The room was dead silent and dark except for a single spotlight illuminating an entertainer on stage. Bellingham art lovers ears perked. Over the next two hours, four award-winning Washington artists took the stage to share their work in performances incorporating a slack wire, spoken word, paintings and poetry.
The Firehouse Performing Arts Center hosted the Artist Trust performers, including a circus performer, muralist, poet and a spoken word artist, Thursday, April 28.
“I feel like I’ve been to church and got saved,” Jennifer Bullis, Bellingham local and fellow artist said. “It was a scrubbing of the soul and filling up with amazing creativity and presentation.”
The Seattle-based grant-making organization Artist Trust is bringing their grant recipients on tour to five cities in Washington to celebrate their 30 year anniversary.
Artist Trust Program Director Brian McGuigan said he wanted the event to let communities meet new artists they wouldn’t normally have the chance to see and also bring the artist community together.
“For the most part being an artist means being alone and sitting by yourself and trying to get something out,” he said. “What’s exciting about an event like this is being able to bring people together; making us feel less alone is important but also connecting the artist with the greater community.”
The organization specifically gives grants to artists without restrictions so they have freedom and encouragement to keep their work going. The Seattle Art Fair named Artist Trust as its 2015 beneficiary, providing them with about $85,000 which they used to host this tour and provide more grants for artists in Washington. McGuigan said he hopes Artist Trust will gain exposure among individual artists in need of funding.
“Please apply for grants, we want to give you money,” McGuigan said. “We want to support the great work that’s happening in your area.”
The night began with readings by Allen Braden, a Tacoma-based author who shared some of his new and published poems.
Christopher Paul Jordan, a self-taught digital artist and muralist also from Tacoma, introduced his work with a time-lapse video of a mural he made with kids he works with in Trinidad. He showed a slideshow of paintings including a piece made for Chris Brown and paintings of space inspired by NASA photographs.
Roberto Ascalon, an award winning poet and spoken word performer from Seattle, embodied different characters within several spoken word pieces.
To close the night, Esther de Monteflores, a local Bellingham circus artist, performed a piece she said incorporated the idea of repetition which is embodied in her practice as well as everyday life. Her routine included balancing on a slack wire, which is a loose, tight rope.
Monteflores said she benefitted from the organization because it allowed her to continue her work as a solo circus artist.
Besides being one of the few circus performers in the U.S. who uses a slack wire, Monteflores said the uniqueness of her work is exhibited by her vulnerability on stage.
“We go to art to see elements of yourself reflected back and I think it’s particularly powerful to see elements of yourself that we might be uncomfortable with reflected back at us,” she said.
The event inspired fellow Bellingham artists, too.
“You immediately get creative ideas,” Bellingham local poet, Susan J. Erickson said. “You think, ‘wow, I got to come up with new ideas just by listening to these people.’”
Another grant-recipient and performer at the event, Allen Braden, said Artist Trust does a good job at its “cross-pollination” of artists from one community to another. He said events such as these are also important because, for him, it only took one class like this to make him want to pursue poetry.