Monday, September 13, 2010

SEEN IN SPOKANE: Renaissance?

Posted on Mon, Sep 13, 2010 at 2:39 PM

A casual stroll downtown this afternoon yielded a few new and promising signs of progress/coolness in Spokane.

First off, there's this series of four 30-foot-high "canvases" by Ric Gendron, which Hotel Ruby owner Jerry Dicker unveiled last Thursday, with the help of the MAC and Tinman Gallery. The images are taken from Gendron paintings of (from right to left) Hank Williams, John Lennon, T-Bone Walker and John Coltrane. The newly refurbished Ruby already looked hip-as-shit. Now it's a genuine artistic moment in the middle of downtown. 

The Apple store is finally beginning to show its sleek face downtown. Though the Apple logo on the store's facade is still under wraps, you can now see the glass doors and that famous Apple interior — white modernist tables, cool light. The store — long longed-for in Spokane — is expected to open sometime this month or next. 

This little number (right) nearly took my breath away when I spotted it on Howard Street near Chase Bank — a painted bike lane in Spokane! Granted, this isn't the first marked bike path in the city, but seeing one downtown is still a shock. 

The lane is part of a $600,000 investment in Spokane's bike infrastructure — a project that began late last month and is expected to finish in November. When all the tape is finally pulled up and the dust settles, Spokane cyclists will find new racks and miles of bike lanes, creating a reverse-Utah-shaped outline through downtown, with Jefferson forming the western boundary, a new contraflow lane on Fourth Avenue (construction has already begun) defining the southern edge and this, Howard, on the eastern perimeter. The notch on top is etched by lanes on Spokane Falls Boulevard and Main Avenue.   

Though city cyclists are still itching for lanes on under-construction Second Avenue (a city spokeswoman says it's unlikely though it hasn't been ruled out), and though there seems to be some disagreement on the exact placement of these lanes, their stenciled presence downtown is concrete proof of a city that is finally embracing cycling as a legitimate mode of transportation and as a kind of cultural signifier.

It warms my spoke-y heart.

This last image is less a sign of Spokane's renaissance than of Greece's ancient one. I am no fan of most of the children's murals splashed under the train trestles throughout downtown (how is it that some art can make a place feel even more bleak than if the art were absent?), but I was struck this afternoon by this little detail in the trestle over Howard Street. With just a few simple, wobbly lines, two of these staid and relatively graceless concrete pillars are transformed into dignified Ionic columns, complete with curvy, mustachioed volutes. Despite the bird shit, cracks and water stains, it's like the old utilitarian forms almost disappear beneath the suggestive lines of these pseudo-columns.

What a nice little surprise.

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