Posted April 20, 2016 by Cooper Point Journal in Arts & Entertainment

Spring Arts Walk Brings Art, Perfomances, and Parades to Downtown Olympia

By Felix Chrome & Jasmine Kozak Gilroy

Spring is here! Which means it’s time for another Arts Walk, and Procession of the Species. This years events will be taking place on Friday, April 22 from 5 to 10 p.m. and Saturday, April 23 from Noon to 8 p.m. If you haven’t been to one, Arts Walk is an event that takes over downtown twice a year, closing the streets to cars so people can wander seeing art and performances by local artists on the sidewalks of Olympia and in various downtown businesses. This year’s Arts Walk boasts over 100 businesses, hosting work by local artists including Evergreen students and alum, and over 75 live performances in the downtown core.

Spring Arts Walk is extra special because it also includes Procession of the Species and Luminary Procession in its festivities. Luminary Procession will take place 9:30 p.m. Friday night, and Procession of the Species will be at 4:30 p.m. the next day. Luminary Procession is a smaller night-time affair that features light sculptures (fondly referred to as luminaries) and glowing wearable art parading through downtown.

You can participate in Luminary Procession too! Anyone is welcome assemble and check out luminaries at the studio (406 Water St SW) starting at 8 p.m. the evening of the parade. If you wish to participate, volunteers request that you try your best to get there before 8:30 for a 9:30 p.m. start.

The next afternoon, Olympia residents will dress up in their wackiest and wildest costumes of creatures and critters to galavant through the streets for Procession of the Species. Organizers of the procession describe the event as “a joyous, spontaneous artistic pageant where community members celebrate their relationships with each other and with the natural world,” as their website states. It goes on to further describe the mission of this long standing Earth Day event, saying “the Procession seeks to bridge the arts, the environment, and our local community,” continuing, it is “designed to create a cultural exchange rather than an entertainment event, the Procession is an open invitation to participate in imagination, creation, and sharing.” It is indeed entertaining as well, with kids and grownups alike coming out to line the streets and enjoy the spectacle.

The CPJ visited the Procession of Species studio, on Water street off of Forth downtown, where Jerry Berebitsky was labouring away at a new creation for this year’s procession. Berebitsky has been participating in Procession of the Species for six years, in the past making and marching with an elephant, a spider, and a giraffe. While he is keeping the exact species under wraps, we’re allowed to disclose that, “It’s going to be a bird, it’s going to be taller than the giraffe, wider than the spider, and it will march in the air section.”

Berebitsky is also on the board for the event and helps organize the fundraising gala. The gala in combination with individual private donors provide the bulk of the financing for the event and all of the money for the prep, although the City of Olympia provides some money to help support the event on the day of.

Above all else, Berebitsky wants to make it clear that the Procession of the Species is an Earth Day event. The organization has taken the reigns in supporting the display of the planet flag at businesses around town and is heralding the choice to make Earth Day into Earth Month in Olympia. As Jerry put it, “Even the groundhog gets a whole day,”. The hope is that by working on and learning about creatures participants will grow to care about them and work to help preserve them, and our planet, for future generations.

Along with the two parades and the multitude of sanctioned shows and performances, Arts Walk often brings lots of other events, not necessarily officially affiliated or included in the brochure, with it, and at the very least promises to lend its lively presence to the downtown night-life for the weekend.

The event began in 1990 as as part of the Olympia Film Festival, hosted by the Olympia Film Society who collaborated the city’s arts commission to make it a larger event with more community involvement that year. The festival was well received and the art’s commision decide to institute it as a yearly celebration, becoming the Arts Walk we know today.

Procession of the Species began in 1995 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Earth Day and support Congressional renewal of the Endangered Species Act, and has been going strong ever since. According to their website in the past 21 years, the Procession has grown from 800 participants and 3,000 spectators to over 2,500 participants and 35,000 onlookers in 2004.