Monthly Archives: April 2011

Lucky Find: Hand Blown Hilltop Artists Bowls

A few weeks ago we stumbled across an advertisement on Craigslist that we could not ignore. A lady on Bainbridge Island was selling glass bowls that were hand blown by Hilltop Artists in 2003. We felt it was only right to make the drive to bring them home.
When we arrived at her beautiful home in the middle of the woods, we learned that the bowls were much bigger than we could have imagined. And they were special. She had worked for Hilltop Artists at the time they were created and they were gifts to her. She said that working for Hilltop Artists was her first “real” job after college and that these two bowls were just a few from her collection.

The two hand blown glass bowls were made in 2003 by Hilltop Artists.

Both bowls have minor imperfections, but that’s what we expect from students learning to perfect their craft. We feel so fortunate to have these little pieces of history in our home.

Students involved in Hilltop Artists have been making glass pieces for over fifteen years. It is an organization that benefits at-risk youth and was created with the help of artist Dale Chihuly. The program has grown to include three area schools. Students can participate during the school day and after school at Jason Lee Middle School and Wilson High School and after school at Franklin Pierce School District’s Ford Middle School. There is also a six-week summer program.

Hilltop Artists has periodic glass sales at Jason Lee Middle School. All proceeds from the glass sales go to help fund the program and provide scholarships for participating students. The next glass sale is Saturday, June 11. Check their website for more information.

The bottom of the red bowl reads "Happy Birthday 2003 Hilltop Artists."

The bottom of the purple bowl reads "Hilltop Artists 2003."

Will we keep the bowls? We don’t know, but we know for sure that we won’t sell them. 

Every once in a while the time is right to pass on a unique item. We’ll keep our eyes peeled for a worthy charity auction or someone who needs gifts from the past.

Hilltop’s Deal of the Day

Today's special is offered in the parking lot next to Mai Linh Pharmacy on 11th Street.

Words with Hilltop’s Josh Rizeberg

Hilltop Tacoma’s hip-hop artist Josh Rizeberg is a storyteller. He studies ancient societies, writes with a conscious voice, and has a fondness for Hilltop. His spoken word touches truths others leave buried. A long-time Hilltop resident, Rizeberg has seen many people and places come and go. His memories of the area are as vibrant as the rhymes he writes.
Rizeberg has lived on Hilltop for twelve years and doesn’t see himself leaving anytime soon. In addition to creating music, he works at a bookstore full-time and writes for the Weekly Volcano. In his twenties he rented a Hilltop house and wrote for “The Facts,” a Northwest newspaper that is still in print today. Hilltop was Rizeberg’s beat and through his reporting, he got to know many residents. Listening to him tell their stories is like talking to them face-to-face.With all the empty lots, abandoned buildings, and sketchy characters, it’s easy to forget how rich this part of Tacoma really is. Rizeberg is a refreshing reminder of all that Hilltop has to offer.

“I don’t think this neighborhood will ever be boring or will be totally sterilized or will ever be lost. . . I think it will always be special and there will always be things that will make it a better place to live than a normal street,” Rizeberg says. But Hilltop isn’t the same as he remembers it.
“Now it is devastated,” he says. “There’s no way there will ever again be, like, twenty different African-American niche businesses here on Hilltop.” This is what Rizeberg remembers–a sprawling Martin Luther King Jr. Way–unmarred by Hilltop’s violent reputation and subsequent city control.

Rizeberg recalls a much more dynamic Hilltop. He remembers many businesses on MLK between 9th and 19th Streets. “There were incredibly unique and special places,” he says. There used to be a black-owned martial arts dojo, the Martin Luther King Housing Development Association in a building that is not even there anymore, an African marketplace and bookstore, two mosques, a DVD/record store, a woman’s spa, a record label with a recording studio, an architect’s office, health clinics, the Big Homie Program office, and Friday’s Cookies.

Rizeberg says, “Most people think [Hilltop] was famous for violence, but that’s what it’s famous to outsiders for. People who grew up here or who were part of the community in any fashion back then remember the culture. That’s what it’s famous for, the culture that was here.”

Over time Rizeberg has seen Hilltop businesses disappear one by one. At first he saw rent increases drive out business owners. He thought the city was pushing out local businesses to replace them with corporations like Starbucks, but now, with all of Tacoma’s failed growth, he thinks it was just plain evil. “In terms of what used to be here versus what is here now, there’s nothing,” he says. “[Hilltop’s] just an empty shell. . . It’s just a sterilized vacant business center.” He knows this, because the people who lost their businesses were his friends, his teachers, his mentors. They were part of what, at one time, made Hilltop great.

Rizeberg doesn’t see all this change on Hilltop as bad, though. He says, “All I’m about is preserving the integrity of this area and if you do that, then you’re cool with me. And if you come here and don’t try to change what this place is about, then I’m cool with that, too.”

Hilltop is who Josh Rizeberg is. His artistic roots are in spoken word or slam poetry, an art form he began performing at a young age. That practice. . . and life on Hilltop. . . influences what he writes today. Rizeberg is now an extremely successful hip-hop artist who has performed at venues in other states, as well as in Washington. Many of the places he travels to are places he originally visited as a slam poet in his younger years. “It’s just a natural progression,” he says. “It’s very easy to book shows once you have the connections.”

Rizeberg believes any artist that is active in the community is a good role model for today’s children. He has an immense amount of respect for Hilltop area artists and the work put into teaching youth at places like Hilltop’s Dash Center for the Arts. He builds connections with “damn near all” of the hip-hop artists and rappers in this area.

Rizeberg has released two albums, most recently “A Word to the Wize” in 2010, and “Spoken Worlds” in 2008. His newest album, “Josh Rizeberg vs. BoomBox Massacre,” is coming soon. It is a project he is doing in collaboration with Seattle producer BoomBox Massacre.

Right now Rizeberg awaits the birth of his first child, a son. He and girlfriend Chandra Marquez are expecting any day. We are sure Rizeberg’s son will grow up with a thirst for truth, knowledge of self, and passion for creative expression–just like his father. He will be a storyteller in his own right. 

In his Hilltop home, Rizeberg connects with Andy Hyppa, manager of EvergreenOne.

Yellow Chair

On Easter day, the yolk yellow chair sought shelter from the rain beneath a tree.

Found Dog

The sweet dog found on Hilltop April 22 is being fostered locally.

Ice Painting

Freezing nighttime temps on April 18 left an ice pattern atop a neighborhood car.

New Music from K. Coats: Stop. Drop. Roll.

Tacoma hip-hop artist K. Coats has just released his newest song, “Stop. Drop. Roll.” The song is produced by Ra Charm Music and has a strong West Coast vibe.

K. Coats has been writing and recording music for five years. He lives on Hilltop and is currently working on his first album. The upcoming album is different than “Stop. Drop. Roll.” It has more of a soulful vibe. It will drop later this year. “The album is real. It comes directly from my heart and soul–it’s the stuff that’s inside my head,” he says. “I’ve played the background for a while. Some people have heard of me, but nobody’s ever heard me.” Local producers on the album are DJ Semaj and Ill Pill.

"Stop. Drop. Roll." is produced by Ra Charm Music and has a West Coast vibe.

Watch for more music from K. Coats. Find him on Twitter and Bandcamp. You can also find his music page on Facebook under the name K. Coats.