First Friday Art Walk connects artists with audience

Kittitas County Open Show invites whole community to exhibit

Katherine Camarata, Scene Editor

Dancing piano notes wafted through the buzzing air as community members searched the walls of Gallery One to catch a glimpse of their own artwork or works by people they know during the First Friday Art Walk on May 6, drinks in hand and smiles on their faces. 

The Kittitas County Open Show is hosted once annually, and anyone in the county was invited to enter the show. Every person is guaranteed to exhibit at least one entry, which promotes inclusivity and connection in newfound ways. 

“By opening up the show to any artist, it offers an open table where everybody has a seat and where everybody has an opportunity to talk and speak and meet each other, therefore creating a better community,” Gallery One Director Monica Miller said.

This year’s juror was Davin Diaz of DrewBoy Creative, a space in Richland, Washington. 92 people entered the show and 103 works were selected by Diaz. Diaz also selected the winners of $5,000 worth of cash prizes donated by various community members and businesses. 

The show featured mixed media work by young students on the third floor to celebrate the Community School of the Arts Annual Student Show, while students graced the piano with classical music.

Miller said she selected Diaz and DrewBoy Creative because she liked the energy of their space and felt their mission aligned with the direction that Gallery One hopes to head in.

“They do a really great job of inviting in marginalized communities,” Miller said. “We have plans to learn from that so we can also do a better job.”

According to Diaz, the chance to celebrate local artists and foster communication between the artists and audience was something he looked forward to. 

“My favorite artists and musicians are the ones that are making art now,” Diaz said. “My favorite artists are the ones that I live by.”

Diaz said the selections are visually eclectic and don’t follow a particular theme, rather they cause an emotive reaction that stands out in his mind when deciding.

“I try to let the piece speak to me and how it communicates to me is how I judge my selection process,” Diaz said. “That’s how I also make my award selections too. What’s the piece I can’t stop thinking about? What’s haunting me, both in good and bad ways?”

Artists’ perspectives

For some artists, this was their first time showing in Gallery One or in any gallery, as was the case for CWU alumni Quentin Ragan.

“This is where I really found myself as an artist. Just being accepted and publicly viewed within my own community is really an honor,” Ragan said. 

Ragan’s piece, an aluminum sculpture called “Slope of Purgatory,” sat on a pedestal in the front window of the gallery.

“I think showing the trappings of simple form or movement in something as solid as metal, gives that emphasis on the beauty of simple form,” Ragan said.

Many artists discussed the meanings and inspiration behind their unique works with other attendees, while others were not in attendance and left the crowd to figure out the meaning for themselves. 

The winner of the Gallery One Residency Award received the opportunity to work as a resident artist at Gallery One in the future. The award was given to Sandra Rivera, a CWU student who submitted a mixed media collage. 

“It’s a collage scan, it made me sob,” Miller said. “It had a lot of information about what’s happening in this world, but also incredible compositions, incredible energy, and we have never met [Rivera] before.”

Miller and local artist Kathleen Woodward both remarked about Renee Adams, the exhibitions coordinator, and her skill at perfectly placing each piece of art within the exhibit. 

“The thing about Renee is that she is able to take all this random work and make each painting kind of vibrate the one next to it, just like people,” Woodward said. “That gives me chills, because each painting is a reflection of a person, of who we are.”

Jason Clifton, a CWU alumni and local graffiti artist, said he hoped to represent a certain type of identity in Kittitas County. 

“I grew up in California, around mostly hispanic people,” Clifton said. “I grew up as a minority as a white person. I grew up in a whole different version of American culture that was skateboarding, hip hop, graffiti, punk rock… When I came here, that’s a subculture. My intention is to continue to let that culture be in Ellensburg and give it a place here.”

Clifton’s piece was a graffiti portrait of Harold Hunter, a skateboarder from the ‘90s. Clifton said he hopes his mural at the Ellensburg Skate Park featuring historical skateboarders will educate young skateboarders about the origins of the scene.

“Graffiti is an art form,” Clifton said. “It’s primal. You give a kid crayons, they’re going to color on the walls. I’m trying to keep something really primal alive.”

The vast variety of perspectives is a major draw of this show to community members like CWU alumni Sam Albright. 

“We all support each other, we all commiserate and we love seeing the other artists’ stuff,” Albright said. “I don’t feel like it’s competitive, we all uplift each other. Because we all do it differently. I’ve had personal shows here and I just like to be involved with everybody else. The community show is such an awesome thing.”