Outdoor mural proposed for historic Rialto Theater

The Broadway Center For the Performing Arts (BCPA), downtown Tacoma’s Urban Grace church, and a group of local artists known as “Fab 5″ have proposed a plan to place a large mural on the back facade of the historic Rialto Theater.

The $3,000 project would be funded through a grant awarded by the city’s neighborhood innovative grant program, which aims to benefit low to moderate income neighborhoods or communities through physical improvements that remove blighted conditions.

According to an application for design review submitted by Urban Grace executive administrator Jennifer Dean to the City of Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, the mural would beautify a stretch of Market Street near South Ninth Street and “influence other businesses and organizations near us to continue on in the spirit of neighborhood revitalization in order to make our stretch of Market Street a more inviting and eye catching area of downtown.”

The Rialto Theater, located at 310 So. 9th St., was designed by architect Roland E. Borhek and opened Sept. 7, 1918. It was added to Tacoma’s Register of Historic Places Sept. 18, 1990. It is also included on the national and state registers. The building has been carefully restored and operates today as a working theater.

“We welcome this as potentially a way to upgrade the worst facade in our portfolio,” said BCPA Executive Director David Fischer during a presentation to the LPC’s Architectural Review Committee July 29. BCPA manages the Rialto, Pantages, and Theater on the Square, all are owned by the city. “This funding is an ideal solution.”

According to Fischer, the visible back two-thirds of the facade is a shell that covers the original structure. The mural would be painted onto that shell. “The true historic nature of the Rialto is in the front facade,” added Fischer.

Originally, Urban Grace had proposed placing the mural on the side of its own building, which faced a parking lot. But they were encouraged to pick a more visible wall. Because the Rialto’s Market Street facade can be seen from Urban Grace’s lobby, senior pastor Tad Monroe approached Fischer about the idea.

“If you stand in the entry of Urban Grace,” said Fischer, “You’re staring out at a nasty wall.”

During the meeting Wednesday, Fischer and Monroe provided a project summary and three proposed mural designs.

According to the summary, the project aims to generate economic activity by hiring local artists and purchasing local materials, and enhancing cultural tourism; establish a unique identity by creating an iconic image and giving character to the Rialto’s exterior wall; build community by engaging local artists and collaborators in planning, design, and execution; and support art.

The proposed murals are named “The City of Destiny,” “Art and Spiritual Awakening,” and “Renaissance as Revolution.”

However, Monroe and Fischer said these proposals would likely change as more community input is received. The pair plans to meet with the city’s Public Assemblies Facilities Department, the Tacoma Arts Commission, resident arts organizations, and BCPA’s board of directors for their input.

“We are open to adjustments and other ideas,” said Monroe. “I don’t think we have a very specific plan. We just want something the whole community will accept.”

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For images of additional mural designs, visit the Index’s blog at http://i.feedtacoma.com/TDI-Reporters-Notebook/