There’s a good reason to take a stroll along Yakima Avenue if you’re downtown this fall — the new Windows Alive! exhibit, featuring six local artists, is on display. It’s a diverse and visually exciting show featuring a variety of art, two and three-dimensional.
The great thing about this project is how it brings light and life to our main downtown corridor in a spot that used to be nothing more than the dark windows of a shuttered mall.
The Windows Alive! concept was first proposed by artist Cheryl Hahn, who wanted to fill the empty windows with art showcasing the local creative community. The Yakima Arts Commission embraced the project, which is in its sixth year.
The Arts Commission reviews submissions and picks the artists, and jewelry designer Jane Cooper, a former window-dresser for stores like Brooks Brothers and Yakima’s Garden Dance, coordinates the displays. “It makes it look like we care about the area. That we’re not going to leave it empty,” she said.
Liz McGree of JEM Development, which owns the former mall on Yakima Avenue, provides the window space and things like power and insurance. It’s a big deal for the artists who are featured, like Maria Rueda. “It’s the main street, everyone gets to see it. It’s contributing to the community. I literally drive by here to go to work and I think ‘That’s my stuff — oh, my God!’ It’s a proud moment,” she said at the opening night reception.
Janice La Verne Baker is another featured artist. “I think it’s wonderful. Jane expressed that the work that’s in this set of windows is all very diverse, and also very exuberant. I think there’s a lot of energy happening so it’s a really good thing,” Baker said.
The display will remain up through March.
Jeremy Dubow: He’s been drawing since he was a child and now works in oil paint on canvas. Raised in New York, he has attended several art schools, including the School of Visual Arts and the New York Studio School. He has studied classical figure drawing and painting extensively and traveled to Florence to absorb Italian techniques. He moved to Yakima about four years ago. His full- time job is drafting for a refrigeration company, designing fruit warehouses.
Maria Rueda: She creates large works with vibrant colors and themes from her own life. She is just beginning her journey as an artist. During a bout of “artist’s block,” she began keeping a sketchbook and posting her work on social media to share with others and get their input. She is inspired by urban street and graffiti art and uses a combination of acrylic and spray paint because she loves the freedom and immediacy it gives her. Like several of the featured artists in this show, she has a day job to supplement her career as an artist. She works in retail and finds inspiration there every day in the people she meets, but she would like to be a full-time artist someday.
Joan Neubauer: She just began to see herself as an artist recently, after a career as an educator. She took classes and workshops and learned to weave, sew, draw and paint, though she concentrates on book art. She loves the interactive nature of books and has created more than 100 handmade books in many diverse styles. She reproduced a facsimile of her entire art studio for her window, featuring several of her books — spread out accordion-style, among paint-spattered work tables, pencils, paints and reference books. It’s an artist’s studio come to life in which you can see her thought process and how the work develops. She likes how the display brings attention to Yakima’s flourishing arts community. “It’s a creative idea and commitment to the arts,” she said.
Janice La Verne Baker: This Tieton artist had a long career as a psychiatric nurse before she realized it was possible to make a career of art. She and her sister had always loved to make things and Janice started creating art full-time when she retired from her first career. She uses many different objects in her mixed-media works, from recycled materials to old books and maps, acrylic paint, ink and even things she finds while walking around. The pieces in this exhibit are part of a group of 24 large diary pages also featuring collage and paint, made on paper flour sacks from Santos Bakery in Tieton.
Kelly McKnight: She started working in drawing and photography, then fell in love with the encaustic medium, which is layer upon layer of colored wax. She has begun to use encaustics in three-dimensional works as well as combining it with photo transfers or translucent rice paper. She says she never forgot something one of her art instructors told her: “If you get an idea, just go do it.”
Jeremy Bartheld: He creates vibrant glass art reminiscent of plants or kelp-like sea life, which he says are meant to be used outdoors or indoors to add a burst of color. He creates the works using copper tubes as blowpipes and adding layers of color to the glass as he blows, extending and twisting the pieces into the shapes he desires, then arranging them in pots for display. “There’s something magical about using fire to change glass from a liquid to a solid and back,” he said.