The streets of Ellensburg were alive with the spirit of creativity as community members enjoyed a variety of art exhibits and live musicians during the first Friday of February art walk. Attendees were eagerly greeted by artists sharing details about their work, painting and live performance.
The Ellensburg Arts Commission hosts the event from 5-7 p.m. on the first Friday of each month, and venues this month included Gallery One Visual Arts Center, 420 Loft Art Gallery, Dark Moon Craft Beer & Wine, the Clymer Museum, the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame, the Ellensburg Public Library, the Gard Winemakers, the Kittitas County Historical Museum, the Mullet, the Kittitas County Community Recovery Organization and Hotel Windrow.
“First Friday is a fun way to experience downtown Ellensburg,” said Gallery One General Manager Monica Miller. « Access to all sites [is] free and there is something for everyone to see.”
The current exhibit at Gallery One features more than 80 artists, including CWU alumni Samantha Birks Fisher and Will Bow, according to Miller.
420 Loft Art Gallery
The 420 Loft Art Gallery, located in the historic building at 420 N. Pearl St. above Pretty Fair Beer, was home to sea life artist Joyful Enriquez who recently moved to Ellensburg. Friday’s first art walk marked the first time Enriquez showed her work at a city gallery, and she performed a live painting demonstration during the event.
Enriquez’s exhibit depicts turtles, whales, sharks, manatees, and various types of saltwater and freshwater fish, including his painting of a rainbow trout. It was the first piece she created locally based on underwater images she took of the Yakima River.
Taylor Munson, a community member participating in the Art Walk, was quite receptive to Enriquez’s work.
“I come here every time the event is, mostly to mingle and view the art,” Munson said. “Right now my favorite part of the exhibit is that turtle over there. I’m pretty impressed, I wish I had the artistic skills to successfully create paintings like this.
Enriquez said being underwater is a sacred space. She said she hopes her work will provide a time for viewers to relax and escape, and hopes to bring the underwater experience to people who haven’t had the chance to do things like the snorkeling long before.
“I think there’s something about being underwater and watching the way the light dances…it’s very peaceful,” Enriquez said. “It’s a surprisingly quiet environment for the amount of activity and life that goes on there.”
Enriquez said his work will be available at 420 Loft for a month and is available on his website. www.joyfulfineart.com or on his social networks @JoyfulFineArt.
Down the stairs and next to 420 Loft is the Clymer Museum, home to the art of Ellensburg-born John F. Clymer, whose rooms frequently feature scenes depicting Western history.
The Clymer Museum hosted two new exhibitions, created by artists Rising Fire and Whitney E. McMillin. Rising Fire is a mixed heritage artist based in Tacoma and originally from South Dakota.
“A lot of my work is influenced by the indigenous side of my family,” Rising Fire said. “It was actually a dream of my life to have my art exhibited in a museum. I have worked with MMIW [Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman] shows in the Yakama Nation area, and through that I discovered the Clymer Museum.
Rising Fire said everyone at the Clymer Museum “were very supportive and believed in my work, and…encouraged me to keep going”.
According to Rising Fire, the greatest honor an artist can have is being a storyteller.
“From my head to my brush, there is a story being told. But once it hits the canvas and is exposed to someone else, it’s up to viewers to see their own story in there,” Rising Fire said. “Whether you see and understand the story that I’m trying to tell, or you see a different story, that’s all I really want…for someone to not just look at something and say, ‘oh it’s pretty’ or ‘those are pretty colors’, but to really feel it.
Rising Fire said it was an honor to be on display at the Clymer Museum to represent all aspects of the story.
“I really feel like if you want to do anything cowboy, you have to accurately represent the indigenous community as well,” Rising Fire said.
The other exhibit featured work by glass artist McMillin of Bellevue. McMillin said the idea of using glass was something she discovered by accident.
“I painted on the other side of the glass, and flipped it over and thought I liked the way it looked, that clear look that it has,” McMillin said. “I really try to put everything into my stuff. I’m not the typical category, it’s not like a house or realism, but my work is really technical for me. I really enjoy the process.
McMillin’s art is available on his website, www.reverseglasswork.com. Rhythmic thuds echoed from a drum circle in the middle of the room, as associate professor of marketing Terry Wilson admired the two exhibits.
“A lot of that [Rising Fire’s work] is really rooted in nature, but you’re looking at the art from the other side of the show [McMillin’s work] and some of them are very industrial,” Wilson said. “In a world where algorithms try to give you the same thing over and over again, this art exhibit gives you completely different things, which is really empowering.”
Dark Moon Craft Beer and Wine
Located down the block from the museum, Dark Moon Craft Beer & Wine has also been a part of the Art Walk since the business opened nearly five years ago, according to owner Matt Armstrong.
“I think it’s a good thing for businesses and artists, because it gives more space in art galleries in town, where it can take a bit of time to get a good space,” said Armstrong. “And any business that does that gets beautiful artwork on their walls for a while.”
Local guitarist, singer and songwriter Birdie Fenn Cent performed mostly original songs on stage at Dark Moon throughout the night. Birdie classifies his music as “folk, americana, songwriter, a bit country at times”.
Birdie has released an album and written hundreds of songs over her lifetime, including “My Heart is a Lonely Lonesome Old Dog”, a song she performed at the event.
“I only have one album, and I’m working on another right now,” Birdie said. “I have a lot of different tracks that I would like to record… The one that came out is on Soundcloud and Bandcamp, called Gold from Rust.”
As Birdie’s music wafted through the room, vibrant oil paintings adorned the walls of Dark Moon. The work was created by abstract realist and CWU alumnus Tarra Hall-Ward, who combines her love of chemistry with her love of art.
“A lot of people are always really surprised when I tell them I double majored in art and chemistry,” Hall-Ward said. “They’re like, ‘Woah, how do you get these two to go together?’ And it’s one of the most artistic ways that these two areas can overlap.
According to Hall-Ward, the world of scientific illustration typically depicts biology, animals, cells, and matter that can be seen under a magnifying glass.
“With chemistry, we’re talking about matter that’s actually so small that you can’t visualize it,” Hall-Ward said. Hall-Ward has more artwork available on its website, www.tarrahallward.com.
Community members and artists looked forward to events like this after a few years of isolation.
“It gets people out of their homes to talk to each other… especially at the end of the pandemic when everyone is a little tired. It sheds some light,” Wilson said. “In a small town, where things tend to homogenize, it shows different perspectives on the world and it shows us how connected we are all through art.”