Arts & Culture

2 new galleries offer unexpected art in restored spaces on Tacoma’s Pacific Avenue

Two new art spaces within the same three blocks of Pacific Avenue in downtown Tacoma are offering out-of-the-box art in restored or reclaimed buildings — one temporary, one occasional.

1120 Creative House, a vacant commercial floor in a dingy 1960s building at 1120 Pacific Ave., has been innovatively upcycled and filled with creative businesses thanks to Spaceworks. It’s open on third Thursdays for ArtWalk.

Brick and Mortar Gallery at 811 Pacific Ave. is a temporary, four-days-a-week offering in the 100-year-old Rowlands Building, beautifully restored and awaiting tenants.

In both, the art is slightly off-beat, but with a few gems.

1120 Creative House was the first attempt by Tacoma’s Spaceworks program — known for matching artists to vacant commercial space downtown — at filling an entire floor of a building. Around 11 creative businesses have taken the chance at rent-free space to expand or develop ideas, and during ArtWalk those enterprises put their work on show, along with some guest artists.

Last week, a flamenco guitarist strummed and sang (a little out of tune) while visitors strolled around the large space cleverly partitioned with pallet walls. Most work was ephemeral: a fuchsia-aqua graffiti mural, a spray-painted portrait on cardboard, highly edited landscape photography in letter-size prints taped to the wall. Others were more labor-intensive, such as the thick, dark armchair painting by Markart 5, dripping red. A Tacoma Dome-themed room sported a cloud installation of indigo-dyed coffee filters and Shawn Foote’s nostalgically wafty collage. Most striking was rope sculpture by Asia Tail, the thick black braid coiled into minimalist snakes.

On the ground floor, not usually part of Creative House, was the “China Lake Juxtapositions” installation by Matthew Olds. Jagged, camo-colored gunfire blasts in a contemporary landscape painting rose out of and were reflected by a huge pool of water, resting calmly in the tacky carpeted office space like a bizarre mirage. The surrealism enhanced by three plastic picnic chairs for viewing, Olds’ merging of man-made nature and artificial indoor environment made a clever statement.

Over at 811 Pacific, the owners of the Rowlands Building (which also houses The Office bar) have made the most of a tenant vacancy and created a stylish gallery out of the exposed brick-and-beam room. Not everything’s quite as stylish on the walls: welder Josh Lippencott creates mostly garden-store daisy sculptures, though a couple of abstract towers of welded ellipses and pipes hold more originality and interest. Steve Portteus likewise makes ceramic relief mosaics that would sell well in a garden gift store, the little clay spheres forming predictable seascapes and forests.

Laura Hanan, on the other hand, has an eye-catching vision to offer in her oil paintings. One of the gallery’s owners, she’s inspired by early 20th century abstract expressionists like Kandinsky, but uses a cool palette of black, pale blue, gold and ivory to express the dynamic chaos of a construction site. The strokes and puddles glisten like machine oil and auto body paint to create a landscape of human mess and production.

Brick and Mortar will be open four days per week and on third Thursdays until the space is rented out.