Terrain covers three stories and tens of thousands of square feet with art from 354 artists in and around Spokane.
This is the first year that I get to call Spokane home and I’ve learned that our dear city seems to be known for a lot of things: Hoopfest, Gonzaga University, old pre-war architecture, a certain former NAACP president who shall not be named. But one thing I was delighted to see is that Spokane has a thriving arts community and quite a few events celebrating that.
Tons of people have told me I have to experience Terrain — the art event of the year. They play it up as this huge celebration and catalyst for reviving art in Spokane. And to add to the anticipation, this is first Terrain since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
Now, full disclosure time: RANGE’s founder Luke Baumgarten is also one of the co-founders of Terrain and his wife, Ginger Ewing, runs it. I wanted to write this piece because being a newly-minted Spokanite delighted by our cool city is kind of my thing and I like giving our readers a break from the gloomier things we tend to cover. So, Carl and I out-voted Luke who felt icky about RANGE covering an event he has a personal stake in.
With the majority decision carrying the day (that’s how this co-op newsroom operates), I used our inside connection to get an official early peek at Terrain 13… or at least Ginger didn’t kick me out and even showed me around when I popped in on Tuesday while the team was still setting up.
This year, Terrain is in the old Jensen building at 314 W. Riverside Avenue. The event is held in its first three stories and mezzanine and covers tens of thousands of square feet with art from 354 artists.
As I walked into the building, volunteers were calmly transforming the space: adding labels, clearing stuff from the floors, adding lights, building things. Ginger recommended I follow the natural loop of the building: from the giant room to the right with art on pillars and walls, to the bar and beer garden, to a section of the century-old warehouse where a volunteer was hanging branches and greenery to turn into a poetry and literary reading room Terrain calls “Literature Park.” From there it was on to an almost endless-seeming labyrinth of rooms and former offices filled with art.
The second floor mezzanine took me through a maze of former offices that are now art galleries. There’s a room with a puzzle of an old map of Spokane that people can put together (by WSU journalism professor and artist Lisa Wanaanen). Each hallway led to another room that I hadn’t noticed earlier. I got lost twice, but it was the good kind of lost, where you find something cool along the way. There was space for film screenings, readings and interactive art.
The third floor is another set of massive rooms with art in every corner.
I could probably spend a month in that building and still have missed something with the breadth and depth of art in it. To narrow down my little sneak peek tour, I gave myself the assignment to look for art that made political statements. They weren’t hard to find, because art is inherently political, as they say. Every room had a piece that made me think a little deeper about issues in our world and issues that others face.
Like this one: at first I saw this piece at an angle, so I missed the words in the tar that are pulling the people down.
This is the first piece on the first floor that made me really stop and look closer:
I nearly walked past this diorama by the same artist on the third floor wall.
Now I thought I had experienced an artsy city when I lived in Long Beach, CA: it’s full of murals and artists and diversity and culture, but I’ve never seen any art celebration on this scale before.
While the building was impressive while I was wandering by myself, Ginger told me it would come alive on Thursday and Friday night when thousands of people bring their energy into the space.
I’m looking forward to experiencing it with my new community.