Origins of Fabitat

Fab-5 and Spaceworks Tacoma are at it again

By Kristin Kendle on June 29, 2011

Whether they are fabricating a downtown mural or running fabulous summer arts programs, Fab-5 is nothing but ab fab. For those not in the know, Fab-5 brings often under-represented art forms to the youth of Tacoma. This summer, the organization kicks off a new project bigger than anything they have ever done before - Fabitat.

Fabitat is the result of a partnership between Fab-5 and Spaceworks Tacoma - a venture that has set out to populate empty downtown storefronts with art and creativity. For three to six months, Fabitat will inhabit an old building in Hilltop. Previously a mobile program, this is the first time in Fab-5 history where teachers and students will have a central place to teach and create. Basically, Fabitat creates a home base for Fab-5's outreach. It's scheduled to open in July.

"Fabitat is a base for creativity," says Fab-5 Director Eddie Sumlin. "Most of the time you walk into a community center and it's a place to play Ping-Pong or kick it. We have something concrete to offer young people that we know will make a difference to the community. We hope that the creativity doesn't just stay in here and that it becomes an epicenter for a creative movement."

"A lot of us do canvas work, too," says Kenji Stoll, one of the visual arts instructors. "So there's a big range in the size of the artwork we do and we hope to use this space to show all of that."

While Fab-5 is primarily known for its urban art, the instructors don't limit the students. Students learn typography, color theory and more, and must put in learning time before they hit the streets for any legal graffiti art.

Tuesdays through Fridays there will be classes in the four pillars of Fab-5's teaching - DJing/music production, break dancing, visual arts/legal graffiti and creative writing/spoken word. Programs at Fabitat will also include the on-going summer program called L.I.F.E. (Living in Free Expression) on Saturdays. L.I.F.E. is the one time when all four disciplines intermingle and is also the best time to wander inside and check out what the program has to offer and sign up to help or participate.

"Actually, one of the interesting things about most of our kids is that they have multiple disciplines that they're interested in," adds Chris Jordan, another of the visual arts instructors. "So for the first time now, a break dancing student will be able to take a graffiti class during the week and take a break dancing class too."

But why Hilltop? Why this building?

"The space chose us," says Sumlin. "There are only a couple places we could really fit in. There's about 15 instructors total and we work with 150-200 students over the course of the summer. We needed a space that could house lots of people and that could facilitate having a dance studio, an art studio, a place where students can just lounge and connect with each other, a place for people to make music."

Students in the program come from all over Tacoma, not just Hilltop. "That's something we really pride ourselves on, because we're mixing up different groups of students. Kids are meeting kids from across town. It's incredibly diverse. We also have kids coming from outside of Tacoma just to take our programs because there's nothing else like it, really," says Sumlin.

"This is a free resource that we want people to take advantage of," says Jordan. "People may not understand what's going on here unless they walk inside and see and take part. That's what we're hoping to draw people here for. We want everybody to join in and everybody to take part no matter where they're coming from."

1316 Martin Luther King Way, Tacoma,