On July 19, I met a group of people at Collaboration Coffee for an art walk around downtown Yakima.
But this wasn’t your usual walk to see public art and exhibits. What was special about this was that you walked in a group of people, each draped with a big pink boa — and our leader was a drag queen.
I asked Heath Lambe, curator of exhibits at Yakima Valley Museum and board president of Yakima Maker Space, how this idea came about. He told me that he was attending a drag show at The Seasons Performance Hall with Maddie Hicks, art curator and partner of Collaboration Coffee.
They got to chatting about how he used to tend bar at the only gay bar in Snohomish County, and how Drag Nights on Thursdays were so much fun. Heath especially enjoyed “the costumes and the larger-than-life personalities,” he said.
After a while he said, “Maddie, what if we got a local drag queen to give a walking tour of art in Yakima?” And so “Drag Me Out to the Arts” was born.
“Maddie and I were already working with the Yakima Police Department to set up a safe place initiative for LGBTQA folks to escape if they get attacked,” Heath says, “I think a lot of us would love to see Yakima as a safe, welcoming community to a large and diverse population.”
Heath went on to say, “Maddie and I made our way to Viktor Rhee (one of the performers) after the show and asked if there was someone who might be interested in working with us to set up a downtown art walk to promote Yakima’s public art and art venues like Windows Alive!, Gilbert Cellars’ Cellar Gallery, The Seasons’ Gallery, the Collab gallery and Maker Space, as well as others. Yakima Pride was coming upon us in June and it just felt like the right time to get it rolling.
“Viktor was receptive to the idea, and we set up a time to chat. Soon we had other community members engaged in the effort — we even got a little funding from the Yakima Arts Commission.”
The hope of “Drag Me Out to the Arts” is to have a high-visibility program that provides an educational, commentary-filled walking experience of Yakima’s downtown art venues and public artworks. This effort dovetails with other public and private efforts to bring awareness to the arts, as well as help solidify a viable Downtown Creative District by raising public awareness of local creatives and the arts in Yakima.
The program is structured around a monthly walking tour with a local performer or performers looking at artworks themselves as they guide people around Yakima’s downtown art venues and public artworks. The performer provides information about the artist and the artwork as well as a little campy history lesson while they move from artwork to artwork.
I asked Viktor about her first two art walks around Yakima. She said, ”’Drag Me Out to the Arts’ has been amazing so far, with more to come. What I love most about this event is that it combines many great passions of my life: drag, history, art and LGBTQ+ advocacy. I love the variety of folks who want to participate in the art walks, and I love the opportunity to be able to share my knowledge and experiences with others.”
What was the most fun was the honks and cheers as we paraded around downtown Yakima. The next “Drag Me Out to the Arts” is free and starts at Collaboration Coffee at 6 p.m. Aug. 16.
• David Lynx is executive director of the Larson Gallery at Yakima Valley College. Learn more at www.larsongallery.org.