By Molly Gilmore

Literary walks, a livestreamed concert and a show of work by Black artists are among the winners of Olympia’s Arts Month Innovation awards. The city began giving the awards last year to honor projects that stood out in their efforts to encourage community connection and involvement with the arts. 

“We wanted to highlight creative work that was also engaging the community in thoughtful and innovative ways,” said Angel Nava, the organizer of Arts Month, which replaced Arts Walk’s weekend of events with a month of online and in-person events designed to allow physical distancing and discourage large gatherings.

Those precautions, of course, make getting people engaged with the arts more challenging than ever, and that’s made the winning projects more innovative, Nava told OLY ARTS. “It’s been really cool to see how some of the participating projects have gotten even more creative,” she said. “They’ve pushed the boundaries and gotten really intentional about being interactive and engaging.”



South Puget Sound Community College’s “Futures Rising” exhibit — showcasing the work of local Black artists — is a good example, Nava said. “There are multiple ways of engaging with the community through live online talks as well as in-person experiences where you can visit the space by appointment.” The exhibit, curated by poet and painter Thresea “Mama Tee” Yost of Olympia, includes work by Sandra Bocas, Javoen Byrd, Shameka Gagnier, Cholee Gladney, Aisha Harrison, Travis Johnson, Sun Jordyn, Mskahe, Rhian Parker, Rene Westbrook, Yitagesu and David Yost. All of the work can be seen online as well as in person. 

Poet laureate Sady Sparks paints words of poetry as part of the literary trail

Nava also pointed to a pair of projects that combine walking with words. “Here We Are Magic,” a sidewalk poetry project created by Olympia poet laureate Sady Sparks and Seattle poet Zyna Bakari, and the Olympia Timberland Library’s Story Trail in Decatur Woods Park. For “Magic,” the poets spray-painted their words on the sidewalks along East Bay and West Bay Drives and paint that’s visible only when wet to hide more poetry at Percival Landing. For the Story Trail, one of a series, the library has posted the pages of the picture book “Tiny Perfect Things,” by M. H. Clark and Madeline Kloepper,at the park, 1015 Decatur St. SW, Olympia.

“Parks right now are some of the spaces where our community feels safest that are outside of their homes,” Nava said. “With these projects, you’re engaging with arts in a way that’s a little bit outside of the box. We can socially distance on a trail and go for a walk and have these creative experiences. We can engage and connect in these other ways.”

Another award went to the Olympia Artspace Alliance’s Art in Olympia Storefronts project, which places art in storefront windows, allowing a safer experience that calls to mind Arts Walk traditions. The project currently has four installations sharing space in the Goldberg Building, 403 Capitol Way S., Olympia: Susan Christian and John Corzine’s “Downtown Fish,” costumer Darren Mills’ “Circus Side Show,” Cyrra Robinson’s “Fictitious Forces” and the Black Well Red Thread Collective’s “Starbridge to Your Door.”



The collective, made up of Gagnier, Gladney and Harrison, has a related piece, “Future Blanket 2420,” in the “Futures Rising” show at SPSCC. While “Starbridge” honors the connection to ancestors, “Blanket” is about the generations to come. “It’s really neat to see the Black Well Red Thread Collective’s work in both spaces,” Nava said. “They’re doing really innovative work.”

Olympia’s Denim Protégé

Also recognized in the awards: an Oct. 24 concert by Olympia’s Denim Protégé, who’ll be live streaming from the performance space at Octapas Café’s original location on Fourth Avenue. (The restaurant recently moved to 610 Water St. SW, Olympia.) “Denim weaves electronic beats, funky samples and a soulful voice to produce fun, powerful, heartfelt dance music,” said Octapas co-owner Jamie Brayshaw. “He’s one of my longtime favorite local musicians to watch.”

Octapas has streamed several concerts, Brayshaw said. “We appreciate the fact that they’re making an effort to present live performance,” Nava said. “It brings a concert to your living room or wherever you are. … There are cool things happening in Olympia.”


WHAT

Olympia Arts Month

WHERE

Downtown Olympia and online

WHEN

Through Oct. 31

LEARN MORE

http://olympiawa.gov/artswalk

WHAT

Futures Rising

WHERE

Online and by appointment at the Leonor R. Fuller Gallery, South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Road SW, Olympia

WHEN

Through Dec. 11

LEARN MORE

360-596-5527

specc.edu


WHAT

Here We Are Magic

WHERE

Along East Bay and West Bay drives and at Percival Landing

LEARN MORE

poetlaureate@ci.olympia.wa.us

olympiawa.gov


WHAT

Olympia Timberland Library Story Trail

WHERE

Decatur Woods Park, 1015 Decatur St. SW, Olympia

WHEN

Through Oct. 31

LEARN MORE

trl.org


WHAT

Art in Olympia Storefronts

WHERE

Goldberg Building, 403 Capitol Way S., Olympia

WHEN

Through November

LEARN MORE

http://www.olympiaartspace.org/

WHAT

Denim Protégé

WHERE

Online

WHEN

9 p.m. Oct. 24

LEARN MORE

http://www.octapascafe.com