From years of covering the twice-yearly Visual Arts Tour, we've learned one thing. And that one thing is this: The first Friday in February is no time to be walking around downtown Spokane at night. With an average temperature of 25 degrees, a treacherous mixture of rain, sleet and ice on the sidewalks and a lot of territory to cover, you have to be a serious arts lover to participate in the February leg of the VAT at all.
Thus, we were amazed by the crowds up in the Garland District. Our first stop was Tinman Artworks, where we found Tom Quinn and his whimsical new downtown-themed painting, in addition to a sampling of his previous works. We spent some time browsing Tinman's great selection of books and enjoyed some nibblies before heading down the street to the excellent G.U. print show at Studio 901. This is one of our favorite new spaces, a narrow gallery in the front with a newsstand and more gallery space in the back. After grabbing a CD and the newest issue of Paste, we were on our way to the show at the Rocket when the deep red glow of the Blue Door Theatre lured us in. Their lobby conjures up the feel of old movie theater lobbies from the 1930s and 1940s, with just a bit of tin foil and some red lighting, and the performance space is just right for the immediacy of improv.
Back downtown, things were a little more challenging. The free wine from up Garland way was starting to wear off and all at once we noticed how cold it was. "I'm freezing..." "Where are my gloves?" and "Damn, it's cold!" were frequently voiced complaints from our party. Still, we enjoyed some impromptu kid-stand-up at the Spike, hit the Artist's Tree, Douglas and Lorinda Knight galleries and found our way to Argentum Aurum before deciding we had stamina enough for only one more stop. River Park Square had a show of textiles down on the main floor and it was all we could do not to take the richly embroidered army blanket coat, a Frida Kahlo jacket and various cozy looking hats and tapestries off their hangers and bundle up!
On our way back to our cars - it's a sign of downtown's revitalization that none of us could find a place to park closer than Third Avenue - we discovered a pocket of unofficial Visual Arts Tour activity. "Peter and the Magic Egg," a hilariously cloying animated film from the folks at the Paas egg dye company, was playing on the exterior wall of the Fox Theatre. Most people walked right past it without realizing it was there, but the few who stopped were a lot of fun to watch. Watching people watch art. It's what the Visual Arts Tour is all about.