From next week onwards, when you’re heading down 6th Ave, watch out for the giant octopus.
It’s big, it’s purple, and it’s part of Sunday’s 10th annual Art on the Ave street arts festival. And the best bit is that it’s permanent: The octopus is the star of an enormous mural to be painted directly on the street surface during the course of the day, serving both as a live-art festival highlight and as a way of encouraging community.
Art on the Ave is, of course, much bigger than a single mural, impressive though that may be. In 10 years the festival has gone from a modest, four-block event attracting only 2,000 people to an all-day celebration spanning eight blocks of Sixth Ave, including two music and theater stages, a beer garden, car show, dunk tank, food courts and art-and-craft vendors. Last year it saw over 15,000 visitors and involved large-scale performance art.
This year, the emphasis seems to be on painting. Artist Jennevieve Schlemmer will begin work on a wall mural outside Schuck’s Auto Supply; the subject will be the new weekly Farmers’ Market that previews at the festival. Artist-painted shed and house doors, an auction fundraiser for the upcoming Glassroots festival, will also be on display.
But the main live-art event this year is the octopus. The idea for an intersection street mural came from Portland, say the organizers, where citizen group City Repair has discovered that wherever they hold their annual intersection paintings, safer streets and a more integrated community are the result. (See the video here.)
One city permit later, and the 6th Ave Merchants Association have commissioned their own mural. Designed by local artist Dionne Bonner, the mural will be chalked by her early Sunday morning on the intersection outside Starbucks at 6th Ave and Pine St. For the rest of the day, festival-goers can volunteer for 15-minute rotations filling in the color. Like the Portland group, Bonner is using a mix of water-based latex paint and traffic marking paint, achieving color and durability.
"The Portland people say it lasts pretty well," says Bonner, whose design of a purple octopus fringed with red sea-stars and green kelp fits with the festival’s 2008 theme of "Under Water." "It’s different. The energy for it is great, [and] to get the community involved is a positive thing."
Carla Hall, assistant coordinator for Art on the Ave, sees a broader benefit.
"We did it to have something that draws attention to the intersection as a gathering place. The theme fits with the 6th Ave goal of sustainability, especially in our water environment. And it adds another bit of uncommon art to the Ave—it’s a pretty funky, eclectic group of people who live, work and attend events on the Ave."
Art on the Ave runs 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday on Sixth Ave, between Cedar and Trafton Sts, Tacoma. Park free at N. 14th and Union Sts for the free shuttle.