Mardis Nenno has lived in her home on Lower Crossing Street just north of the Spokane River for 23 years, and even though Bethany Taylor has only lived in Spokane since 2015 — south of the river on West Sinto — these two artists have a similar vision of their West Central Neighborhood: potential.
"Often West Central is looked at as a place that needs help, but we're thriving," Taylor says. She worked with Nenno to organize the first (and what they hope becomes annual) West Central Artist Studio Tour. The boundaries of the one-day, self-guided tour align with the West Central Neighborhood Council: rimmed by the river to the south and west, Indiana Avenue to the north, and Monroe Street to the east.
"What we aim to do is highlight [West Central's] assets and use those assets to work on our deficits," Taylor says.
Those assets, the artists say, include lots of creatives: visual artists, but also writers, performers, arts businesses and others they hope to incorporate as the tour evolves.
For its first year, the tour features the home studios of five artists, including Nenno, who works in ceramics, and Taylor, a printmaker, as well as Thom Caraway (writing, collage, printmaking), Wendy Franklund Miller (encaustics, mixed media), and Steffan Wacholtz (sculpture).
Spark Central, and three arts businesses that share an address on Ash Street are also participating. Art Salvage is celebrating its first year in business, while next door are two printing venues. Ammonite Ink specializes in screenprinting custom apparel, while a new artist collaborative called Spokane Print & Publishing Center encompasses several artist-led ventures, including Millwood Print Works, which Taylor formed with Caraway and fellow printmaker Derek Landers in 2017. (Visit westcentralartistsstudiotour.com for addresses of locations.)
"We are so pleased to have new arts organizations moving into our neighborhood and want to help make them more visible to the rest of the city," says Nenno, who was approached by a newly formed nonprofit called REACH West Central to help direct their arts and culture committee. "I tried to think of an event that would draw on the resources of the existing neighborhood and its residents and that would bring people to West Central for a positive experience."
REACH, explains Brian McClatchey, president of the nonprofit organization, consists of a couple dozen people trying to improve West Central, many of whom are former members of the West Central Neighborhood Council. "We're also working on sustainable housing, environment and quality of life, and — as we're discovering closely aligned with arts and culture — economic development."
Printing, for example, has experienced a surge in popularity recently, says Taylor, whose Interpunct Press highlights the art of letterpress: a technique dating to 10th century China, perfected by Johannes Gutenberg in 1439, replaced by digital printing in commercial applications, and yet still favored by artists. In letterpress, cast metal letters known as "moveable type," as well as spaces, punctuation and other elements, are arranged to create a block of text that is then inked and printed.
Letterpress is just one of a range of printmaking techniques featured at SP&PC, which showcases screenprinting, relief, intaglio and digital printing, as well as bookbinding, publishing, illustration and board game prototyping. In addition to Taylor, Landers and Caraway, the collaborative includes Reinaldo Gil Zambrano, Derek Freeland and Dorian Karahalios.
"West Central is home to many creative makers," Nenno says. "In creating the WC Artists' Studio Tour, we want to celebrate that presence and forge a stronger and more vibrant identity for our neighborhood." ♦
West Central Artist Studio Tour • Sat, May 11, 10 am-6 pm • Free • westcentralartistsstudiotour.com.