If you think the Dome district’s just for big shows and dodgy bars, think again. The stretch from 301-409 Puyallup Avenue is home to some of the best art in Tacoma (and some really pretty buildings too.) And it’s free, all the time.
First up is Mineral, the tiny gallery-cum-jewelry studio at 301 Puyallup Ave. Suite A. Run by Lisa Kinoshita, it holds a fascinating array of her art jewelry, from insect carapaces to antlers hung delicately on silver. But it’s always got another artist up on the walls, and right now that’s John Fisher, whose “algorithmic drawings” of Tacoma streets mess with your orientation in a delightful way. Manipulating photographs with drawing algorithms and animation, he creates a sci-fi magic out of the most ordinary scenes: Trees turn into fiber optic cable bouquets, bridges into intricately woven spiderwebs, and everything in a glowing palette of gold and radioactive green.
Mineral is open noon-5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and by appointment, but it’s always better to call first. 253-250-7745, www.lisakinoshita.com
Next door is a “gallery” that’s changed names over the years and is actually part of the residence of Rick Semple and Jori Adkins, who are the building’s owners and restorers. You can always see through the big street windows what they’ve got up: anything from artisan boudoir peep-shows to ironic sculptural installations. Right now they’re displaying the wearable architecture made for the Luzon Wake, held by Semple and Adkins a few months ago to commemorate that building’s loss. There’s a Luzon itself, cardboard and paint, about four feet high. There’s a smaller Town Hall, a Bank of California with delicate Ionian columns, and a Reliance Lumber Company with 11 tiny gables.
One space along is Val Persoon’s painting studio and shop. Apart from the cool tropical-plant courtyard, it’s worth a visit for the watercolors, with melting colors and classical composition. Persoon’s mostly there from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. every day, but call first. 253-318-7001, www.valpersoon.com
The space just past Tacoma Bike is vacant but previous tenants included a dance company; stay tuned. Cross D Street and you’ll hit 409 Puyallup, where the Speakeasy Arts Cooperative is planning to resurface next week, having moved out of their old place on Broadway. www.speakeasyartscooperative.com
And don’t forget the public art just up the hill: metal-sculpted palm trees looking surreally Californian along East 26th Street, just before the freeway overpass.