Arts downtown during winter break: murals, public art, making stuff

Tacoma News TribuneDecember 24, 2013 

If you’re home with kids this winter break and tired of watching them hype up on candy canes or zone out with video games, think out of the box – and out of the gallery – for some art in downtown Tacoma. Just wrap up warm, because you’ll be outside a lot.


Mural Spotting

If you haven’t been downtown lately, you might have missed the rash of new murals popping up thanks to the Tacoma Murals Project organized by the City of Tacoma’s arts commission. Recent ones include the octopus’ floating lotus garden on the back of the Buddhist temple on Court D between South 17th and 19th Streets, the Dock Street Bridge (east and west sides facing the Foss waterway), and the north wall of the Mandarin Antiques Building (616 St. Helens Ave). And of course, don’t miss the Graffiti Garages on upper Broadway near 6th Avenue, the orange-and-green exploding sun on the back of the Rialto Theater on South 9th Street and the giant Alice in Wonderland mural at 1122 Market St. See how many characters the kids can recognize.


Art Spotting

Thanks to the 1 per cent for art legislation, Tacoma has an abundance of public art. Some is obvious – the bronze man waiting for the train outside the Union Station courthouse, Chihuly’s aqua rock candy glass and Seaforms on the Bridge of Glass. But challenge your kids to find a treasure hunt of not-so-easy spottings: the concrete suitcases on the University of Washington, Tacoma walking rail trail; the pop-out water drop on 15th Street and Pacific Avenue; Doug Granum’s multicolor train near the A Street entrance to I-705. And you should definitely hike or catch the link down to the latest sculpture: Diane Hansen’s locks underpass at A and 25th Streets near the Dome. Bring a decorated padlock to leave behind, just like in Paris.

The best mobile map to help you find both murals and public art is at, but if you’re community-minded you can add to the fledgling one at


Making Stuff

Even the least crafty of us will stand in awe inside Tinkertopia, a DIY-craft-reuse haven at 1914 Pacific Ave. near the UWT. Buckets, tubs and shelves crammed full of everything from tiny test tubes to tennis rackets awaits your creative instinct. This isn’t free – small bags of stuff are $6.95, large $9.95, and a drop-in visit to the DIY area with glue guns and other cool tools will cost you $7 – but if the weather’s just terrible it’ll warm you up after your mural hike. Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday.

You can also make stuff at the Children’s Museum, which is free and will amuse kids of any age. It gets crowded, so get there early, but once you’re through the obligatory orientation you can head straight for the center art rooms and explore whatever project is currently up. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Entry by donation. 1501 Pacific Ave., Tacoma. 253-627-6031,

Finally, the Tacoma Art Museum and Museum of Glass both offer art studios – TAM is more two-dimensional, MoG three – but you’ll have to pay admission. The bonus of this is, of course, that you can roam the galleries as well. Right now at TAM the kids will get a kick out of the wall-size “Shimmering Tree” projection and the show of optical illusions; at MoG there’s Australian and Irish glass, and of course the live glass-blowing in the Hot Shop. NOTE: Both museums are free all day Dec. 31 with entertainment for those with First Night buttons ($10 advance, free for 10 and under). TAM: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. $10/$8/free for under-five. 253-272-4258, MoG: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. $12/$10/$5 ages 5-12/free for under-12. 1801 Dock St., Tacoma. 866-4-MUSEUM,

Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568

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