Tacoma has art galleries, but Feast is something more than that. It has plenty of art classes, but Feast isn’t only a studio. Nor is it just a place for Sunday morning coffee or parties, although those happen.
No, Feast Arts Center — which has seen seven months as a Hilltop garage converted to art space — aims to be gallery, studio and gathering place. And with Artist Trust using Feast as a mobile hub this week, that goal is getting closer.
“We’re getting there,” says Todd Jannausch, co-founder of Feast with his wife, Chandler Woodfin.
“Tacoma has an amazing high art sector: museums, theaters. And the base level is good: street art, classes, schools. Being a bridge in the middle is where we can help. … We’re building community around good art,” Jannausch said.
“And somehow we make it work,” adds Woodfin.
We’re building community around good art.”
Todd Jannausch, Feast Arts Center co-founder
Seattle transplants, Jannausch and Woodfin are both professional artists who were juggling teaching jobs at Pratt Fine Arts Center, Gage Academy and Kirkland Arts Center, plus their own work — and couldn’t make ends meet.
“Even in the cheapest house in the cheapest neighborhood, South Park, we were priced out,” says Jannausch, a sculptor who works in wood and found objects.
They looked at neighborhoods from Detroit to Oakland for both rents and community.
“We wanted to be somewhere where we could make a difference,” he says.
That ended up being Tacoma’s Hilltop, where they converted an old car-wash garage, rented with a $7,500 fellowship grant Jannausch received from Artist Trust. A $25,000 Indigogo.com campaign helped with capital. The couple began offering regular classes and workshops. Woodfin teaches ongoing drawing classes, and visiting artists have included Celeste Cooning (paper cut-out), Sam Hamrick (relief prints) and Kamla Kakaria and Larry Calkins (encaustic). Classes are just $10 each.
“We try to remove as many barriers as we can, like price,” Woodfin explains.
Classes happen in the big entry studio, with its doublewide garage doors and flooding light. The inner room became a white-walled gallery, where they’ve had shows by West Coast artists such as Molly Schaeffer and Rebecca Chernow. They’re planning to replace the street-front garage door with windows for more light.
This week, non-profit Artist Trust is moving into Feast, using the space as a hub as it goes on tour. Thursday night will see a happy hour and artist event showcasing Artist Trust grantees from the South Sound: Tacoma watercolorist and printmaker Chandler O’Leary, multidisciplinary Olympia artist Anne de Marcken, and Peninsula literary artist Matthew Nienow. Artist Trust will host a Saturday workshop on getting art from studio to gallery.
“Artist Trust recognizes artistic excellence,” says executive director Shannon Halberstadt. “They’re both incredible artists, and very accomplished.”
What sets Feast apart from other Tacoma galleries or studios are its business model and its commitment to community — which in fact are intimately linked. Feast isn’t a nonprofit, but it gets grants and operates on a shoestring to pay artists and support the couple and their 3-year-old son, Grey. It’s a model that people initially find perplexing.
“Running a space like that and not being a nonprofit has its challenges,” says Halberstadt. “But it seems to be working for them so far.”
Running a space like that and not being a nonprofit has its challenges. But it seems to be working for them so far.”
Shannon Halberstadt, Artist Trust
The reason for the model? Flexibility and community.
“Nonprofit arts groups have had this way of doing things for so long that they can’t shift it,” explains Jannausch. “You have an event, then you need to staff it, then you need to advertise it, so you need money.”
The couple has bought exactly one media advertisement since starting Feast and is still paying it off, Woodfin says.
Instead, they’re relying on creating community to spread the word about Feast and fill the center. They use social media, the city of Tacoma arts listserv, artists bringing in friends, word of mouth.
Every Sunday they bring in Tara Brown of Cora Coffee Roasters, who showed up to the grand opening in January out of curiosity and has done a couple of art workshops since. Pouring hand-ground coffee by the doorway, Brown acts as a default maître d’, welcoming passers-by with a big smile and letting them know about the bread, jam and peanut butter on a nearby work table.
“We really share a vision of a vibrant, livable Tacoma with a strong community focus,” Brown explains. “And Chandler’s an incredible teacher.”
We really share a vision of a vibrant, livable Tacoma with a strong community focus.”
Tara Brown, Cora Coffee
Other folk drifting in and out agree that an art space that doubles as a gathering place is a good idea.
“I’m not very artistic,” says Reagan Stovall, who heard about Feast through Brown and comes most Sundays. “But I think it’s brilliant.”
“There’s always something different here,” says Brandyne Baumgartner. “There are amazing people. We have good conversations. I don’t make a lot of art, but I want to support them.”
The most recent community event was a de-pave last Saturday, something that the Pierce Conservation District does in partnership with local businesses to take out unnecessary concrete and create pedestrian- and environment-friendly gardens. Some 40 people showed up at the Feast parking lot to lug concrete chunks into a Dumpster. Jannausch and Woodfin plan to leave a drivable rim around the outside for food trucks, build a mural wall along the inside for future mural painting workshops for youth, and plant a rain garden. They’re hoping to finish this summer, holding outdoor film evenings, pop-up art events, live music, yoga and ongoing video art. And they’re hoping to make some more money from renting out the studio to artists when it’s not in use.
It’s a big dream — with a lot of challenges. The figure drawing classes are full, but a few recent workshops had to be canceled for lack of interest. The city has been helpful, say the couple, paying for new sidewalks, but in exchange they’ve had to commit to a three-year lease. The neighborhood isn’t very walkable, reducing the visitor traffic. They’re still figuring out what makes Tacoma tick, compared to Seattle. Other art venues have opened in the neighborhood over the years, only to close doors, including Tacoma Art Place and the D.A.S.H. center.
There also have been family worries: a car totaled during a temporary uninsured period, a second car breaking down while a guest artist was in it, Woodfin breaking both elbows when she fell off a ladder doing working on the space.
“It’s hard to predict,” Woodfin says. “It’s slowly becoming a place. People don’t know what it is yet.”
But, adds Jannausch, “we want it to be a place where people don’t know what they’ll see when they walk by.”
Still, the artists are committed to their vision of an affordable community art space. They don’t take commission from artists showing in the gallery and intend to keep class prices low. And they are keeping the artistic bar high, as the Artist Trust events show.
“We want to have beginner classes next to professional art in the gallery, to show people where you could get to,” says Woodfin. “We have to keep a strong aesthetic.”
“And figure out ways to make it affordable,” adds Jannausch.
Upcoming events at Feast
What: Artist Trust on Tour, featuring artists Chandler O’Leary, Anne de Marcken and Matthew Nienow.
When: 6-9 p.m. Thursday.
Where: Feast Arts Center, 1402 S. 11th St., Tacoma.
Cost: Free with RSVP.
What: Artist Trust workshop, “From Studio to Gallery.”
When: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Feast Arts Center, 1402 S. 11th St., Tacoma. (Other workshops at Creative House, see artisttrust.org)
Cost: $30 Artist Trust members; $35 nonmembers.
What: Ongoing classes, workshops, gallery shows.
When: Gallery noon-5 p.m. Saturdays and by appointment; classes vary.
Cost: Entry free, classes $10, workshops $35-$100.
Also: Community coffee 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays, other events as scheduled.