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Kulture Lab

The Dead Artists\' last hurrah?

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Kulture Lab: if you don’t know it by now, you may never, never, never know it.  

The plan, concocted by five local artists known as “The Dead Artists,” involved a six-month lease and six monthly parties, each installment designed to out-do the one before. The Dead Artists (Jim Price, Rob Anderson, James Bender, James Hume and Jeff Olsen) will celebrate the last hurrah of Kulture Lab this Saturday, April 28, as the lease on the space that it resides in (the former Catapult Gallery on South Fawcett) comes to a close.

Why is Kulture Lab such a success?

“We came up with a model in the beginning: performance art, music, art and sculpture. We didn’t waver from it,” explains Hume. He adds that the five artists came together as brothers and worked as a team.

What all the parties have in common is a mixture of edgy art, fashionable people, music and edible art by TV Dinners. 

At the Grand Opening in November 2006, Anderson dressed like a robot and mingled with guests as they perused works by local artists, many of whom had never been seen on such a large scale. The attendance at Kulture Lab parties ranged between 460-560 people.

“Kulture Lab reached a lot of people,” says Hume, “We usually averaged a dozen paintings sold — much better than I ever thought. Certain artists sold out every time.” Hume says that the average dollar amount of art sales totaled between $2,000 and $3,000 at each party.

In December 2006, the Kulture Lab theme was Holiday Hell featuring art marketed as gift ideas. The party happened to occur when a large portion of the surrounding areas was experiencing a power outage that lasted several days. Party attendance and art sales were surprisingly unaffected.

In January, Kulture Lab came back with a political vengeance with “Censored Art & The Art of Politics.” Hume says he was surprised how into it people were. He said people raved about the artwork.

“We thought it might bomb,” Hume says. No pun was intended.

In February, the departed ones reached even deeper into their bag of imaginative tricks to further shock and delight with the “Erotic Art Show.”

“It was supposed to be our crowning glory,” says Hume, “but everything chunked. People who were scheduled to perform backed out at the last minute. I was devastated.”

The plan was to have a naked woman buffet and exotic dancers. Drag queens performed instead, as well as soft porn movies projected on the walls and on rows of TVs. Erotic art filled the walls. It was a titillating success despite grand plans gone awry.

The March Kulture Lab will likely be a tough act to follow. “Penalty for Removal” showcased spectacular graffiti murals covering the walls. Beautiful people, of all shapes, ages and socioeconomic sizes, rubbed shoulders. Local rap artist Can-U had them waving their arms in the air, wavin’ like they just didn’t care. Art was flying off the walls, as cash was flying into their coffers. It had the highest attendance count yet (560 people, not counting freebees and slip-bys) and the entire event was filmed, including before-and-after shots when the graffiti was being created, and then afterward painted over with white. Hume says the landlord’s may never find out that the graffiti was even there. The film will likely be used as a promotional device for attracting sponsors for future Dead Artist projects.   

The final hurrah Saturday, April 28 has a “Death and Burial” theme. The artwork will not follow any theme. Hume calls the installation a “cornucopia of artwork from artists that no-one has ever seen before.” He was deliberately vague about what the reposed artisans have been plotting. He did say that since this is the last Kulture Lab, they no longer fear repercussions.

“We can’t get in trouble now,” he says, “Expect to be shocked. It will definitely be memorable.”

In the fall of 2007, there might be a resurrection of Kulture Lab in a different location. The Dead Artists are currently scouting larger facilities. A current favorite is a former coffin factory near the Swiss Pub (19th and Jefferson).

[Kulture Lab “Death and Burial,” Saturday, April 28, 7-10 p.m., free, 608 S. Fawcett, Tacoma,]

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