It's nothing new to hear artists bemoan Olympia's dearth of non-commercial gallery spaces (even though, to be fair, there is gallery space at the colleges and performing arts centers and, most notably for emerging artists, the Northern).
So a gallery with free exhibitions, performances, panel discussions and live music at a space downtown is a noteworthy development - even if it's a temporary gallery. That's what the Olympia Arts Perspective is offering this month in a vacant storefront on State Avenue.
My first question: What's the Olympia Arts Perspective?
The answer, it turns out, is artist Lindsay Tunkl of Olympia.
"I got offered the use of a space downtown for a really good price for the month of April," says Tunkl, "so I decided to try to do something really cool with it. I'm not incorporated or anything like that."
The result: Variables, a month of week-long exhibits showcasing little-known artists - some local, some regional and some from across the country. Receptions every Friday night will include performance art, live music and a chance to meet the artists.
The first show, launching Friday, April 1, Me + You, focuses on making personal experiences accessible to all, with work by artists including light boxes by Tunkl and music by Portland's the Shy Seasons. Subsequent themes: Us + The Other, X + Y and Space + Place.
"In Olympia, the arts scene isn't the greatest," says Tunkl, who moved from Los Angeles to Olympia not long after graduating from the California Institute of the Arts in May. "I want to show people who make really good work and who haven't had the ability to show it, who haven't had the ability to make a name for themselves."
"What puts Olympia on the map is its music scene," said Blen Davidson of Olympia, whose work will be featured as part of You + Me. "It has such a great music scene and such a great community, and everybody is behind it, but as far as visual and performing arts go, there is something that's lacking.
"I've met so many artists, but there are not a lot of opportunities for exhibition or to come together in some way. Now there is, and it's really exciting."
Tunkl didn't have a grand plan, though: She actually was looking to rent the space simply to have a one-day show, as she and a group of friends did a few months ago.
"I asked, ‘Do you want to rent it for me for a month?' and they were like, ‘Sure,'" she says.
What was she thinking? Did she really want to organize an entire month? (Friends have pitched in here and there, but, she says, "It's me that has been doing the major footwork.")
"I'm asking myself the same questions," Tunkl says. "I'm like, ‘What made me do this?' I've always been a really ambitious person and sometimes to a fault, where I don't realize how big of a deal something is going to be, but somehow I get it done."
As of last week, she's still finalizing the lineups for the later shows, and it's already clear that she's creating a space for artists and works that might not otherwise be seen.
Davidson, a senior at The Evergreen State College, says he hasn't approached commercial galleries.
"I'm of the school of exhibition for exhibition's sake," he says. "This contemporary art theorist said that the purpose of contemporary art is to create community and to fill a space with community, to create a dialogue. It's for the community and not for the money. ... That's the only kind of place that I'm interested in working with."
Perhaps that's fortunate, as it's amusing to imagine the reaction of a commercial gallery owner to what he has planned. Friday, he'll perform a piece he's calling Come Cry With Me: A Cliché Is a Cliché Unless It's Not, and for the rest of the week, there'll be "sculptural artifacts" left behind.
Asked for more details, he says: "It will involve a lot of onions, a few dozen onions being diced. That will be the performance aspect of it. The arrangement of the diced onions will remain there for the rest of the week."
A month of free exhibits, performance art
April 1–30, free,
112 State Ave. NE, Olympia
Receptions: Fridays in April, 6-10 p.m.
Gallery hours: Noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays–Sundays in April