So much happened in Tacoma last year in the arts, theater, dining, music and nightlife that is wasn’t easy to choose 10 of the most outstanding of 2012. Read on for our take on the important and interesting stories we covered last year in City Life, and you’ll no doubt get a sense of how truly great Tacoma is with so much going on in the city. (Also please note that these stories are listed in order of when they occurred and not by importance.)
Buffalo Soldier Museum opens
1) As a former soldier who spoke very little about his time as a prisoner of war in the Korean War, William Jones' request to preserve the memory of his time as a Buffalo Soldier is something his family took to heart. Following his death in 2009, his daughter, Jackie Jones-Hook, began formalizing a museum in honor of the all-black regiment of the United States military. In 2012, the Buffalo Soldier Museum in Tacoma opened its doors as a haven for students and members of the community to learn about a piece of history that took place between 1866 and 1944 – and is all-too-often forgotten in the textbooks. The museum is one of only two of its kind in the country dedicated to honoring the Buffalo Soldiers, the other being the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum in Houston. Formally called the 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers Museum, this nonprofit group educates the public through its vast collection of military artifacts, books, articles and DVDs from Jones' time in the military. The Buffalo Soldier Museum is located at 1940 S. Wilkeson St. The museum is open every Thursday from 1-4 p.m. and by appointment. To schedule a tour, call (253) 272-4257. The museum’s first ever open house will be held on Jan. 26 from noon to 4 p.m. Local poet Elijah Muied will perform an original work inspired by the 150th year anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, light refreshments will be served and casual tours of the Museum's artifacts and literature will be offered.
Munn takes the helm of Lakewood Playhouse
2) Lakewood Playhouse’s John Munn took the "temporary" off his title in 2012 when we became the theater's managing artistic director after a year of serving at the post. He took over the day-to-day operations of the nonprofit theater when former director Marcus Walker announced he had to step down to concentrate his efforts on battling cancer. Walker has since died, but the roadway in front of the theater now bears his name, and his presence is still very much felt in the theater. Walker was not only Munn's mentor but a dear friend as well, so Walker's legacy is never far from his second home at Lakewood Playhouse. Munn was born and raised in Tacoma and graduated from Charles Wright Academy. He attended the University of LaVerne in California and Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland. He started his theatrical career in the Young Actor's Program at Tacoma Little Theatre when he was 8 years old. This year marks the 30-year anniversary of his acting debut at the Lakewood Playhouse, during a production of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." It is also his 15th anniversary as a director for the Playhouse. Munn has some 100 local stage productions to his credit and has served on the boards of Lakewood Playhouse and Tacoma Little Theatre. He is also the founder and CEO of Comic Book Ink, a nine-year-old award-winning comic shop located in Lakewood.
'Hide/Seek' makes its only West Coast appearance at Tacoma Art Museum
3) In the wake of Washington State’s historic gay marriage legislation (made into state law when voters approved Referendum 74 this past election), along with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2012, the west coast debut of “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” at Tacoma Art Museum sparked even more conversation on issues of gender and sexual identity. The collection of 94 works spans 150 years of American art – ranging from the late-1890s work of Thomas Eakens, to early modern pieces by Georgia O’Keeffe and George Wesley Bellows, to the post-war work of Andy Warhol. Each piece included in “Hide/Seek” was selected to showcase how gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender identity has shaped modern American portraiture. “This is timely subject matter, which addresses the constant debate of whether art is relevant anymore,” said Stephanie Stebich, director of Tacoma Art Museum. “I think this exhibit demonstrates that the answer is a strong ‘yes.’” The exhibit aims to represent the evolution of sexual themes in art, ranging from the visual codes used to veil sexual themes used by artists from the early 20th century, to pieces created by artists responding to the Stonewall riots of 1969 and the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. The collection was originally developed by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, and reorganized by Tacoma Art Museum and the Brooklyn Museum. Stebich was especially proud to bring the exhibit to Tacoma, after museums in Chicago and Minneapolis expressed strong interest in the collection.
Maritime Fest celebrates 20 years
4) It was two decades ago that an event was created in Tacoma purely to honor and celebrate the city’s maritime heritage thanks to the vision of Port of Tacoma Commissioner Clare Petrich who founded Maritime Fest all those years ago. She stepped down this year as chair of the event, but Petrich was – and continues to be – a gift to Tacoma, its waterfront and its people through her tireless efforts to build strong foundations of community pride. The 20th anniversary weekend last summer included more than 20 ships to explore, hydrofoil demos and sailboat races, a kid’s zone with arts and crafts, more live entertainment than ever before, port harbor tours, roving performers, music ranging from classic rock to country, folk and hip hop, lots of food vendors and a beer garden, a pirate costume contest, a free screening of “Dolphin Tale” at Thea’s Park with food provided by Taco Time, a catch and release fish tank, and a lot more. Fest organizers also helped educate the public about the life and ecosystems of Tacoma’s waterways. During the first annual Squeaky Green Clean, the public was invited to Thea’s Park to help pick up trash all along the Commencement Bay shoreline.
Tacoma gets its own deck of playing cards
5) Thanks to generous people who donated through Kickstarter, the uber-creative arts group Tacoma Makes gathered more than enough funds to produced a deck of playing cards in 2012 featuring 14 artists’ illustrated interpretations of 54 Tacoma locations, stories and icons. The professional, poker-grade deck was printed by The United States Playing Card Company (same manufacturers of Bicycle, Hoyle and Bee) and all the original artwork created specifically for this deck was done by artists Chandler O'Leary, Britton Sukys, Art Chantry, Jessica Spring, Lance Kagey, Shaun Peterson, Meghan Mitchell, Audra Laymon, RR Anderson, Chris Sharp, Brian Hutcheson, Elise Richman, Kristin Giordano and Otto Youngers. O’Leary designed the deck and illustrated and hand-lettered the card box, backs and face ranks, creating an elegant platform into which the other artists’ original images will go. The deck seeks to convey the history and beauty of the City of Destiny through this everyday item. Cards are available at http://www.tacomamakes.com and locally in a number of fine retail establishments which are also listed on the website.
Justin Bieber disses T-Town
6) Teen scream inducer Justin Bieber got Tacomans all riled up when he claimed he got jacked while he was in Tacoma for his Oct. 9 concert at The Dome. The Biebster played to a packed then, afterward, he tweeted that someone had swiped his stuff while he was onstage: “yesterday during the show me and my tour manager josh had some stuff stolen. really sucks. people should respect other's property,” the pop star tweeted. “i had a lot of personal footage on that computer and camera and that is what bothers me the most. #lame #norespect” The story made the rounds in the national media, from TMZ to MSNBC and just about every other media outlet on the planet. Tacoma Police spokesman Mark Fulghum said he had not seen a report filed on the robbery, which is no surprise because the whole thing was a hoax to promote the release of “Beauty and the Beat,” the Biebster's new video with Nicki Minaj. As http://www.seattlepi.com reader Michael Bradley put it:“It's only fair… His ‘music’ has made victims of us all.”
The Sonics play their hometown
7) The Sonics, one of Tacoma’s legendary rock ‘n roll bands, played a July 27 concert in their hometown for the first time in 45 years. The band, founded in 1960, drove young rock fans wild with hits like “The Witch,” “Psycho” and “Have Love Will Travel.” In 1965 the band entered a Seattle studio to record their debut album “Here Are The Sonics.” Soon the band was playing teen dances before 1,000 to 2,000 people. They even played a show at Seattle Center Coliseum. In 1966 they released their second album, “Boom.” The original song “Shot Down” became a local hit. They went to Los Angeles to record their third album, “Introducing the Sonics,” and soon after, two members left the band. Not long after the group disbanded. They got together in 1972 for one reunion show. By the 1990s a new wave of Washington bands emerged. Some of them, such as Nirvana and Mudhoney, cited the Sonics as an influence on their style. Interest in the band picked back up. In 2007 the Sonics did a reunion show as part of a festival in New York City. In 2008 they played a show in Seattle, then went overseas for gigs in Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Italy and Spain. In 2010 the Sonics entered a studio with producer Jack Endino to record the EP “8.” In 2011, Ray Davies of the Kinks asked the band to play a rock festival in London. They ended up as one of the headliners in the concert at Royal Festival Hall. In 2012, the band played sold out venues on a tour of Australia and Japan. The current lineup is Larry Parypa on guitar, Rob Lind on saxophone, Roslie on vocals and keyboards, Ricky Lynn Johnson on drums and Freddie Dennis on bass and vocals.
Tacoma Youth Theatre forms for all-kids, all-the-time productions
8) Tacoma welcomed a new youth theatre company in 2012. Longtime local theatre artists Scott Campbell and Maggie Knott joined forces to launch the city’s only all-youth theatre company, Tacoma Youth Theatre. A departure for start-up theatres in Tacoma with its focus entirely on children and young adults, TYT offers a full summer slate of theatre camps for young people ages 5 to 18. The season consists of well known works like “A Christmas Carol,” “Anne of Green Gables,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Macbeth.” The winner of two Emmy Awards, Campbell has worked as a writer, television producer, media consultant, and communications director. A theatre director, actor, and designer, Campbell’s artistry has also been met with high praise from audiences and critics for over a decade. Campbell previously served as the associate managing artistic director of Lakewood Playhouse and as the managing artistic director of Tacoma Little Theatre. Knott established, taught, and administered the youth theatre program at Lakewood Playhouse from 1999 until earlier this year. She has directed more than 100 productions involving young people. Knott has been continuously teaching and directing young people in the south sound area for more than 20 years. Learn more and get tickets for performances at http://www.tacomayouththeatre.org.
New venues give downtown nightlife a boost
9) Several Tacoma nightclubs went dark in 2012: Hell’s Kitchen, Tempest Lounge, Mandolin Café and Chopstix. But after-hours business is booming on Pacific Avenue. Encore, Big Whisky and Dorky’s Barcade were already popular P.M. destinations. And now, with the addition of more venues, Pac Ave is looking more like it did a decade ago. Tacoma Cabana, a tiki-themed bar and grill, opened at 728 Pacific Ave. Owners Jason Alexander and Robin Lynn provide island-themed cocktails and tasty pu pu platters to help maintain a sunny outlook even as drizzle pours relentlessly from the heavens. The Loch’s opened where Hell’s Kitchen used to be, offering a much-need space for hardcore metal fans to gather, and many shows are all-ages. Recently, Club NRG opened its doors to provide an alcohol-free club environment where the 18-and-up set can dance to block-rockin’ beats, and the multi-tiered, hi-octane dance spot Deltan Club is within walking distance of The Loch’s. And last but not least, a new dueling piano bar, Keys on Main, is under construction at 1003 Pacific Ave.
Bimbo’s vs. Joseppi’s at Battle of the Sauces
10) Several hundred Tacomans, friends and family flocked to take part in voting for which legendary restaurateur makes the best authentic Italian meat sauce in town, and in the end it was a close call. By 17 votes, Bimbo’s beat Joseppi’s among adult diners but, interestingly, Joseppi’s sauce was the favorite among kid voters by a landslide. This “Battle of the Sauces” event was all in good fun, though, as it helped raise funds for Crimestoppers and Charlie’s Dinosaur, which gives kids going into foster care the supplies they need until they get settled again. The fundraiser also help bring together people who remembered what a jewel Bimbo’s was in T-Town’s crown back before the city went through a renaissance of sorts that led to the closure of Bimbo’s in 2001. Looks like Joseppi’s will remain Tacoma’s reigning Spaghetti King, though, since Bimbo’s former owner Jerry Rosi has no plans to re-open the famed eatery. Joseppi’s continues to do brisk business due as much to the delicious food as to its generous community-minded owner Joe Stortini.