Category Archives: Off the Hill

Sponsoring the Frost Park Chalk-Off

Yesterday we had the opportunity to sponsor the Frost Park Chalk-Off. We had a blast meeting chalk-off creator, Kevin Freitas, and all the contestants.

As a prize we offered a 2003 hand-blown glass bowl by Hilltop Artists and a gift certificate to one of Hilltop’s favorite restaurants, Fish House. The Hilltop-themed artwork was amazing.

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We look forward to sponsoring another Frost Park Chalk-Off next year. We feel very fortunate to have been involved in such a well-known community event.


Makah Artist Alex McCarty at B2 Gallery

Alexander Swiftwater McCarty is a talented man whose life is interwoven with his culture, family, art, and the lives of the students he inspires. He is a member of the Makah Nation, a skilled artist, and an art teacher at Chief Leschi Schools in Puyallup.

Now through June 18, some of McCarty’s work is on display at Tacoma’s B2 Fine Art Gallery in its “Coyote Forward” exhibit. “Coyote Forward” is a contemporary Native American art exhibition and also includes the work of other Native American artists, including Joe Feddersen, Lillian Pitt, and Gail Tremblay.

“My mother is an accomplished artist and she taught me advanced art techniques as soon as I could hold a crayon,” McCarty remembers. His interest in art has catapulted him into the position of a modern-day preservationist: His cultural heritage influences his work and through his teachings, everything he knows about Native American art gets passed down.

McCarty lived and grew up in Neah Bay, Washington, the home of the Makah people. His father taught him how to fish when he was fourteen. “I got in trouble one year,” he says, “And my father grounded me to the boat for the summer.” This is where he learned to be a fisherman–something that he does each summer. McCarty says his brother still teases him over that incident.

“I really enjoy being out on the ocean,” he admits. Fishing is his summer gig. When school gets out each year, he returns to help his family with the salmon fishing season. He doesn’t see himself moving back permanently anytime soon, though. He has grown to love the city.

In 2002, McCarty earned his Master of Teaching in Visual Arts degree from The Evergreen State College. Following that, he ran the Gifted and Talented Program and taught students how to draw, paint, mono-print, and carve at Olympia’s Wa He Lut Indian School. In 2007, McCarty moved to his current position at Chief Leschi Middle/High School. At Chief Leschi he is a full-time art teacher and also works with students almost every day after school for Chief Leschi’s 21st Century After School Program.

McCarty first learned about Tacoma’s B2 Fine Arts Gallery from their “Beyond Crayons and Finger Painting” exhibit in October, 2010. It was a community outreach art collection and workshop provided by B2 Gallery, celebrating the artistic skills of youth. Some of McCarty’s students from Chief Leschi had the opportunity to show their artwork there. He knows the importance of giving young artists a chance to exhibit their work. “I have been an exhibiting artist since 1995,” he notes. “Some of my first pieces are part of the permanent exhibit at the museum in Neah Bay.”

At B2 Fine Arts Gallery, McCarty displays both contemporary and traditional work as part of the “Coyote Forward” exhibit. “I am always torn between traditional carving and printmaking,” he says. Because of the large demand for his traditional carvings, McCarty spends much time carving in his studio, but is intrigued by the process of making prints.

“Printmaking is a multi-step process and I see every printing session as an exploration,” he explains. “It is always a surprise when I press the ink to the paper.” Though making prints is not a traditional form, McCarty uses traditional designs as part of those pieces. His contemporary prints, including his “Tailspin” series and “Culture Shock,” are each one-of-a-kind. McCarty used several linoleum plates to create his “Tailspin” series and brought the Northwest traditional form to its most basic element–the “U” shape. For “Culture Shock,” he used woodblock carvings and incorporated traditional Makah designs. One of the things he likes to do is to reverse his plates in order to create different effects.

For McCarty, preparing for an exhibit like “Coyote Forward” is a bit difficult. “With an exhibit, you have to hold onto all of your pieces,” he says. Usually he sells his pieces as he makes them and convinces himself, “I can always make another one.”

As far as “Coyote Forward” goes, McCarty’s favorite piece is his miniature model of a Makah seal hunting canoe. That piece is currently displayed at the entrance to the gallery on the front desk. “My interest in making miniatures was sparked when I made the 1/8″ to 12″ scale model of the Ozette Village for the Makah Cultural and Research Center.” That work, which he created after he graduated from high school, is still on display at Neah Bay.

What is the most important thing McCarty wants his students to know? “Learn your heritage with care, preserve it with beauty, and pass it on.”

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B2 Fine Arts Gallery is located at 711 Saint Helens Avenue, Suite 100, in Tacoma and is open Tuesdays-Saturdays from 11 am to 5 pm. For more information about the B2 Gallery, call them at (253) 328-5065 or visit their website. For more information about McCarty, read “The Artist and the Whale Hunter,” a story from a travel/photography blog written by Erik Gauger, a writer from our area.

Old Obama Newspaper Box Find

This weekend, we stopped into Northeast Tacoma’s Crescent Heights Grocery for some snacks and stumbled upon an old Seattle Times newspaper box that is locked up and no longer in use. That wasn’t strange to us, as we are used to seeing old unused newspaper boxes, but there was a newspaper inside of this one. We peeked through the dirty weathered glass to see what was inside.

The Seattle Times issue commemorating Obama's inauguration is locked in.

We wondered if the January 21, 2009, issue of the Seattle Times commemorating Obama’s inauguration was left locked in the box for political reasons, so we asked the store owner if he knew anything. In his broken English, he told us that he had no idea what we were talking about. We were left wondering: Why is the newspaper there? How long will it stay? And who has the key?

It would sure be neat if the paper could stay there untouched for many years to come, as it almost seems poetic finding an issue celebrating our first African American President, Barack Obama, tucked away in our city on display.

Crescent Heights Grocery is located at 1139 Browns Point Boulevard Northeast, at the top of the winding McMurray Road. If you end up over that way, go visit Obama and pick up some snacks.

Pampered Pony

This Northeast Tacoma pony wears a diaper to keep its front yard clean.

Farmers Market Delights for WIC Clients

Mary Bridge’s Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program is offering its clients an opportunity to shop local farmers markets this season. Clients ages one year and older are eligible to receive a $20 check to spend at the markets. The maximum allowable amount per family is $40. WIC clients will be able to use these funds to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from market growers.

Throughout June, Mary Bridge will have a WIC booth at three Tacoma markets. Checks will be distributed on a first come, first serve basis.

WIC clients can pick up checks on Tuesday, June 7, 14, 21, and 28, between 3 pm and 6:30 pm at the 6th Avenue Farmers Market. It is located on the corner of 6th Avenue and North Pine Street in Tacoma.

Checks will also be available at the Broadway Farmers Market on Thursday, June 9, 16, 23, and 30, between 10:30 am and 3 pm. Broadway Farmers Market is located in Downtown Tacoma on Broadway between 9th and 11th Streets.

On Saturday, June 11, 18, and 25, checks will be available at the Proctor Farmers Market between 9 am and 1 pm. Proctor Farmers Market is located in North Tacoma at the corner of Proctor and North 27th Streets.

In order to receive checks from the Mary Bridge WIC Program, clients must bring their WIC appointment folders to the booths. If all funds are not distributed in June, WIC will distribute its remaining checks at the Mary Bridge clinic in July.

Mary Bridge’s WIC office is located at 316 North L Street in Tacoma. For more information regarding its farmers market booths, call (253) 403-1349. For more information on 6th Avenue Farmers Market and Broadway Farmers Market, check out the Tacoma Farmers Market website. You can also find information about Proctor Farmers Market, here.

Street Sign Project: 11th & Market

My junior year of high school I sat alone in math toward the back of the room hoping my teacher, Mr. Herring, wouldn’t call on me. I felt so foolish in his class. All of the self-confidence I gained in English and journalism fell away in his room. But Mr. Herring never called on me. He must have known I sucked. I realize that some educators today might say he did me a great disservice by leaving me alone, but that’s not the way I see it at all. While other students asked questions and solved problems on the board, I sat dumbfoundedly pondering a sign on his wall. It was crudely handwritten on yellowed tag board and it read:

“You are the only you. . . You are the best you. You will always be the second best anyone else.” -Leo Buscaglia

To this day I remember that sign, perhaps more than any other I’ve ever seen.

Signs are everywhere. They are so pervasive that we subconsciously ignore most of them. That’s why I was so surprised that an installation of signs on the corner of 11th and Market stopped me dead in my tracks this weekend.

Street Sign Project's installation is at the corner of 11th and Market in Tacoma.

I have seen these handmade signs around town, but was never so touched as I was after parking and stepping out of my car to read this Street Sign Project collection. 

It says (and not necessarily in this order):

“Unplug Everything. Hocus Pocus. Give. Need. Working Overtime. Naked. Read. Question. Sell. Prepare. Brand New. Old. Smell the Roses. Relax. Look at the Sky. Plant. Cook. Think. Barter. Buy. Boring. Blue. Bodies. Thrive. We All Fall Down. Shiny. Bliss. Get Dirty. Going Out of Business. Hug. It Takes Money to Make Money. Sound. History. A Breath of Fresh Air. Empty. There Are No Winners. Walk in the Rain. Dance. Sexy. Want. Future. Eat Your Veggies. Build. Style. Make Noise. Slow Down. Take. Art.”

I could have stood there for hours amidst the hustle and bustle of Tacoma’s city life–reflecting, remembering, thinking about my future.

Street Sign Project is responsible for hundreds of handmade signs all over Tacoma.

According to Street Sign Project’s Facebook page, “it is a collective movement determined to empower individual freedom of speech by encouraging people to install handmade signs in public spaces.” From my perspective, it’s about more than that, though. It’s about art and creativity. It’s about infusing a little bit of personality into the cityscape. It’s about connecting with one another on a level we may not be able to articulate. That’s what art is–creating, infusing, connecting.

We look forward to finding more of these signs around town. Street Sign Project encourages everyone to create and display their own.

For more information about Street Sign Project, including its purpose and more photos, check out the group’s YouTube video and Facebook page.

Bainbridge Island Legacy

After a long and tiring week, we decided to find our spirits in some Friday night spirits. Imagine my dismay when I entered the busy liquor store to find our favorite (if you could call it that) vodka sold out. Vodka spirits have always been a bit hard for me to swallow, so I was left amidst a sea of clear bottles feeling dismayed and lost. I didn’t want the throat-burn or bite of many of the regular vodka choices and cringed at the thought of settling on a less-than-tolerable bottle of the clear stuff.

After a few minutes of standing there staring at the shiny bottles, I found the most beautiful label staring back at me. It was a pewter-colored label advertising a product from here, from just down the road–Bainbridge Island. With nothing to lose, I picked up this comparably priced-bottle and took it to the register, leaving behind the bottles of flavored Ciroc, Smirnoff, Platinum, Absolut, Pinnacle, and so many more.

Legacy, the organic vodka made by Bainbridge Organic Distillers, is wonderful. It is smooth and sweet without being too sweet and has a slight hint of vanilla. It is our new favorite.

Legacy, Bainbridge Organic Distillers' vodka, is made from wheat grown in Washington.

In addition to batting a-thousand on taste, Legacy has other great selling points. It is a local product made by a family-owned distillery that uses 100% USDA Certified Organic products. Bainbridge Island is beautiful and supporting anything from our state just makes sense. Also, since Bainbridge Organic Distillers is still in its infancy and small, it needs help getting its products ready for the public. Saturdays it offers family, friends, and supporters a chance to come in and help bottle as part of the BOD Squad. BOD Squad participants get free organic t-shirts.

In addition to vodka, the distillery offers organic Heritage Gin and Battle Point Whiskey. Neither are available in liquor stores at this time, but in time we hope to see these products alongside Legacy Vodka in state stores. Presently, customers can purchase the gin at the distillery and sign-up on a waiting list for the whiskey, which is distilled in limited batches.

Bainbridge Organic Distillers is now open for tastings, tours, and sales Mondays through Fridays, 10-5, and Saturdays, 10-3. For more information, visit their website or call (206) 842-3184.