A Closer Look at Some of the Olympia Nonprofits Participating in Spring Arts Walk

by Molly Walsh

Woven into the fabric of Olympia’s downtown corridor are not only boutiques, cafes and waterfront attractions, but also nonprofit organizations that are vital to Olympia’s social infrastructure. These organizations help bolster the greater Olympia arts community. And through participation in the spring Arts Walk, many Olympia nonprofits are opening their doors for attendees to explore unique exhibitions, displays and interactive activities. Each nonprofit has its own story and mission, and Arts Walk is a unique opportunity to share creative works and to share its story with South Sound residents.

Arbutus Folk School

Arts Walk Location: 610 4th Ave. E

Ceramics class at Arbutus Folk School

Arbutus Folk School offers classes in a variety of traditions, including ceramics, woodworking, and fiber arts. During the spring Arts Walk, Arbutus Folk School will host a special interactive activity led by featured artists, Liz Frey and Wendy Clark. Both experienced fiber artists, Frey is a fine arts professor at Centralia College and Clark teaches spinning and fiber arts-related classes and is currently in training to become a master spinner from Olds College in Alberta, Canada.

Frey and Clark will be hosting a live demonstration at Arbutus Folk School, showcasing how wool is made into yarn and how fabric is woven on a loom. The fiber for the loom demonstration will be sourced from Clark’s own flock of sheep. Attendees will be welcome to try their hand treadling at the spinning wheel, while also learning more about how natural fibers are processed and the benefits of using natural fibers over synthetic fibers in weaving projects.

A visit to this fiber arts demonstration at Arbutus Folk School may be of interest to people who are looking to take up a new artistic hobby but don’t know where to start. Attendees can learn more about the creative process for certain disciplines, like wool processing, spinning and

weaving, while also learning about the programming available through Arbutus Folk School.

West Central Park (Free Little Art Gallery) at Olympia Federal Savings

Arts Walk Location: 421 Capitol Way S

West Central Park Project, photo courtesy of West Central Park Project

Outside of Olympia Federal Savings on Capitol Way South, the West Central Park Project will host an interactive, pop-up edition of the Olympia Free Little Art Gallery (FLAG). First introduced to Arts Walk in 2022, the Free Little Art Gallery encourages participants of all ages and experience levels to stop by and explore their creative side through crafting small works of art. Thea LaCross, board treasurer for West Central Park said the gallery is a “make art and take art” style of participation, where all are welcome to create and display their art pieces in the special gallery display box.

“We will have the new art box, the new gallery will be there,” said  LaCross. “And the main event really is just having lots of supplies and art things. And people just are invited to come in, sit down and make things.”

West Central Park is a community green space, located on the corner of Division Street Northwest and Harrison Avenue Northwest in West Olympia. Throughout the year, West Central Park is home to a series of events like farmers’ markets and concerts. The Free Little Art Gallery also has a permanent home at West Central Park.

“We interpret art pretty broadly,” said LaCross. “There’s the art of building community and there’s the art of making gardens. And landscaping happens, and the music. So, the Arts Walk, even though at first we were thinking . . . tangible, creating art and paintings and that kind of stuff. We realize it’s just really a lot broader than that. And we want to be part of that and invite that in our space as well.”

Plum Street YMCA

Arts Walk Location: 505 Plum St. SE

YMCA youth program

The YMCA on Plum Street is welcoming Arts Walk attendees to an open house, featuring interactive activities and youth art displays that are centered around a celebration of Earth Day.

The YMCA’s youth programs will be highlighted, and the art on display will be created by participants of YMCA youth programs, including from the Plum Street YMCA, Briggs YMCA, as well as from YMCA youth sports and teen programs. Mediums will vary but may include three-dimensional sculpture, papier mâché, paintings and drawings. Arts Walk attendees will also have a chance to participate in a community art activity.

“We’re going to have an entire wall of paper and, with table space, with crayons and pencils, so that visitors, who are also hopefully young people, can also participate in the art,” said Lesli Baker, health and well-being director for the South Sound YMCA. “So, they can just pick up a crayon and participate in our Earth Day theme along the wall inside the Plum Street YMCA.”

“It’s important for us as a downtown community member to participate in these types of events,” said Baker. “Just to remain as part of our downtown community, because we really do love our downtown area.”

Hummingbird Studio

Arts Walk Location: 112 4th Ave. W

Hummingbird Studio is an arts space that aims to provide creative activities and programming to all members of the community, regardless of skill level, ability and income.

“Hummingbird Studio is a free, inclusive community art program,” said Randi Miller, community programs director for Kokua Services. “We provide supplies, it’s an open studio concept. So we don’t have a lot of instruction. It’s mostly people just choosing what they want to work on and sitting down and working. It’s so much about inclusion, it’s about building community. It’s about making friends. It’s about providing a safe space for artists of all abilities to come in and play and be creative and not be judged.”

During Arts Walk, Hummingbird Studio will host an open house in the new space, introducing the community to this new location, the partnership with Evergreen and new ideas for how the space will be utilized.

“I’m super excited to welcome the community,” said Miller. “To share our vision and our mission with the community and to engage the community to be involved in some way. Whether it be to volunteer or just come in to be an artist or donate . . . share our social media. So, I’m super excited.”

PEER Olympia

Arts Walk Location:  522 Franklin St. SE

Peer Olympia, photo courtesy of Peer Olympia

Peer Olympia helps community members who are in recovery from chronic addiction, mental health or physical health conditions. Peer Olympia is part of a greater statewide organization, Peer Washington, that provides referral support and opportunities to build community. Out of PEER Olympia’s downtown location, there is a range of programs available, including peer coaching.

Arts Walk attendees can take in art from artists and individuals who are in recovery, including Peer clients, employees and volunteers. The art on display may span many themes and mediums, including acrylic on canvas, ink drawings and pipe cleaner sculpture.

“We thought it would be really cool to just sort of have an open invitation to any members, staff and volunteers to join us in a sort of a collection or a collective of art, if you will,” said Evans. “And we’re calling it ‘Artists and Works in Recovery.’ Because we are artists in recovery ourself, and really, any art we make is generally part of that. And so, we’re kind of featuring all different mediums.”

POWER Olympia

Arts Walk Location: 309 5th Ave. SE

POWER project Sock Monkeys for Social Justice

POWER (Parents Organizing for Welfare & Economic Rights) is a nonprofit based in downtown Olympia that helps to advocate for causes that support low-income parents and families. The Alchemilla Feminist Economic Collaborative, a project of POWER, is an organization that is working to build a community of entrepreneurs from all walks of life. During Arts Walk, attendees are welcome to stop by POWER, learn more about the organization and how to become more connected with POWER programs.

During the spring Arts Walk, POWER will be hosting an exhibition of paintings and sketches from low-income artists of color, as well as street vendors from the Thurston County-based Bum Jug Collective of artists. POWER will also be displaying pieces from their project, Sock Monkeys for Social Justice, where artists tell their stories through the creation of a sock monkey figure. POWER’s Arts Walk activities and displays will be family friendly, with coffee and hot chocolate available to visitors who stop by.

Puget Sound Estuarium

Arts Walk Location: 309 State Ave. NE

Puget Sound Estuarium, photo courtesy of Puget Sound Estuarium

The Puget Sound Estuarium helps the community to connect with the local environment, particularly, the environment of the Puget Sound, through educational programs and events. This includes student field trips and programs like Pier Peer, where participants learn more about the marine life that finds a home under local docks, or Tiny Tides Storytime, where young students read children’s books and explore marine creatures in the Estuarium’s touch tank. In addition, the Puget Sound Estuarium is looking forward to participating in the spring Arts Walk to help promote learning and creativity in the greater Olympia community.

During the spring Arts Walk, the Puget Sound Estuarium will hold an early commemoration of Endangered Species Day by displaying submissions from the Estuarium’s Endangered Species Art Contest. Community members will also be invited to participate in a range of interactive activities throughout Arts Walk.

“Guests will get a chance to explore the Estuarium for free and take a break to draw their favorite local endangered animal or vote on their favorite piece of artwork,” said Prindle. “Additionally, visitors will get to participate in education games and a collaborative chalk drawing activity. And on Friday, we’re excited to host the band the Jacked Lords in our parking lot for some surf rock jams!”

During the spring Arts Walk, the Puget Sound Estuarium will display submissions from the Estuarium’s Endangered Species Art Contest.

Community members will also be invited to participate in a range of interactive activities like chalk drawing and live music.

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