It isn’t ArtWalk anymore. Nor is it called Third Thursday, at least by the folks who organize it. No, Tacoma’s monthly third Thursday evening – when museums are free and galleries open late with new exhibits – will now be called Art Mingle, and the former ArtWalk group that got the whole thing going 30 years ago is now called Tacoma Art Group, with more members than ever to spread the event over the whole city.
“We have less of a walk scenario than most cities,” explains Gary Boone, owner of B2 Fine Arts Gallery and co-president with his wife Deborah of the newly renamed Tacoma Art Group, which was officially proclaimed by Mayor Marilyn Strickland at this week’s city council meeting. “So as a fresh approach to our arts scene, we’re having more of a commingling situation. We liked the idea that Tacoma’s art was citywide, not just in the downtown core and at the museums.”
Tacoma’s ArtWalk began in 1984, when downtown was a very different place. Broadway had just opened up to pedestrians, and businesses like the Sheraton (now the Hotel Murano) and American Art Co had just begun there. The nonprofit ArtWalk group began as a collection of galleries clubbing together on dues to pay for an advertising brochure to draw awareness to the new offerings downtown. Around 2004 the museums got on board, with free hours late on Thursday evenings to attract visitors.
But lately, ArtWalk has been more of a stumble. The free museums are still pulling the crowds, but galleries don’t see many of them, especially in the rainy winter months, and the opening of spaces like Fulcrum on the Hilltop, Throwing Mud in Old Town and the Proctor Art Gallery have expanded the spread past a walkable distance. Official membership of the ArtWalk group has dwindled.
The solution, says Boone, is a new kind of collaboration between art spaces, and a new name for the Thursday event: ArtMingle. With lower dues ($150/year, as opposed to the $360 due in 2009) and a more inclusive approach, the group now includes pretty much every art space, organization, museum and even educational institute in town, all working to find ways to present art events around the city on that third Thursday evening. Galleries will be synchronizing exhibit openings. Cafes and bars that show art will now be included in the website and tourist material. Colleges will hold events.
The Tacoma Art Group will also be meeting monthly to discuss new ideas.
“We wanted to look at a collective approach to the art scene here in Tacoma,” Boone says. “This is how we’ll position Tacoma as a leading art destination.”
More information: 253-238-5065, tacomaartgroup.org