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Bigger than 2-D

Spaceworks Tacoma kicks off its third round in March

Guests at a 4th Wall Theater improv session get ready to form a conga line. Photo courtesy of 4th Wall Theater.

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Over its six-month lifespan Spaceworks Tacoma has introduced and reacquainted the community with local artists, tremendously improved the aesthetic of many downtown storefronts and been a popular subject of discussion at many a Tacoma party. This month the program releases its third installment, which includes 16 spaces and 51 projects.

City of Tacoma Public Art Assistant Rebecca Solverson, who runs Spaceworks for the city, the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce and partnering nonprofit Shunpike, says the program (and many like it around the country) have been wildly popular because of the limited effort required and the great overall gain. Spaceworks Tacoma aims to "activate empty storefronts in downtown Tacoma with art and creative enterprise," according to the official website,

"Essentially we're just using what we have (open space and willing artists) to make something better with it," Solverson explains. "We do fund the installations but we don't fund the artists themselves, the residency artists or the creative enterprise organizations - so it's a way of being able to offer resources without great costs."

Spaceworks Tacoma spaces - like empty storefronts and windows along Broadway, Pacific, 11th and Commerce - are available for installations (which stay up for three months), artist residency (studio space) and creative enterprise (such as creative retail, performance or a practice space).

Much of the buzz about the third installment of Spaceworks is focused on the local nonprofits and small businesses involved, including Fab-5, Barefoot Collective and 4th Wall Theater. These upstart organizations will use the spaces for a wide range of things. For example, Barefoot Collective, a local dance troupe, will be using their space for rehearsals. Fab-5, a program-based hip-hop and educational organization, will us the space awarded to them to, among other things, hold classes for local youth.

"Residency and creative enterprise are about giving groups or artists who need a little time and a little help support in figuring out there model or portfolio," explains Solverson. In addition to providing the free space, the City of Tacoma also provides resources and consulting to the organizations. 

"Many of these people have never run a business before, so we want to give them the chance to hopefully get off the ground," says Solverson.

Solverson is excited about the new installations opening this month and remarks that this time around more artists seem to understand "what the program is all about," as she puts it.

"This application period we got a lot more installation-based applications," she says. "In early application periods we had been receiving a lot of proposals that weren't site specific or space specific, as well as a lot of (two dimensional) ideas. We're looking for installations that are dynamic and are going to fill up places the way that (two dimensional) stuff won't."

Spaceworks installations have become a special part of downtown. As a resident, I often see visitors and townsfolk alike not only admiring the spaces as they walk by, but stopping to take an attentive look at them - just as they would at an art museum. The first two installments by Spaceworks Tacoma have created a compelling buzz in our community and the latest will surely build on the young tradition. But don't take my word for it, come walk the streets of our increasingly beautiful city center and take a look for yourself.

Spaceworks Tacoma will be having an event to celebrate the new installment in April, and encourages community members to visit the website to learn more about upcoming Spaceworks events and new installations. Applications for spaces are accepted on a rolling basis.

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