Last weekend I had a chance to check out the new show at Tacoma Art Museum titled GATHER: 27 Years of Hilltop Artists. A uniquely Tacoman exhibit showcasing artists currently in, or who have graduated through the Hilltop Artists glassblowing program. This was a sold out members event if that gives you any idea of the amount of support this show has from the local community. In fact I would say the Hilltop Artists is woven into the fabric of Tacoma culture. For the past 30 ish years this program has empowered and cultivated creativity in Tacoma’s youth through the medium of glass. I personally believe the practice of glassblowing and the craft are uniquely suited for this purpose. Glass making is not only about creating a finished product, but the processes required that makes this practice so rewarding. That glass pumpkin for grandma, or translating colorful designs from two dimensional drawings into sculptural forms is only a fraction of what goes on. The physical movements of working in glass forces artists to collaborate, advocate, communicate and compromise all within the creation of a single piece. I cannot think of many art forms possibly aside from music that force that level of integration from multiple people into single work. I feel it is tremendously empowering and forces a level of engagement from these young artists. It also provides them with a few years of glass experience under their belt making them ripe for employment. Additionally the average student has a well rounded concept of contemporary glass art, and by default the larger art world. Our youth are very well connected. We are creating a mighty conscious glass-art movement here in Tacoma.

 Upon entering the main hall of Tacoma Art Museum I was immersed in the contemporary sounds of TAM’s resident DJ and surrounded by friends and contemporaries from the art scene. Some of these folks I haven’t seen since before the pandemic, so it had a family reunion type vibe. There was a special address from Hilltop Artists own Trenton Quiocho, the hot shop manager and GATHER curator, and additional words from Kim Keith the Executive Director. Also I was excited to see  the “rareware” offered in the ETC / Hilltop Pop-Up Shop. This is a unique and ongoing collaboration between  ETC our local street ware crew, and The Hilltop Artists glass program.

I have been part of the Tacoma art scene for twenty years, participating in art events, hosting shows, and collaborating with other artists. This event was energizing, It hit me in a truly generational way. The old guard was present, as mentors teachers and supporters, while the younger creatives taking up the reigns, showing up and making the art scene what it is today.  I am continually reminded of this dynamic as I look forward to next months group glass show titled Riff Raf. This show has been curated to showcase much of the new local talent here in Tacoma and feature many of the “behind the scenes” artists that you won’t see in larger venues.  Riff Raff at Fulcrum Gallery, Mat 18th – 29th preview may 17th 6-10pm. Click here for updated times and information. Riff Raff