Thursday, June 22, 2017 This Week's Paper

Gearing up for round three

// Spaceworks on the hunt for the next batch of artists to take over downtown

Spaceworks Tacoma launched in April 2010 with the intent to revitalize empty storefronts in downtown. Since then, the program has had a successful pilot run that was so well received, the program received enough applicants to run through two cycles.

In total, 15 storefronts downtown were available in the initial two Spaceworks rounds and will be available for the third to be taken over by artists. These projects include art installations (being displayed in windows), along with artist residencies and a few creative enterprises to sell wares that the artists make themselves, or that they have commissioned others to sell at the space.

Now the city of Tacoma and Seattle-based arts non-profit Shunpike are on the hunt for even more artists to fill the once empty storefronts and bring new life into them, after the two first successful rounds of talent and art filled them and brought new life to downtown in 2010.

“We’re expecting it to be sort of a learning process and it’s overall been very successful,” said Rebecca Solverson, public art assistant for the city of Tacoma. “People seem to like this kind of program because it makes sense and it’s got a lot of good things going for it. We’ve been delighted with results and want to continue on with it, which is the best outcome we could hope for.”

In terms of the next round of artists, Spaceworks is just as open to artists and project ideas as they have been in the past. The program has not changed requirements or its focus and thus is still open to any and all potential projects locals have in mind for the next exhibit, artist residency or artscape (performance).

“The program is meant to cover anything that anyone wants to do, any great idea they have,” Solverson said. “We hope people will come through with more creative ideas to try out. We have the creative enterprise program, which is a catchall for businesses, theater spaces and recently for the War Experience Project. We’re hoping we get some really great new ideas we couldn’t have imagined before.

“The biggest change that I think we’re introducing to the program now is using and taking advantage of extensions of the residencies more. Some of the projects are really great ideas but for whatever reason they don’t work out how the person thinks they’re going to. We’re geared more toward letting residents and artist residencies and creative enterprises have a shorter time and then apply for an extension, keeping the cap at six months,” Solverson noted.

Though the program immediately took off here in Tacoma and was successful in its goal of getting residents and visitors to walk around and check out what the city has to offer downtown, Solverson affirms not many artists have applied for this third round of Spaceworks, for which applications are due Jan. 17.

“We’ve gotten responses and applications back but are looking for more,” Solverson affirmed. “The last round of projects was chosen from the applications we received in the first round. We had enough quality to fill the spaces for two rounds, so we’re expecting to get a good number this time and could be programming out two rounds if we get enough.”

What about those who are ardent supporters of Spaceworks yet lack tangible artistic skill? Spaceworks has some ideas for these individuals, too. “With creative enterprise, if you don’t consider yourself an artist but have an idea that’s creative and fits the program, we encourage you to apply,” Solverson said. “You can also get on our Listserv mailing list through the arts commission website and come out and support art events. There will definitely be events planned to celebrate the next Spaceworks round in April.”

Spaceworks Tacoma’s storefronts are located throughout downtown. For more information on the past two rounds, the program and to apply, visit