It’s too soon to know whether the Spaceworks project has been a success. Begun last summer, the project organized by the City of Tacoma and arts resource group Shunpike aimed to revive a recession-hit downtown by filling empty spaces with art: visual, dramatic, musical, dance, film.
Some artists are praising the project, saying it provides much-needed creative space and brings potential tenants to buildings. But as Round Two of the visual art component went up a few weeks ago, it was clear that, whatever the overall success, artists were hitting their stride as to what art suits cavernous, street-facing spaces.
The most dramatic illustration is at 950 Pacific Ave., in the Chamber of Commerce building on the 11th Street corner. Best seen from 11th Street, the vast interior is filled with soaring white bands of parchment-like fabric, tethered to the windows at street level and angling up around two pillars and back again like the grand entrance to some mausoleum. Created by Alyson Piskorowski, the installation has the dimensions of a minimalist opera set, architectural yet fragile – a Christo wrapping deconstructed.
Up at the Woolworth Windows there’s more irony. In the Commerce Street window, Alexandra Opie has constructed a still life with clear glass vases, skulls and manikin heads, next to which is a monitor that shows the closed-circuit view from behind. If you stand just to the left of the monitor, your face hovers behind the vases, distorted, blurred and ghostlike through the window. It’s a clever mix of 17th century still-life and 21st century self-obsession, but it doesn’t fit the space too well.
Farther up on Broadway, behind a bland sumi-style scroll, is a mega-installation by Craig Snyder, Ruth Tomlinson, Tania Kupczak and Jessica Bender. Exploring the obsession inherent in collecting, the installation falls a bit flat: The floor grid of white light blocks is dwarfed by the ceiling height, while a pin-up grid of ’80s sci-fi book covers and shelves of photographs behind don’t really say much beyond a visual order.
Alice di Certo’s “My America” photographs, however, thoroughly deserve this space. Seen in part at the Tacoma Community College gallery, this series captures ordinary Americans out in the boondocks with an honest, sympathetic eye: a matching father-son pair squatting on pretzel-crossed legs, teenagers joking behind a car rally, the extravagantly bedecked cleavage of a parade lady. Di Certo’s husband, Kyle Dillehay, fills the next window with his “Lines of the Earth,” plant roots jutting out from the white wall in a surreal, beautiful commentary on the loss of life and home. His other window has sculptures of preserved plant parts, wire and plaster poking out of horizontal metal rods, pinned specimens of human debris.
Up at 906 Broadway, opposite the Pantages, are three installations that comment on environments in gently ironic ways. Barbara de Pirro’s beautifully made hanging mesh of bottlecaps intercepted by twisted plastic-bag circles and ropes inhabits the window like vertical white coral, reminding us of the sea life that is slowly being destroyed by the North Pacific gyre of plastic trash. Sisy Anderson and Scott Huerte create a perfect autumn “painting” via a pixilated photograph backdrop, a mid-ground of leaf-painted scrolls and floating “leaves” and a foreground window frame to look at it all through – a clever comment on nature appreciation.
Finally, Holly Senn hangs her window with sculptural imitations of the rondelles, rosettes and garlands that decorate the Pantages exterior opposite – only made out of book pages. The text brings an extraordinary life to the architectural bits, as if words add humanity to mere construction.
Spaceworks art project
Who: Various artists
When: Through Jan. 6
Where: In store windows at 906 Broadway, 950 Pacific Ave., Woolworth Windows at Broadway, and South Ninth Street
Information: 253-591-5191, www.spaceworkstacoma. wordpress.com