What is Arts Walk?

By Blaine Ewig

Arts Walk: you’ve probably heard a lot about it. Chances are, you’ve been to one. It happens twice a year here, in the fall and spring, and both season’s festivals are, for many, Olympia’s most anticipated local events. But what exactly is it, why do we do it, and why is it so important to everyone in Olympia?

Arts Walk started in 1990 as a collaboration between the Olympia Film Society (OFS) and the city’s arts commission as part of the Olympia Film Festival. Going with that year’s theme of art films, coordinator Jeanne Allan proposed more community involvement in the form of a small festival where OFS, local artists, and downtown businesses could participate in a celebration of all the great things the city has to offer. The event was well received by the community, and has since become a staple of Olympia culture.

While some cities have sanctioned arts events, such as Tacoma’s “Third Thursday,” where arts spaces are open late with free admission, Olympia’s small size and lack of large museums and gallery spaces makes it a challenge to offer the same. Arts Walk is the answer to that problem; by using businesses as arts spaces, the aim is not only to add to the city’s local economy, but to strengthen ties between businesses, artists, and Olympia residents.

Olympia Arts Walk isn’t juried, so any artist can show their work: permitting they’ve got a place to do it. Much of the organization for the weekend is done between artists and business owners, who pair themselves up and both pay a fee to be listed in the official Arts Walk catalogue.

Arts Walk can be thought of as a welcoming of Olympia residents, old and new. Fall Arts Walk is the last hurrah before we get back to the grain, summer’s end and autumn’s return. Best of all, Arts Walk serves as both an introduction to and reminder of all the great art, music, food, and people this small but incredibly charming city has to offer.

Planning for this year’s Spring Arts Walk begins this December. Anyone can get involved by contacting Arts Walk coordinator Stephanie Johnson by email sjohnso1@ci.olympia.wa.us or by phone (360)-709-2678.