Community gathers for grand show of visual, performing arts

Al Barney plays a musical instrument while entertaining during Arts Walk Friday evening in downtown Olympia.  (Olympian File Photo)
Al Barney plays a musical instrument while entertaining during Arts Walk Friday evening in downtown Olympia. (Olympian File Photo) The Olympian

The city of Olympia's 40th Arts Walk features an array of work by artists professional and amateur, young and old.

But this Arts Walk, happening tonight and Saturday, might be the first to include a posthumous retrospective of work by a South Sound artist. The artist is Carl Cook, a noted wildlife photographer and disc jockey who died in 2008. The work being showcased is a series of portraits of Olympia’s artists, musicians and just plain folks — all sitting in a big green secondhand chair.

“It’s a real piece of Olympia history,” said artist and writer Nancy Sigafoos, who is hosting the retrospective at N. Sigafoos Gallery, 114 Capitol Way N.

Stephanie Johnson, who organizes Arts Walk for the city of Olympia, said, “I can’t wait to go myself, because I’m really interested in seeing the people who sat in the chair.”

“Carl Cook’s Chair” will even include the chair, which resided for many years in the now-demolished Studio 321. Cook gave it to Sigafoos before his death.

Cook is one of 291 artists who’ll have work at the twice-yearly Arts Walk, a celebration of visual and performing arts and a time when downtown Olympia is packed with people in the mood to celebrate. Spring Arts Walks are the bigger offerings, with two full days of events, including the Procession of the Species on Saturday.

More than 30,000 people are expected to turn out to visit the 127 participating businesses and enjoy the unexpected pleasures of the event, from impromptu exhibits that didn’t make it into the Arts Walk program to the street performers who congregate at Fifth and Washington, where the streets are closed.

Cook’s photo project is a special offering — and especially suited to Arts Walk — because it documents so much of Olympia’s creative history, Johnson pointed out.

“This is a retrospective of a great community project,” she said. “It’s a time capsule of a period by an artist who is sadly no longer with us.”

For Sigafoos, there’s something else about the exhibit that’s special. Cook’s photography will share gallery space with photos by the gallery owner’s daughter, 11-year-old Harper Sigafoos.

“Harper started taking pictures when she was 3 or 4 years old,” Sigafoos said. “Carl used to come over fairly often, and he was very supportive of her photography.”