All Tacoma, all the time

// 'Mighty Tacoma' exhibit celebrates TAM's 75th anniversary with interactive elements and photography highlighting the city.

Back in late October, Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) commemorated its 75th anniversary by launching the interactive “Mighty Tacoma: Photographic Portrait 2010.”

The exhibit is designed to display Tacoma’s diversity as a community and its importance as a cultural hub, all while integrating ways visitors can become a part of the exhibit and leave a lasting impression.

TAM visitors have the opportunity to get their photographs taken in two red chairs, and the images are projected digitally within the exhibit, as well as the museum’s website. In addition, visitors can take part in “Tacoma 7.5,” a video project documenting people’s thoughts on Tacoma – in 7.5 seconds or less, and add their anonymous thoughts of the city on a wall of Post-It Notes, alongside the following statements:

 “I came from Africa. Tacoma is now my home.”

“Tacoma means FRESH…it’s no longer the aroma of Tacoma.”

“Unapologetically comfortable in our own skin.”

“Well crafted”

Toward the center of the exhibit are two large photographs by photographer Gary Lappier. “Untitled (National Auto Parts)” and “Untitled (Starlight Drive-In)” were both taken in 2010, but Lappier’s focus on dilapidated buildings and rundown signage on South Tacoma Way give these images a nostalgic nod to the 1950s. The photos are a reminder of a past part of the city, and highlights the beauty and the essence of these places that are still intact decades later.

Back in 2009, 28 artists came together to form the Picture Tacoma postcard project, which highlighted notable Tacoma locations, ideals, and quirky Tacoma-centric slogans as a fundraiser for the Emergency Food Network. For the “Mighty Tacoma” exhibit, 33 artists (including many from the original project) came together again to create a second round of postcards specifically to be displayed in the show. Elayne Vogel’s “Gear up for Tacoma!” is filled with pride and enthusiasm and portrays a train’s gears at a standstill, and letterpress duo Beautiful Angle’s “Statistics” projects statistics of the city over a man in an alley at night, and is hauntingly beautiful in its simplicity.

Terry Rishel’s bold, bright and large-scale digital photograph “Japanese Garden at Point Defiance” greets visitors on their right immediately as they enter the exhibit space. According to the piece’s description, Rishel utilized HDR – high dynamic range photography – to create the image. This technique allows photographers to manipulate lighting for “dramatic effects of unusual clarity,” and this is exactly what you get. Any visitor to Point Defiance has most likely become awestruck at least once by the beauty that abounds in the Japanese Garden. Rishel captured incredible colors at work in nature, such as reds of the tea house and its green roof, blue reflection from the sky in the pond, brown rocks and tree trunks all viewed magnificently up close, and a reminder of one of the many beautiful elements in nature that Tacoma possesses.

The “Blue Midnight series” by Victoria Bjorklund demands attention for many reasons. Portraying both notable and harder to recognize locations in Tacoma in a film noir-esque style from the 1940s and early ‘50s, Bjorklund reminds viewers that Tacoma is beautiful and sophisticated, and helps those who have been here for decades remember the city in its past forms. The entrance to the Rialto Theater, a side view of the Dwell home décor store in Proctor and the Pythian Temple sign all photographed at night give off blue and white tints, and evoke senses of romance, intrigue and grandeur.

Those who have lived in Tacoma all their lives, those who have recently become transplants and those somewhere in between will all leave the “Mighty Tacoma” exhibit with a resurgence in pride in the place that they call home. We all sometimes need reminders of why we live where we live, do what we do and love who we love, and this exhibit evokes thoughts like these and more with all of the elements on view. See it soon, and brim with pride knowing your city inspired all of it.

The “Mighty Tacoma” exhibition is currently on view at Tacoma Art Museum through April 24, 2011. Tacoma Art Museum is located at 1701 Pacific Ave. Regular museum hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Third Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., with free admission from 5-8 p.m. Admission is free for members, $9 adults, $8 students, military and seniors (65+), family of two adults and up to four children $25 and free for children age 5 and under. For more information on the exhibit, other shows or the museum, call (253) 272-4258 or visit their website at www.tacomaartmuseum.org.

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