At Olympia’s Arts Walk — the twice-yearly celebration during which artists from beginner to professional become celebrities, businesses become galleries and streets become theaters — you can expected the unexpected.
Amid the paintings and photographs, bands and street performers at Arts Walk 54 on Friday (April 28) and Saturday, puppets will pop up like Jack coming out of his box.
Exhibit A is Blubber, the adorable goldfish puppet soon to star in Olympia Family Theater’s “Fishnapped,” which opens May 12. The photogenic fish, who’s been making the rounds raising awareness about the world-premiere musical, will hang around the theater for Arts Walk, inspiring others to make their own fishy friends.
Blubber and his fellow puppets aren’t just for kids, and they’re only the beginning of the options at Olympia’s celebration of the arts. More than 400 artists will show their work and offer performances at 117 downtown businesses and on the streets of Olympia.
Whether your tastes run to dance or photography, sculpture or literature, oil painting or face painting, there are options for you.
Then there are the people-watching opportunities. The city estimates Spring Arts Walk typically draws about 15,000 people downtown, said Stephanie Johnson, the city’s arts program manager.
No word on how many puppets are typical, but here are some places to see them:
Shadow Catcher Theatre
“This Is Only a Dream,” beginning every half hour between 5-8:30 p.m. Friday (April 28) at Gallery Boom, 520 Adams St. SE. “Sea Creature,” street performance from 2-4 p.m. Saturday outside Gallery Boom.
Shadow Catcher Theatre, Emily Saavedra’s one-person theater troupe, makes its Olympia debut Friday night with the found-object shadow-puppet show “This Is Only a Dream.”
“It’s very surreal,” said Saavedra, who worked with shadow puppets in Boulder before moving to Olympia last year. “I often feel, when I’m playing with the objects, that I’m inside a dream. So I had the idea to make a show where the audience members are stepping into a dream world.”
The shows will last about 15 minutes. Spectators are welcome to wander in and out as they choose.
Saavedra also will do street theater Saturday outside the gallery, enveloped within a bag puppet that suggests a sea creature. “It’s changeable, and you see what you see,” Saavedra said. “Children are really drawn to it. It’s perfect for before the parade.”
“Lost at Sea”
Variety show: 7 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Airbound Arts Studio, 312 Columbia St. NW. $8-$15 donation suggested, but no one will be turned away.
Shadow puppets, 10-foot-tall monster puppets and small traditional marionettes all feature prominently in Saturday’s “Lost at Sea,” a variety show that will include aerial acrobatics, clowning and other circus arts.
The show will happen twice, with the 7 p.m. performance described as kid friendly and the 8:30 one as appropriate for all ages.
Olympia aerial troupe Airbound Arts and puppeteers String and Shadow, which performed at last winter’s Illuminated Ball, teamed up to create the title act.
“It’s a combination of an Inuit myth and Irish folklore that we’ve pieced together,” said Emily McHugh of String and Shadow.
Also performing are Puppis, a pair of New York transplants who’ll tell a funny story with marionettes and toys, and touring circus-arts duo Birch Sap Wine, which specializes in tightrope and slack rope walking, and theatrical clowning.
Creating fish puppets
Puppet making: 5-9 p.m. Friday and noon-4 p.m. Saturday at Olympia Family Theater, 612 Fourth Ave. E.
The theater will offer multiple styles of goldfish puppets, plus a chance to get a close look at Blubber, the cuddly creature created for the upcoming “Fishnapped” by Jamie Jenson of Olympia, who also made Lowly Worm for 2014’s “Busytown.”
Saturday afternoon, Blubber will join costumed and/or puppet-carrying cast and crew members in the Procession of the Species (see story Page 7W), and anyone who makes a puppet is invited to come along.
This will be the theater’s first time officially participating in the procession, artistic director Jen Ryle said.
Unlike most fish, Blubber needs to stay dry, but Ryle and company are prepared for the chance of April showers. “We have one of those clear bubble umbrellas,” she said.
Arts Walk 54
What: The free twice-yearly celebration showcases visual and performing arts of all kinds at 117 downtown businesses and on the streets of Olympia.
When: 5-10 p.m. Friday (April 28) and noon-8 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Throughout downtown Olympia.
Information: 360-753-8380, olympiawa.gov/artswalk. 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., all in Olympia.