Olympia has such a varied community which makes it a great place to be an artist. This article highlights three places that exemplify this spirit of community. Each does its part to enrich our city with a dynamic, questioning, and creative cultural identity.
This amazing three-story workshop is a member-supported nonprofit. It has been around since 2009, and its members include inventors, product developers, artists, and craftspeople. I was shown round the shop of delights by Michael Rohdie, one of its 30-40 members. They created a safe place where people of varied skills and strengths, both socially and practically, can gather and see what they come up with. It is designed to cater to all strengths, and anyone can join in. Their goal is to: “learn from others, teach what you know, and make something!” They also work with other organizations around Olympia including Hands on Children’s Museum, Arbutus Folk School, and The Lacey MakerSpace.
Rohdie says: “The most important (and fun) thing about working as a group is sharing individual and group knowledge regarding a dizzying variety of topics including but not limited to science, technology, electronics, engineering, math, and art. More importantly, because of the wide knowledge and perspective of the group, people frequently find that problem-solving involves not just particular disciplines but the interstices between the disciplines. I have seen engineers designing an object get crucial advice from artists to solve/approach a problem or issue and vice versa. Many of our members have specialties but are not specialists in a limiting way. Our artists are frequently engineers, and our engineers are artists. Many of us build and develop the specialty tools that we might need for a particular project.”
He told some great stories of people who were uncomfortable with conversation for one reason or another, but after spending time and gaining skills and confidence were able to teach classes in their workshop. He said to participate, start by coming to their Thursday evening open house, 7-9ish. I say “ish” because he told me that quite often when they find a project to brainstorm, they don’t always leave at 9 p.m. A case in point is a small boat that hangs from the rafters of the first floor that he says is the result of a Thursday open evening when someone started to talk about boat making, someone else had a plan to make a boat and another person had the tools to cut the wooden frame. On Thursdays they also have a show-and-tell where people can bring what they have made. They have a Repair Café every second Thursday. They work on a pay-what-you-can basis. Check it out, you never know where this will take you. Classes are announced at open house and listed on their Meetup site: https://www.meetup.com/olymega/
Artists members will be showing artifacts along with Michael Rohdie’s instruments made from recycled pianos, https://www.pianowood.com and thimbles made from tagua nuts.
Makers, engineers, geeks and artists
312 4th Ave E, Olympia, WA 98501
April 28, 6-9:30 p.m.
April 29, 12-6 p.m.
Just down 4th Avenue is Olympia Lamplighters, a nonprofit creative space that started in 2019. I love this place. I was first introduced to the community when I hung a show in the Harlequin Theatre lobby gallery for one of its artists. Lamplighters has approximately 30 members. It is designed to provide a safe, inclusive space to members of the public on a pay-what-you-want basis. Many of the Lamplighters community members are queer youth and young adults but their regulars are diverse, and they have much older regulars also looking to hone their art skills, build community, and learn from one another. The space is open, welcoming, organized, clean and brightly lit with worktables and comfortable seating; artworks from the community are presented on the walls, gallery style.
Iri Alexander (they/them) showed me around and explained what they have to offer; there is a sound studio you can rent, and private art desks, and lockers can be rented by the month. They have a free arts materials section, books for reference, and a free queer clothing closet in the back where people can put together outfits and explore their gender presentation (clean, gently used donations accepted).
There is figure drawing on Thursdays 6-8 p.m. for +18-year-olds, and a figure drawing class for +11-year-olds on Saturday 2-4 p.m. Iri has many talents, they teach drawing and oil painting, they also teach a clothing care and repair class where you can repair and adjust clothing to fit, held on second Saturdays 4:30-6:30 p.m. Info and tickets for all classes can be bought from https://olylamplighters.com/classes/
Spring Arts Walk artists listed include:
Michele Knox (paintings)
Aruna Rowberry (paintings)
Plastic Sniffers Toys (craft)
Kei Andri Chavez (mixed media)
& Lonnie Spikes! (mixed media)
Artists Creative Space
211 4th Ave E, Olympia, WA 98501
April 28,10 a.m to 10 p.m.
April 29, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
DOG BOG STUDIOS AT KNITTING MILLS
Dog Bog Studios are 3 artists within Olympia Knitting Mills on Legion Street opposite Fish Tale Brew Pub. Knitting Mills artist studios has been around for decades and was home to such artists as Nikki McClure, Stella Mars and Community Print. There are eight artists at the Knitting Mills in total, but the artists who are participating in Dog Bog Studios are Mikaela Shafer, (mixed media) Daniel Overstreet (paper textiles), and David Overstreet (“avant-garbage”) and special guest artist, fifteen-year-old Ender Platter (they/them), (Digital art and drawings.) The group of artists met five years ago and began to collaborate as artists two years ago. They have been in the Knitting Mills for a year.
These artists all came to Olympia for reasons we may identify with. Daniel says he and his brother David had family here, he loved the arts culture and the green of our natural environment. Mikaela says she had friends who lived here and loved the music, and the schools in the area appealed to her. Her youngest child attends Lincoln Options School and the eldest (participating in their Arts Walk event) is at Avanti High School.
Dog Bog is a hub of creativity. The artists gather with friends to connect, support, collaborate, bounce creative ideas off each other, share critiques, and provide a safe place to suggest new directions and push each other to experiment outside of their personal comfort zones to see what magic happens when curious minds gather. They also help each other with the logistics of putting up and taking down shows, often sharing childcare and home responsibilities so everyone gets a chance to succeed. Daniel says: “We’re so entwined and invested in each other’s efforts and progress that we see our collective success just as important as our own.”
Daniel showed me the collaborative work he makes with his twin brother. Daniel’s work is more traditional, but it has a juxtaposition of two different art sensibilities. He makes very accomplished stencil/spray paint work on a large scale and has worked extensively making murals for businesses. He also paints with brushes in a much more immediate style which is less finished. When these two styles combine there is an interesting tension. His brother David also works with stencil/spray paint art but in a more caricatured art style incorporating stenciled patterns. The two brothers collaborate their personal art styles with exciting results. The imagery seems to suggest a social commentary questioning cultural identity. Daniel’s plans are to refine his general practice with acrylics on canvas with the intention of getting back into mural painting and large format pieces. He also plans to practice liquid light shows in and outside of Dog Bog Studios.
Mikaela’s work is much more abstract in style. She works in Acrylic and oil with bold strokes on sewn paper. Her work is very materials-forward and she explores landscapes. Her compositions are well-balanced and flow well with stitches and layered colors, they suggest an internal light that holds one’s attention delightfully. Many of them are landscapes but they could be easily interpreted as abstract indoor spaces. Her works are painted in series, they relate to each other visually like a story in pictures. Mikaela’s work will be featured in Aesthetica Magazine in April, and she will be staying at Sou’ Wester for a week, as part of an Artist Residency in July. Her next art shows will be in Bar Francis this August and at Thomas Architecture Studios in February of 2024.
Dog Bog Studios at Knitting Mills
508 Legion Way SE, Olympia, WA 98501
April 28, 6-9 p.m.
April 29, 3-6 p.m.
Olympia Arts Walk is a great way to get out and see what’s going on in our vibrant city. You can only get to really know the place if you walk its streets and meet the people in our communities who have their fingers on the pulse of what is happening, and then join in!