Local Artists Play Their Hand All Faces Up

Artists are a gambling lot. They gamble in the marketplace for their art. They gamble with their creativity, and now they can gamble with art itself.

A group of 14 Tacoma artists are working to immortalize 52 all-things Tacoma (plus two specially selected jokers) in a professional grade souvenir deck of playing card. And everyone can play a part.

Money to pay the artists for their work and to cover the printing costs is now being raised by using the crowd sourcing phenomenon Kickstarter, which gives supporters the chance to make the project a reality and participate in the Kickstarter rewards structure that could mean being part of the deck itself. The campaign launched June 14 and runs through July 19.  A link to the project’s Kickstarter page will be available at www.tacomamakes.com

The style of this card deck was designed by letterpress artist Chandler O’Leary, who 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. Fourteen well-known Tacoma artists will create illustrations for the 52 cards (and two jokers) using locations interpreted from their own point of view.  

“We really wanted to showcase different ideas,” said Amy McBride, co-founder of Tacoma Makes, the organization behind the effort, noting one theme of “gone but not forgotten” will include former landmarks like the Luzon building and the Tacoma Hotel. 

The 14 Tacoma artists participating are: Art Chantry, Audra Laymon, Brian Hutcheson, Britton Sukys, Chandler O’Leary, Chris Sharp, Elise Richman, Jessica Spring, Kristin Giordano, Lance Kagey, Meghan Mitchell, Otto Youngers, R.R. Anderson, and Shaun Peterson, a Puyallup Tribe member and noted artist.

The project is seeking $13,000 to support the design of the deck, artist fees and production/printing costs necessary to produce 2,500 professional decks of cards suitable for serious poker players and go fish players alike. By contributing early, investors can secure an inaugural deck and many other rewards such as a poster featuring all images of the cards, invitation to a VIP party or a printer’s proof. The rewards depend on what level of support people provide, much like National Public Radio fund drives giving away mugs or tote bags or solar-powered emergency band radios.

There is even a chance to order personalized decks suitable as corporate or business gifts.  Financing raised this summer will put the deck into production so it will be available in November, just in time for holiday giving. Decks will be available for purchase in local gift shops and bookstores, with the goal of placing them at Sea-Tac airport as well. The cost will be $20.

“I love the idea of kids learning about Tacoma’s history, stories, legends and artists when they play with this deck,” McBride said. “We are celebrating and engendering Tacoma talent and Tacoma pride.” 

The artists’ original illustrations will be exhibited at the Amocat Café in November. Each artist will create art works for the four cards of each suit while one artist will tackle the two joker cards. The top donors can have their likeness or one of their local heroes designed by local lampoonist R.R. Anderson as one of two jokers in the deck.   

“We are creating the perfect souvenir,” said Maija McKnight, co-founder of Tacoma Makes. “It will provide greater visibility for local artists while showcasing Tacoma in a really positive way.”

The idea came about while seeing similar decks in other cities that were being sold as fundraisers and special projects, and with this deck in the works, future decks might follow.

“We would love to do another deck,” McBride said. 

Another artsy local effort continues to take shape as well. The South Sound Users Guide is just about ready to go to press and will be available in mid-August. The guide will have more than 500 unique local features including restaurants, wineries and craft breweries, hiking trails and birding sites, and index items for dogs, kids and vegans. The guide will be organized by location, much like Saul Wurman’s groundbreaking “Access” series. Pick a spot and find the best built and natural features, a bit of history, suggestions for a drink or a bike ride.

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