This weekend is Olympia’s 55th Arts Walk, the twice-yearly festival that fills downtown buildings with art, music and more, and fills downtown streets with people.
The fall edition of Arts Walk typically draws about 10,000 people, and this time around, the city is aiming to make a big event even bigger, adding outdoor performances under the label “Arts Walk Presents.”
“A lot of awesome energy happens at Fifth and Washington” — where the streets are closed for the event — “and people wanted to see more things happening in the streets,” Arts Walk organizer Angel Nava told The Olympian. “So how do we bring more of that energy to downtown Olympia?”
One answer was to take unused and little-used spaces and fill them with music and poetry.
“They will be these small spurts of energy,” Nava said. “It’s just a happy surprise.”
Olympia’s poet laureate Amy Solomon-Minarchi and other poets, along with trumpet player Sean-David McGoran, will do short performances in second-floor window alcoves at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE.
“They’ll be above the Black Box,” said Stephanie Johnson, the city’s arts and events manager. “This will be something happening at a different level than people are used to.”
The performances will happen every hour from 6 to 9 p.m. and last about 10 minutes each.
Students from the Olympia Waldorf School will offer music and theater pop-up performances between 6 and 8 p.m. in the SS T.J. Potter Alley on Capitol Way between Fourth and Fifth avenues. The alley, named for a Mosquito Fleet ship, was improved in 2015 with LED lighting and a mural.
“We’re hoping to slowly expand our Arts Walk format,” Nava said, describing this fall’s performances as “a baby step.”
The South Puget Sound Community Orchestra was set to perform in Sylvester Park as part of “Arts Walk Presents” too, but canceled the performance last week because of concerns about the weather. Forecasters aren’t expecting rain at this point, but the high temperature Friday is expected to reach just 67.
The map lists 89 participating locations for this fall’s walk, including the park, the alley and the window alcoves, presented in partnership with The Washington Center. Last fall’s map listed 91 sites. (Fall Arts Walk is smaller than the one in spring, which attracts perhaps 15,000 visitors to more than 100 locations, and happens in conjunction with the Procession of the Species.)
The effort is one part of the city’s campaign to raise Arts Walk’s profile, something participating businesses and organizations requested in a survey the city conducted.
Other efforts this fall included adding an Arts Walk logo and stickers featuring “Street Love,” the art used on the cover of the Arts Walk map. And there’ll be more to come for Arts Walk 56 and beyond.
“I love how strong our Arts Walk is,” said Nava, an arts program specialist who began work for the city about a week before Arts Walk last spring. “I want more people to know about it.”
Arts Walk 55
What: The free twice-yearly event showcases visual and performing arts of all kinds at nearly 90 locations in downtown Olympia.
When: 5-10 p.m. Friday and noon-5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Throughout downtown Olympia
More information: 360-753-8380 or olympiawa.gov/artswalk. Printed maps are available at participating businesses and at The Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. NW; Olympia City Hall, 601 Fourth Ave. E.; and the Downtown Welcome Center, 301 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia.
About the program: The printed map doesn’t show Swing Wine Bar (no. 11), 825 Columbia St. SW, and has a second no. 50 on the Christian Science Reading Room (no. 59), 515 Washington St. SE. The planned Olympia Symphony Orchestra, Student Orchestras of Greater Olympia and South Sound Community Orchestra performances have been canceled. There’ve been other updates since the map was printed, too, so check the website if you want all the details.