Friday, April 6, 2012

FREMONT: Portage Bay, Jewelry, Pel'Meni, and Pie

Fremont, I'm sorry, but I have to say I'm disappointed in you. Why are you the only neighbourhood in Seattle that seems to be completely unaware that it has an art walk? I see the signs, and I can follow the Art Walk map, but it's just past 6, and every single business is closed with the exception of restaurants, bars, and the few spaces showing art.

This is not the case in other sections of Seattle that host art walks. Businesses stay open late (well, at least until 8 or 9) on art walk nights, both to draw in potential customers and to support their local art scene. Fremont certainly has its fair share of grafitti art murals and quirky landmarks (such as the Troll, the Lenin statue, and the Rocket), but it's art walk night, and the streets are all but deserted. I am, however, on a mission to view art, so determination wins out over disappointment.

"Fremont" mural on 36th St.
My first stop is Frame Up Studios. Their artist this month is Helaine Ettinger with a new series of Buddha and Bodhisatva paintings on wooden panels. Helaine's work combines paint, hand-printed paper, and collage to create colourful and vibrant compositions, and her inspiration for this series comes from her travels in India.

Frame Up knows how to do the art walk with style. They have a delicious spread of crackers, cheese, fruit, and sparkling cider in addition to custom printed Art Walk Maps that include all thirteen of the art spaces along the Fremont Art Walk.

Helaine Ettinger @ Frame Up Studios

My next stop is Portage Bay Goods. I'm excited to see Matthew Inman, the creator of "The Oatmeal," a hilarious online comic that includes social commentary, farce, parody, and an abundance of randomness. As soon as I walk in the door, I understand why there are no people on the streets; they're all here! The artist is in with his newest book 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth, and the line to meet him encircles the entire interior of the shop.

The atmosphere at Portage Bay is exactly what would happen if you crossed Archie McPhees with Papyrus and then gave it a distinctive Seattle flair. Hand-pieced fabric wallets made by local artists are displayed side by side with brilliantly sarcastic greeting cards, and mustache-covered mugs vie for shelf space with retro-inspired magnets and stickers. Matthew Inmann and "The Oatmeal" fit right in.

Matthew Inman @ Portage Bay
"The Oatmeal" @ Portage Bay

Just down the road is Fremont Jewelry Design and featured artist Jan Tervonen. Jan views painting as a meditative process, and her abstract watercolours are both vibrant and relaxing with a whimsically playful tone.

Jan Tervonen @ Fremont Jewelry Design
If you're interested in a custom-made piece of jewelry, just ask owner Lisa Magatteri. A certified gemologist, she is knowlegable and experienced in all aspects of the jewelry industry, and she enjoys working with customers to design jewelry that fits their personality and lifestyle. In addition to the monthly art walk exhibits, Fremont Jewelry also represents a variety of creations by local jewelers, like these nifty earrings by artist Jacob Little.

Jacob Little @ Fremont Jewelry Design
Pel'Meni Dumpling Tzar is a colourful surprise tucked into the mouth of the alley that connects Fremont Place to Fremont Ave. The delicious smell of dumplings is ever-present, and this evening, art walkers are greeted at the door by a trio of young musicians jamming out Beatles songs. The featured artist, Juliet Salvato, uses a mixture of beeswax, charcoal, ink, paper, and wood to create scenes that tell stories and explore the boundaries of the inner and outer worlds.

Juliet Salvato @ Pel'Meni's
If you wander into Pel'Meni on a lazy afternoon, step into the hidden atrium just behind the counter. You'll find yourself suddenly surrounded by a fantastically colourful floor to sky grafitti mural.

Graffiti mural inside Pel'Meni's
The next art space on my list for the evening is Adobe, the newest addition to the Fremont Art Walk. I'm looking forward to seeing new work by Kate Protage who creates paintings and drawings that toe the fine line between reality and abstraction. The only problem is, I can't find the Adobe art space. The building is right where it's supposed to be, but after fifteen minutes of exploring the perimetre, all I've been able to find are darkened windows and locked doors. I'm disappointed, and there's only one solution...

Perhaps, if I'm being honest with myself, one of the main reasons I came back to the Fremont Art Walk this month was for Pie. These perfectly hand-sized pastries have taken up residence in a happy corner of the part of my brain that controls my food cravings, and I believe they have every intention of staying. Their featured artist hasn't changed since last month, but Deborah Faas' vintage poster-style paintings still fit the Pie setting well.
I'm happy that Fremont has an art walk, and the businesses that *do* display art are dedicated and persistent. But in a community that proclaims itself the 'Centre of the Universe', there certainly isn't much to do after 6pm on a warm almost-summer eve. I'll probably be back next month for the art walk veterans and Pie. And I'll keep hoping that the rest of Fremont wakes up and smells the art.

Support your local art scene! Cheers.

~ BCDuncan

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