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Art @ Work

The Tacoma Arts Commission wishes you would turn off the boob tube this month and squeeze in as many arts events as possible

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Tacoma’s Art at Work Month has become a Godzilla’s feast of literary, visual and performing arts. Is there any other town of comparable size in the Western Hemisphere that has anything to match it? I don’t think so.

November is Art at Work Month. Festivities begin with an opening celebration at the Museum of Glass Friday, Nov. 2, from 6 to 9 p.m. with hors d’oeuvres, a no-host bar, music by the Tacoma Youth Symphony, and a performance by Carla Barragan & BQdance. It’s free.

Oh, but that’s the day after Art at Work Month begins. The real start is Thursday, Nov. 1, when the University Jazz Ensemble plays at Pacific Lutheran University, University of Puget Sound puts on a play called “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” the “Define-a-Thon” takes place at King’s Books, and singer/songwriter Joshua Scott entertains at Mandolin Café.

The next day, Nov. 2, offers the Day of the Dead Procession on Sixth Avenue and lots of other fun stuff including poetry readings, music recitals, a couple of plays, the operatic comedy “Orpheus in the Underworld” at the Rialto Theater, and comedian Pat Hazell’s “The Wonderbread Years” at Theater on the Square.

The big event Saturday, Nov. 3, is the first ever Tacoma Word: Northwest Perspectives in Literary Art, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Freighthouse Square. This is planned as a monster event for writers, publishers and readers with workshops, readings, storytelling and more. The event will be free and open to the public. In addition to all of the readings and workshops, authors, playwrights, poets, songwriters, and small presses will display and sell their work at the Literary Open House from noon to 4 p.m.

OK, it’s time for me to quit listing every damn event day-by-day and just highlight the big stuff.
The second annual Arts Symposium to be held Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 17 and 18, at Wyatt Hall and Wheelock Student Center on campus at the University of Puget Sound is certainly among the big stuff. The symposium is geared toward helping artists find success in their chosen fields, including how to market and copyright their work, apply for grants, get published and break into public art. There will be networking opportunities for connecting with local education, exhibition, and job resources. Workshop sessions include: Small Business Basics: The Art of Marketing; What Artists and Authors Need to Know About Copyright; Grant Writing for Artists; Growing Your Business in Tacoma; Moving Forward: Resources For Artists; Artists’ Opportunities Networking Reception; Writers’ Resource Room to the Publishing House; and An Artist’s Guide to Public Art. The symposium is free.

Another major event of Art at Work Month is the sixth annual artists’ Studio Tours. Forty-one artists and three schools are taking part in the tours this year. The self-guided tours allow people to visit artists’ studios, see how they work, ask questions, and in some cases purchase art and watch or take part in demonstrations and hands-on activities led by the artists. This takes art out of the confines of museums and galleries, which are sometimes (erroneously) seen as stuffy and intimidating, and places it right into the personal realm of real people’s homes and work spaces. Visitors can choose which studios to visit. Each artist and studio will be giving away a limited number of collectible cards that when put together create a house of cards. Each card features an image of the artist’s work and information about the artist.

Following is information on just a few of the artists on the tour.

Becky Frehse — painting, drawing, digital collage — does figurative and landscape paintings in her relatively new studio on Center Street (previously she worked in a much smaller space in her home overlooking the Narrows). A world traveler, Frehse’s art is influenced by her travels to China and, more recently, Italy.

Nearby in his Nalley Valley studio, Nicholas Nyland makes large- and small-scale paintings and sculptures that are colorful, complex and playful.

Sharika Roland’s ink paintings center on the theme of women. “By confining my subject matter to just (women), I find that I am free to give new meaning to each woman,” Roland says. Her studio is on South Jefferson Street.

Claudia Riedener makes bas-relief tiles in her studio on South Steele Street. Her part of the studio tours will feature fun hands-on activities, and one-of-a-kind tiles are for purchase.
Many more events will take place during the month. A complete schedule is available in brochures from the Tacoma Arts Commission and at

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