Tonight I went to hear nationally-known graphic designer Art Chantry do a show-and-tell at the Tacoma Public Library main branch. Chantry’s renowned for his work on posters, skateboards, record covers, magazines and more – you can read all about him here thanks to my colleague Debby Abe, and a tribute here by reader columnist Tom Llewellyn.
I’m certainly glad I got there with 10 minutes to spare – the Tacoma-raised artist drew a standing-room only crowd in the library’s Olympic Room, and for good reason. He’s as witty as his work, taking us through decades of his collage-based, in-your-face design with a monologue of personable anecdotes and down-to-earth explanations of art, advertising and pretty much everything else.
The slides were fun to watch, starting with a 1970s poster advertising a Girl Trouble rock concert with a pin-up girl wearing just a black thong, black gloves and two strategically placed words. The show went on through punk rock posters that had incited people to rip them down, album covers with heroin jokes, Seattle theatre adverts and the like.
Easy-going, with beard and glasses, Chantry is a master of both graphic design and sound-bite quotes.
On moving to Tacoma after 30 years away: “Smartest thing I ever did. I’d forgotten how great this town is. Seattle is terrible.”
On our town’s role in the universe: “Tacoma has given so much to American pop culture: the term ‘flying saucers,’ men in black sightings, Ted Bundy, Bing Crosby, coin-operated pool machines, the photobooth.”
On graphic designers: “It’s my job to f—k with your head. We’re very dangerous people.”
On working ultra-low budget gigs for years: “I am so good with really crummy printing.”
On lettering: “It’s really hard to do anything that awful on a computer.”
On computers: “Quality is increasingly meaning what you can’t do on a computer. And what can’t you do on a computer? Sh-tty. I do sh-tty real good.”
Now you know.
The library offers many such terrific free arts speakers and performers, although the line-up will be affected by the recent budget cuts, announced today. Since the downtown branch will close at 6 p.m. every day, evening events like Chantry’s will be moved to Wheelock and Moore branches, or to Saturday afternoons, says communications director Dave Domkoski. Still, it’ll all be free – and you can’t beat that. Find upcoming stuff at www.tacomapubliclibrary.org, or just go into a branch and pick up a brochure.
Keep checking in to see what I’m up to this week!