They're local artists with lots of ideas. Now the rest of us can see them

Lettuce was started to provide help for local artists to create work before an audience. Three artists will display their art Friday (April 27).  Risa Kaneko Lakely took part in an earlier Lettuce gathering.
Lettuce was started to provide help for local artists to create work before an audience. Three artists will display their art Friday (April 27). Risa Kaneko Lakely took part in an earlier Lettuce gathering.

Artists often have lots of ideas. But they usually don’t have a lot of money. Many struggle with the costs of creating, promoting and showing their work.

So they turn to Monique Simkova and Lettuce.

Born in Canada, Simkova grew up on Tacoma’s East Side, the youngest of three girls in a Slovakian-German family. She studied fine art and art history at the University of British Columbia.

She started Lettuce, now in its sophomore year, to provide space for local artists to create work before an audience. The experiment tries to cover the costs of event space, social media outreach and promotion that often stifle artistic expression.

The idea was inspired years ago, through dreams and conversation with Leah Morgan, one of three artists who will be showcased Friday (April 27) at Lettuce Part 8.

The News Tribune spoke with Simkova about Lettuce, the artist selection process and what we can expect at Lettuce Part 8. The discussion has been edited and condensed.

What is Lettuce, and why that name?

Lettuce is where artists come and create their art, live, before an audience. Artists get to check out one another’s technique, everyone gets to meet and mingle and see what’s happening in Tacoma.

I also set up sections for arts and crafts as part of these events, so that the audience can get their hands working creatively, if they choose.

I chose the name Lettuce because I like its playfulness. It’s a pun for let us create, let us connect, let us collaborate. It also makes a statement on food security and food justice, both very important to me.

What goes into the process of selecting artists?

First, the artist submits a simple application through the Lettuce website. Then, in deciding which artists to invite, I look for diversity in their networks, backgrounds and mediums. This helps to bring a variety of creatives together in one place.

Is there a fee for artists’ participation? Do you have sponsorship?

I don’t charge the artist. In fact, I strongly believe in paying artists, especially for public events. Artists can’t buy food with exposure.

I’ve had amazing sponsors. Last year, Feast arts Center sponsored all Lettuce events. Sponsors this year are the Union Club and Tacoma Art Museum. These organizations are graciously donating event space and paying the artists.

What’s in store at Lettuce Part 8?

Part 8 is the first Lettuce event of the year. It will feature live art-making by Perry Porter, also known as Perry Paints, whose work is inspired by women of color. (Perry, a multidisciplinary artist, will perform original work this summer in Seattle’s Upstream Music Fest.)

Also, John Norquist, who will be painting with coffee, and Leah Morgan who’ll craft Pendleton wool pillows. (More about the artist here.)

Volunteers are welcome.

What are your thoughts on artists and their voices in today’s world?

Artists are canaries in the coal mines. They sing out. But it’s difficult to be an artist because of funding.

When we don’t have art, a piece of our culture is unrepresented, which means silencing those activists. That’s dangerous, and that’s another reason it’s important to pay artist. It’s important that we help artists.

But you don’t have to be an artist to come to Lettuce. I hope it’s a place where anyone feels welcome, safe and comfortable.

Carla Bell is a Tacoma-based freelance writer whose work focuses on civil and human rights and culture and arts. Her work has appeared in City Arts Magazine, Crosscut, The Stranger, Real Change News, Parent Map Magazine, and South Seattle Emerald.



7 p.m. Apr 27, Part 8, Union Club, 539 Broadway, Tacoma.

6 p.m. May 25, Part 9, Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma.

7 p.m. Jun 29, Part 10, Union Club.

6 p.m. Aug 24: Part 11, Tacoma Art Museum.

7 p.m. Oct 26, Part 12, Union Club.

5 p.m. Nov 15, Part 13, Tacoma Art Museum.

Note: The Nov. 15 event is open to all. The others are open to those 21 and older.

Tickets: $10.

Phone: 253-359-4173