How the sun manages to find its way over the dark alley and through the windows of the City Terminal Gallery is anyone's guess. The light that warms the empty space of this building, sandwiched between two alleyways, is just as magical as the event that will take place there.
Starting this Friday, works of art from various artists and mediums will cover the brick walls and dusty floorboards of this temporary gallery in an event on the Visual Arts Tour known as the Raw Space exhibit. Raw Space comes from the idea of creating galleries out of atypical spaces. The juxtaposition of art and unfinished areas produces an element of informality that delights the artists as well as the patrons.
"It's so spontaneous," says local artist Melissa Swann Wagner. "I enjoy it because I meet new artists. People aren't uptight or feel like they have to be uncomfortable."
This will be Wagner's second time as a participant, and she will be displaying clay and metal sculptures. Wagner will join a record number of debut and veteran artists this year.
"It's a significant increase in response," says Susan Hardie, outreach coordinator for the Spokane Arts Commission. Participation went from around 40 artists last year to more than 60 this year. Hardie attributes the increase to a growing number of people who appreciate the arts and want to share their discoveries with others.
"I think artists are connecting more. The arts community is networking more than ever," says Hardie. Artists who participated in previous years have passed on their positive experiences to other artists. This snowball effect has managed to pick up people who specialize in sculpture, painting, glass art, quilts and even papier mache.
"It's such an eclectic mix," says Hardie. "That's the beauty of Raw Space." The event is responsible for bringing artists together and opening doors for them. Marty Johnson, a local painter, believes the Raw Space environment allows her to paint for herself instead of for what she thinks a certain gallery will appreciate. "It's the freedom," she says. "You don't feel like your work is going to be judged. The work is sincere. I'm not doing this for the gallery."
Even though downtown Spokane is overflowing with old, unfinished buildings, it takes a certain ambience to pull off the mystique of the Raw Space tradition. A number of elements contributed to the decision to have the City Terminal Gallery host the event, including the fact that developer Rob Brewster owns the building and most of the surroundings.
"Rob Brewster is a dear friend of the arts," says Hardie. "This is a space that is a really popular area for visual and performing arts." The gallery is located in the alley adjacent to the Blue Door Theatre, and within a stone's throw of Bitters Co. and Art By Yourself. Brewster has dreams of making the area into an arts and entertainment district. His plans include the remodeling of an old boiler room into an underground restaurant, the resurrection of a gutted-out hotel, a new coffeehouse and a deli. He wants people to be able to enjoy an entire cultural evening in a one-block radius.
"We don't have a district like that," says Brewster.
The area would be pulled into one common theme, including storefronts on all of the brick buildings. The storefront can already be seen on one side of the gallery, which crews have been working on for the past several weeks.
The gallery is a 3,800-square-foot area with high ceilings and visible beams. Four square, wooden columns run down the middle of the room but do not detract from the open and airy quality the space possesses. The area was a gallery before the remodeling, and Brewster hopes it will be a gallery long after the Raw Space exhibit has vacated.
"It's one of the coolest spaces," says Brewster. "We're using this space to showcase the rest of the block."