First Friday Art Walk displays unique perspectives across downtown Ellensburg

Painting by Joyful Enriquez

Katherine Camarata, Senior Reporter

The streets of Ellensburg were alive with the spirit of creativity as community members enjoyed a variety of art exhibits and live musicians during the February’s First Friday Art Walk. Attendees were eagerly greeted by artists sharing details about their work, painting and performing live. 

The Ellensburg Arts Commission holds the event from 5-7 p.m. on the first Friday of every month, and locations this month included Gallery One Visual Arts Center, the 420 Loft Art Gallery, Dark Moon Craft Beer & Wine, the Clymer Museum, the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame, the Ellensburg Public Library, Gard Vintners, the Kittitas County Historical Museum, The Mule, the Kittitas County Recovery Community Organization and Hotel Windrow. 

First Friday is a fun way to experience downtown Ellensburg,” Gallery One Executive Director Monica Miller said. “Access to all venues [is] free and there is something to see for everyone.”

The current exhibit on display at Gallery One features over 80 artists including CWU alumni Samantha Birks Fisher and Will Bow, according to Miller. 

420 Loft Art Gallery

Joyful Enriquez next to her painting of a rainbow trout in the Yakima River

The 420 Loft Art Gallery, located in the historic building at 420 N. Pearl St. above Pretty Fair Beer, hosted marine life artist Joyful Enriquez who recently moved to Ellensburg. The First Friday Art Walk marked Enriquez’s first time showing her work at a gallery in town, and she performed a live painting demonstration during the event. 

Enriquez’s exhibit depicts turtles, whales, sharks, manatees and various types of saltwater and freshwater fish, including her painting of a rainbow trout. This was the first piece she created locally based on underwater footage she took of the Yakima River. 

Taylor Munson, a community member attending the Art Walk, was quite receptive to Enriquez’s work. 

“I come here every time that the event is happening, mainly just to mingle and admire the art,” Munson said. “Right now, my favorite part of the exhibit is that turtle over there. I am quite impressed, I wish I had the art skills to successfully create paintings like this.”

Enriquez said that being underwater is a sacred space. She said she hopes her work provides a moment where viewers can relax and escape, and hopes to bring the underwater experience to people who have not had the chance to do things like snorkeling much before. 

“I think that there is something about being underwater and watching the way that the light kind of dances … that is very peaceful,” Enriquez said. “It’s an environment that is surprisingly quiet for how much activity and life is going on.”

Enriquez said her work will be available to view in the 420 Loft for one month, and is available to view on her website or on her social media @JoyfulFineArt.

Clymer Museum

Down the stairs and next door to the 420 Loft is the Clymer Museum, home to the art of Ellensburg-born John F. Clymer, whose pieces frequently feature scenes depicting Western history. 

The Clymer Museum held space for two new exhibits, created by artists Rising Fire and Whitney E. McMillin. Rising Fire is a mixed heritage artist based in Tacoma and originally from South Dakota.

“A lot of my work is influenced by the indigenous side of my family,” Rising Fire said. “It was actually a lifelong dream of mine to have my art displayed in a museum. I did some work with some MMIW [Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman] shows in the Yakama Nation area, and through that I came to learn of the Clymer museum.”

Rising Fire said all the people from the Clymer Museum “were super supportive and believed in my work, and … encouraged me to keep going.” 

According to Rising Fire, the greatest honor an artist can have is to be a storyteller.

“From my mind to my paintbrush, there’s one story that’s told. But once it hits the canvas, and it’s on display for someone else to see, it’s up to the onlookers to see their own story in that,” Rising Fire said. “Whether you see and understand the story that I’m trying to tell, or you see a different story, that’s all I really want … for someone to not just look at something and say, ‘oh that’s pretty,’ or ‘those are pretty colors,’ but to really feel it.” 

Rising Fire said it is an honor to be displayed at the Clymer Museum to represent all aspects of history. 

“I really feel like if you’re going to do anything cowboy, you need to accurately represent the indigenous community as well,” Rising Fire said. 

The other exhibit featured art by reverse glass artist McMillin from Bellevue. McMillin said the idea to use glass was something she discovered by accident.

“I painted on the other side of glass, and I turned it over and I thought I like the way that it looks, that clear look that it has,” McMillin said. “I really try to put my all into my stuff. I’m not the typical category, it’s not like a house or realism, but my work is really technical to me. I just really enjoy the process.”

McMillin’s art is available to view at her website, Rhythmic thuds echoed out from a drum circle in the middle of the venue, while associate professor of marketing Terry Wilson admired both exhibits. 

“A lot of this [Rising Fire’s work] is really rooted in nature, but you look at the art at the other side of the exhibit [McMillin’s work] and some of it is very industrial,” Wilson said. “In a world where algorithms try to give you the same thing over and over and over again, this art exhibit gives you completely different things which is really very stimulating.”

Dark Moon Craft Beer & Wine

Located down the block from the museum, Dark Moon Craft Beer & Wine has also been involved in the Art Walk since the business opened nearly five years ago according to the owner, Matt Armstrong.

“I think it’s a great thing for the businesses and the artists because it gives more art more gallery space in town, where it can be a little while to get a good space,” Armstrong said. “And every business that does it gets nice art on their walls for a while.”

Local guitarist, singer and songwriter Birdie Fenn Cent performed primarily original songs on stage at Dark Moon throughout the evening. Birdie classifies her music as “folk, americana, songwriter, a little country-ish sometimes.”

Birdie has published an album and has written hundreds of songs in her lifetime, including “My Heart is a Lonely Lonesome Old Dog,” a song she performed at the event. 

“I have only one album out, and I’m working on another one right now,” Birdie said. “I have lots of different sets of songs I’d love to record … The one that’s out is on Soundcloud and Bandcamp, called Gold from Rust.” 

As Birdie’s music floated through the venue, vibrant oil paintings adorned the walls of Dark Moon. The work was created by abstract realist and CWU alumna Tarra Hall-Ward, who combines her love of chemistry with her love of art.

“A lot of people are always really surprised when I tell them I double majored in art and chemistry,” Hall-Ward said. “They’re like, ‘Woah, how do you get those two to go together?’ And this is one of the more artistic ways that those two fields can overlap.”

According to Hall-Ward, the world of scientific illustration usually depicts biology, animals, cells and matter that can be viewed under a magnifying glass. 

“With chemistry, we’re talking about matter that’s actually so small you can’t actually visualize it,” Hall-Ward said. Hall-Ward has more art available to view on her website,

Community members and artists have been looking forward to events like this after an isolating couple of years. 

“It gets people out of their houses talking to each other … especially at the end of the pandemic when everybody is a little tired. It brings a little light,” Wilson said. “In a small town, where things tend to be homogenized, it shows different perspectives on the world and it shows us how connected we all are through the medium of art.”