Laboratory Spokane just hired its first full-time director, and she hopes to reintroduce the arts organization to the community

click to enlarge DEREK HARRISON PHOTO
Derek Harrison photo

Kryston Skinner recently took the helm of Laboratory Spokane as the local artist residency's first-ever nonvolunteer director. But prior to that, she's lived between Texas and Indiana, working in child care development, marketing for nonprofits and, lately, advocating for the arts.

We recently caught up with the 27-year-old to learn a little more about her and to get an idea of the direction she hopes to take Laboratory.

INLANDER: Laboratory's tagline is "interactive, digital, performance art." What does that mean to you and how would you describe to someone not in the art world?

SKINNER: It's a different form of art. You can go to any museum and look at art, but it takes it to another level when you're able to interact with it. It makes you feel like you're a part of something. We all want to feel like we're part of something. We feel more connected. I think that's important. I think we have a great opportunity with Laboratory, especially in Spokane, to be one of the only interactive artist residency programs there is. There's really nothing like our program.

We are focusing more on interactive art. Laboratory started as a digital art outlet, but we are expanding into other forms of art. We have more people doing physical art. When you look at the traditional gallery format it can sound boring, right? But this takes it to another level where it can be fun to interact with this art, or it can be challenging to interact with this art.

What are you most excited for about your new job?

I think the special thing about Laboratory is we kind of kind of bring a fresh scene ... because we bring artists here who aren't from Spokane. Spokane is a small community. Everyone knows certain artists. You've seen them at Terrain or the Wonder Building. But for Laboratory, we bring people from the East Coast, we have someone that's coming from India next month, we have people coming from Berlin in a few weeks. It's just art you wouldn't have access to unless you went to those places, but you can because of Laboratory.

What does it mean to be Laboratory's first nonvolunteer director?

I think there was just a need. I've been given a lot of free rein, and it was presented to me from the very beginning that this is now going to be my vision, with a little bit of direction from the board and the foundation. I'm very excited about this opportunity. It is definitely a dream come true — and to be part of such an awesome community in Spokane, one that is so excited about the arts — I feel very lucky.

At what point did the arts become part of your career trajectory?

When I moved back to Texas ... I went on a backpacking trip to Europe for three-and-a-half months by myself and I experienced a whole other scene than I ever did [at home]. Seeing the art scene in Spain, or in Eastern Europe, like Czech, Hungary and Croatia, it opened up my mind a little bit about how we see art, especially in Texas, and Dallas-Fort Worth. It was a really wonderful culture shock when you grow up around cowboy-themed art and turquoise your entire life. That's also what got me passionate about interactive art. It goes beyond just looking at something. Yes you can experience a feeling or something, but being able to touch, feel and interact with the art I think takes it to a whole other level. If I hadn't done that trip I really don't know what kind of person I would be.

What are your impressions of Spokane so far?

It's great. I feel like I already have a group of friends and I fit in very quickly. Meeting people like Tiffany [Patterson], becoming friends with her, being able to connect her through Laboratory — I just love that about Spokane. I feel like it's so easy to connect with people and make relationships and have friendships. My boyfriend is up here now and he's felt the same way. ♦

Laboratory Spokane Reintroduction • Fri, Sept. 6 from 6:30-9 pm • Free • Laboratory Spokane • 228. W. Sprague • laboratoryspokane.com • 230-5718

Norman Rockwell's America @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Jan. 12
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About The Author

Quinn Welsch

Quinn Welsch is the copy editor of the Inlander.