
The snapshot also reveals a community that cares about making the world a more livable, sustainable and peaceful place. Here are a few art projects that aim to do just that.
“Peaceabilities,” by Helena Meyer-Knapp
Open Friday (April 22)-April 29 at Salon Refu, 114 Capitol Way N, with artist talk at 6 p.m. April 29.
Helena Meyer-Knapp, who teaches politics and government at The Evergreen State College, doesn’t think of herself as an artist, though she’s long done embroidery and photography. Her Arts Walk installation, “Peaceabilities,” is not about showing off her own work. Rather, it’s meant to get people involved in the process of creating peace.
“I’m an activist who wants to create opportunities for people to engage with things that matter,” she said.
The installation includes a photo collage of a Japanese Buddha, embroidery on fabric printed with Buddhist sacred texts and a group of words describing the abilities Meyer-Knapp sees as critical for peace.
Those who come to see the installation won’t be spectators; rather, they’ll find themselves participating in a different activity each day it’s open. Friday evening, visitors are invited to do their own embroidery in response to sacred texts.
“I wouldn’t be able to say what I am trying to say if was just writing an essay,” she said. “My hope is that people will find themselves excited about building their talents and noticing where strength really lies.
“I want to enable people to see their own lives as instruments for doing good in the world.”
Sculptural installations by Carrie Ziegler
“One Water” at LOTT’s WET Science Center, 500 Adams St. NE; opening reception with Ziegler and live music 6-8:30 p.m. Friday. Installation showing the movement of water in estuaries at the South Sound Estuarium, 309 State Ave. NE, open late during Arts Walk.
Combining art with environmental awareness is nothing new for Carrie Ziegler, who worked with hundreds of local children to create a full-size gray whale made of plastic shopping bags and other trash for the 2013 Procession of the Species. The celebrated whale raised awareness of the damage discarded trash does to the ocean and its inhabitants.
Friday, Ziegler’s most recent project, “One Water: The Infinite Journey” goes on display at the WET Science Center. The sculptural installation depicts the way water cycles from Puget Sound into urban areas and back to the sound.
Ziegler created the overall shape of an infinity symbol, suspended from monofilament, from about 2,000 aluminum water drops and fish. The individual art pieces were created in workshops she conducted with more than 1,200 Thurston County middle- and high-school students.
Also on display during Arts Walk is a similar project she recently did for the South Sound Estuarium. The Estuarium project began with paper waves created by more than 600 local elementary school students and others in the community. Its final form depicts the way water from rivers mixes with ocean water in an estuary.
“When we do these kinds of projects, we really create a story,” Ziegler said. “It’s much more than single art piece. I could make a big art piece by myself, but that wouldn’t have nearly as much impact.”
Olympia Peace Choir
Performing 7 p.m. Friday at Olympia City Hall, 601 Fourth Ave. E.
When she started the Olympia Peace Choir in 2009, Kerri Lynn Nichols didn’t necessarily envision it as a performing group.
“Politically, it was a time of a lot of contention,” she said. The idea was to have the choir come together to sing, not necessarily to perform ,but just to generate positive energy through the power of song.”
These days, the choir is a big hit, performing several times a year. At last spring’s Arts Walk, City Hall was overflowing.
“We’re kind of big,” Nichols said, “but the audience went out the door and onto the sidewalk.”
The group, which doesn’t require an audition, has more than 100 members ranging in age from 8 to 80-something. No audition is required, but Nichols aims to teach her singers good musicianship.
“We’re a middle ground between the auditioned choirs and informal singing circles,” she said.
Those who go to Friday’s concert will hear a wide range of music.
“We do all different styles,” Nichols said. “We do lots of world music. We have a piece we’re doing right now that’s called ‘The Earth’s Been Good to Me.’ It’s a salute to the Earth.
“We’ve been drawing more and more people to our concerts,” she said. “People are starting to know about us.”
Arts Walk 52
What: The free twice-yearly event showcases visual and performing arts of all kinds at 122 downtown businesses and on the streets of Olympia.
When: 5-10 p.m. Friday (April 22) and noon-8 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Throughout downtown Olympia.
More information: 360-753-8380 or olympiawa.gov/artswalk. Maps are 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., Olympia.