If every cloud does indeed have a silver lining then the silver lining of the Great Recession, in whose throes we find ourselves tossed, is that the increase in vacancies of retail properties has given rise to the phenomenon of the pop-up. Pop-ups – often art galleries, boutiques and craft shops – are retail operations that are meant to be temporary. They inhabit spaces in which property owners have temporarily lowered the rents in order to mitigate some of their losses. Pop-up art galleries lasting anywhere from a few days to a few months are gaining popularity throughout the country.
These retail opportunities are ideal for cooperative groups of artists, clothing designers and jewelry makers. Catwalk is one such pop-up that has opened shop in some of downtown Tacoma’s prime retail space. Located at 1734 Pacific Ave. (in the location of BKB & Co. and next door to Hello Cupcake), Catwalk is right in the thick of the comings and goings in town capturing much of the tourist traffic on the way between downtown and Museum of Glass.
Catwalk’s leading light is Linda Danforth, who was the force behind such enterprises at Tacoma Art Place and 253 Art Collective.
The space inside the venerable brick building feels welcoming. Earthy tones are accented with areas of bright colors. There is enough space that one is able to flow through while having plenty to see: clothing, jewelry and clusters of paintings and photographs on the walls. Everything has a cozy, handcrafted feel that contrasts with the antiseptic chill of items in a chain store.
Danforth explained that she has always wanted to have a retail space in which some of Tacoma’s talented clothing designers could band together to show off their works. When the Pacific Avenue space opened upon the demise of BKB & Co., she jumped at the chance to realize this ambition. The interior had such good wall space that Danforth invited local artists to show their stuff as well and thus the space became a boutique and gallery.
Among said artists are the likes of Michaela Eaves, whose large, horizontal canvases of emotionally charged landscapes are bold and beautiful. “Did You Hear What the Crazy Neighbor Did?” is a stylized landscape in which green cypress trees bend in the wind. Eaves handles her paints with confidence, using strong color, and her titles reflect her sense of humor.
Lisa Mereddy covers her surfaces in thick textures to depict features of the land such as an expanse of cracked mud. Her “High Plains Drifter” is a scene of a hefty buffalo in a green land.
Arlene Towne uses washes of color that blend and blur in gauzy scenes that verge into abstraction. After a career in the legal field, Towne turned toward a full-time commitment to painting. Her large paintings draw one’s attention but her smaller ones of parrots, people and fruit possess an inviting charm that is hard to pass by.
Originally a photographer, Taylor Reed added oil painting to her repertoire and now does large, sumptuous floral and plant paintings that at times recall Georgia O’Keeffe.
Karin Williams is a skilled draftsman who works in a variety of styles ranging from the abstract to the photorealist. Her abstract, multimedia works resemble a marriage of Piet Mondrian and Wassily Kandinsky.
A new artist to the flock is William Bryant III, whose brood of expressionistic portraits of philosophers such as Albert Camus and Fredric Nietzsche seem forever lost in thought.
Kathy McFall-Butler’s intimate acrylics on cotton are expertly executed and neatly packaged, as are prints of paintings by Korean-American artist Lorraine Toler.
Juliette Ricci combines hand written script with haunting photographs in her work.
The wandering photographer Roxann Murray is also represented in the gallery.
Angela Jossy, the mind behind the Art Bus and the now-defunct Speakeasy Gallery, has her decorative paintings on display as well.
Among the fashion designers there is work by Izabella Blue, Beth Nielsen and Valerie Ford. The latter is creative and dynamic, doing everything from “upcycled” kids clothing to making little superhero capes for children’s toys to wear. She also makes wonderful hats out of old neckties.
The boutique has a dizzying array of handcrafted jewelry on display including work by Danforth and beadwork by Linda Landig. One will also find a table stocked with books by Tacoma-based writers. Copies of R.R. Anderson’s “100 Tacomics” are here.
Bo Chambers’ strange wall hangings (crazy dream catchers) are made of yarn and driftwood. These are interspersed with her fascinating, one-of-a-kind handbags.
Catwalk opened in June. It is unknown how long the pop-up will remain in place. A turnaround in the economy and subsequent rise in rents will likely spell the end of it. For the time being, however, Catwalk is running strong with much foot traffic from folks visiting the sights of the downtown core. It is also the last stop on the Art Bus line, which runs every Third Thursday conveying passengers to art walk locations.
Catwalk is located at 1734 Pacific Ave. For further information visit http://www.catwalktacoma.wordpress.com or call (253) 336-5483.