Olympia’s spring Arts Walk dodges showers

Artists and art lovers alike are finding harmony this weekend in downtown Olympia’s spring Arts Walk.

Nearly 120 businesses are participating in this twice-annual cultural mainstay that celebrates the visual, the musical and the culinary sides of art. Friday evening’s opening event was threatened by April showers, but the rain mostly held off for earlier events.

“Good art always creates a dialogue,” said Nathan Barnes, whose first solo Arts Walk exhibit “Strangely Familial” is on display at Salon Refu. Inspired by families and close friends, these portraits combine the real with the surreal — a toddler’s innocent face fused with tadpole eggs, for example — to make an immediate emotional impact.

“I like to make people think,” said Barnes, who also runs the art gallery at South Puget Sound Community College.

One newcomer to Arts Walk is Primeval Ink Tattoo near Fifth Avenue and Washington Street. Co-owners Suzanne Shepherd and Andi Lineweaver moved downtown last fall specifically to be closer to fellow artists. Their original drawings and acrylic paintings adorn the walls of the shop.

“Downtown Olympia has the most wonderful energy,” Shepherd said Friday as Arts Walk got underway. “I was excited to get involved.”

Aside from live music on nearly every block, a handful of street performers added to the festive ambiance.

Armed with a steady stream of jokes, Jules McEvoy of One Fine Fool entertained a rapt audience by cartwheeling with a spinning ball on his finger and even juggling a toddler named Hawk. For the latter, he shifted the kid from arm to arm while tossing a pair of chainmail balls, then rewarded his little volunteer with a $5 bill.

In the grand finale, McEvoy juggled three flaming torches as he balanced a flaming 5-foot rusty scythe on his chin.

“As a general rule, if you can’t do it,” he told the crowd, “you should be applauding.”

Some art exhibits were charity-minded, such as a silent auction for an array of painted umbrellas at Splash Gallery, with proceeds benefitting Nova School in Olympia. Others touched on serious topics, including a presentation by Roots and Leaves of Solidarity: Interactive Theatre of the Oppressed. The skit involved four women who posed in a series of vignettes that illustrated the oppressive conditions created by a patriarchical society.

Festivities Saturday (April 25) include the legendary Procession of the Species, a lovably weird parade that attracts thousands of participants wearing homemade costumes that pay homage to the natural world.