It is always art season in Tacoma

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

It has been observed that babies sing before they talk and dance before they are able to 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 to move 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 – 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, in Tacoma, this yearning for the arts was never lost – it was just put aside for a while.

Children inspire us in many ways, but the child within us inspires us most of all.   Photo: Morf Morford
Children inspire us in many ways, but the child within us inspires us most of all. Photo: Morf Morford

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

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 an experienced artist.

In the world of glassblowing, for example, you could  drop by our Museum of Glass, take a walking tour (sponsored by TAM) at or put your own hands at work at Tacoma Glassblowing.

Or you could experience a more directly hands-on textural experience and catch Gail James as she demonstrates “The Wonderful World of Texture”. Her sources are from both natural and man-made environments, new ways to create textural surfaces. She will show examples of her own textural inspirations and give members a chance to play with a number of textural techniques.

Gail has a BA in art education and has taught art in Tacoma schools, been a member of PGA (Pacific Gallery Artists ) for over 45 years, and is a curator of education at the Tacoma Art Museum.

PGA meets at Pacific Asia Culture Center, 4851 South Tacoma Way, March 19, 11 am-1 pm, demo at 12 Noon.  All are welcome. Details can be found here.

If you have teens in your life, be sure to check out TAM’s programs (and free admission for teens) at

For kids younger than teens, take a look here.

And for general roaming around and searching for inspiration, you can’t beat the eclectic oddities you’ll encounter at places like Tinkertopia ( or Artful Dreamers (

You never know, you just might unearth that cleverly hidden inner child – or inner Picasso – that has been clamoring to escape.

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