Art in unexpected corners in Tacoma

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

It has been observed that babies sing before they talk and dance before they can walk.

In short, human beings are essentially hard-wired to be expressive artists first – even before the basics of communications and mobility.

Somehow we forget this, and learn to suppress, or at least put aside our primal inclinations and acquire the more controlled and yes, productive behavior of a successful student or worker.

But the artist within us is never fully extinguished and is known to slip out at unexpected places.

Like many of us as individuals, the city of Tacoma has a labyrinthine, contradictory history when it comes to the arts.

Tacoma, founded as an industrial, extractive port city, established its identity on timber, shipping, refining and processing and the rails (and sails) to transport it all.

Literally “gritty”, Tacoma was built on sweat, grime and sawdust. For decades, a semi-permanent reddish-yellowish haze hung over Tacoma.

No one liked it, but it too defined Tacoma. Its toxic legacy of lead and arsenic saturated (and for the most part, still saturates) every crevice and potential garden space in Tacoma – especially those near Point Defiance and North Tacoma.

You’d never know it now, (unless you work in the industry) but major projects that disturb our soil, from laying a pipeline to developing Point Ruston are immensely more complicated, dangerous and expensive than they need to be because of this legacy from a previous generation.

It doesn’t need to be this way of course. We could leave behind us monuments of welcoming and strengthening. Each generation could leave its mark on the ever-shifting character of a city forever (it seems) in search of its identity.

And like a child, for most of us in Tacoma, this yearning for the arts was never lost – it was just put aside for a while.

In case you have not noticed, or if it has been a while since you have been downtown, the arts have surged back into the city (and are flourishing far outside the city as well).

There are murals on various walls and art in all kinds of unexpected places.

Art is found all over Tacoma.Photo: Morf Morford
Art is found all over Tacoma. Photo: Morf Morford

If you find yourself longing to encounter, appreciate or even immerse yourself in the arts, you don’t have far to look – and you certainly don’t need to be a experienced artist.

The Third Thursday Art Walks ( are a public invitation to the museums and galleries (and much more) of Tacoma.

If you can’t make those art walks, you can check out passes at libraries for free if you have a valid library card.

October is the month Tacoma has set apart as Art month. You can visit studios, galleries and participate in art all over the city –

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