Social reflections within contemporary art | Tacoma Art Museum

Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) debuts new and recent works by 24 regional artists in NW Art Now @ TAM, opening May 14. This exhibition highlights the current moment in Northwest visual arts with works that illuminate and respond to the social and environmental forces shaping our regional identity. Through their work, artists reveal tensions, provoke, delight, and inspire us to understand the challenging and urgent concerns of today. See how those themes appear in contemporary art through this special exhibition, on view through September 4, 2016.

Although the frequency and titles of TAM’s regional survey exhibitions has varied, the focus has remained constant – showcasing the achievements and advances made by artists working in the Northwest. You’d need to visit 24 art studios from Boise to Walla Walla and Seattle to Portland to see all of the works that NW Art Now @ TAM brings together in one stop in Tacoma. “For the past 40 years, TAM has conducted regular surveys of contemporary art in the Northwest. We are proud that TAM takes on this important role to survey the art of our time and of our region,” said Stephanie Stebich, Executive Director at TAM.

How does a regional visual arts survey come together? Last winter, TAM issued an open call to artists, inviting them to submit digital images along with written statements about their work. Nearly 300 artists responded. For this juried exhibition, the applications were reviewed based on how the artworks and practices reflected the themes and goals of the exhibition. The co-curators then visited the studios or conference called each of the semi-finalists. The resulting show includes 24 artists and 47 works in a wide range of media, including painting, sculpture, craft-based work, as well as conceptual, performance, installation, and digital projects. Eleven of the original works will be on view for the very first time.

The exhibition is co-curated by Rock Hushka, Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary and Northwest Art at Tacoma Art Museum, and Juan Roselione-Valadez, Director of the Rubell Family Collection (RFC), Contemporary Arts Foundation, in Miami, Florida. TAM frequently adds expertise and fresh perspectives from around the country, and has brought in art museum curators and scholars from New York City; Houston; Miami; Vancouver, BC; and other locations. Through this process the museum provides in-depth introductions to help specialists outside of our region become familiar with Northwest artists.
“I am extremely grateful for my time spent conversing with these compelling and generous artists in their studios and homes,” shared Roselione-Valadez. “Witnessing their process and listening to and seeing manifestations of their acute awareness of all that is working and all that is broken within the region, country, and world has left an indelible mark on me and the way I understand art, society, survival and our relationship to others and the environment.”

Hushka noted the remarkable number of Tacoma artists in the show who are creating notable work, including: Oliver Doriss, Christopher Paul Jordan, Jeremy Mangan, Asia Tail, Jamie Marie Waelchli, and John Sutton of SuttonBeresCuller, who was born in Tacoma and today lives in Seattle. Visitors may recognize Seattle artist Dylan Neuwirth’s 2014 Just Be Your Selfie, a large-scale neon installation that TAM plans to hang under the canopy along Pacific Avenue, and which was much enjoyed during its previous installation in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. Section of the I-705, on a Wednesday, for Electric Piano is an audio and video projection project by Portland artist Lou Watson, derived from the patterns of traffic along I-705 as filmed from the museum’s rooftop. Sculptor Humaira Abid from Renton will present a talk at the museum on June 1 at noon, as part of TAM’s free Lunch and Learn series. These are just a few of the artists whose work visitors will have the opportunity to see.

Hushka and Roselione-Valadez, along with many of the artists, will attend the exhibition’s Members’ Opening Celebration on Saturday, May 21, 7–10 pm. This special event is free for TAM members; non-members can buy tickets at The Members’ Opening also offers a chance taste the latest innovation in local craft beer. TAM introduces its sixth collaboration with Tacoma’s beloved Harmon Brewing Company: Northwest Nauhaus ESB, crafted by Jeff Carlson, Head Brewer at Harmon. Nauhaus – pronounced “now house” – is a play on the German art school Bauhaus, a contemporary ground-breaker in 1919 that still influences art and design today. “We’re excited about brewing a new ESB. This one will be full bodied and characterized by fruitiness with an accent on hop aromas,” said Carlson. After the Members’ Opening Celebration, Northwest Nauhaus ESB will be available at the TAM Cafe; Harmon Restaurant, The Hub, and Harmon Tap Room in Tacoma; and The Hub at Gig Harbor.

Tacoma Art Museum was founded by a group of volunteers (the Tacoma Art Association) in 1935. TAM’s collection contains more than 4,700 works, with an emphasis on the art and artists of the Northwest and broader American west. The collection includes the largest retrospective museum collection of glass art by Tacoma native Dale Chihuly on continued view and one of the finest collections of Japanese woodblock prints on the West Coast.

NW Art Now @ TAM is an opportunity to see art history in the making, with fresh creative works inspired by regional artists’ reactions to the considerations of identity, social justice, and environmental stewardship. For more information, call TAM at 253-272-4258 or visit

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