Idea #23: Terrain meets TED

There’s something about Terrain that draws people in…is it the curation? The underground vibe? What is it? And how can we transfer that success to a major innovation conference for Spokane? (PHOTO: Terrain Spokane)

Terrain is cool. If nothing else, this year’s event proved that. Terrain 7 received more submissions than ever before, and the resulting curated one-night-only event drew in a record number of visitors. Better yet, the burgeoning movement has launched a campaign for a permanent venue at its new home in the Washington Cracker Company Building on Pacific.

TED is cool. The innovation and leadership conference has grown from humble beginnings into a worldwide phenomenon drawing thousands of changemakers every meeting and hundreds of millions of YouTube views.

Which brings forth an interesting question: what would happen if Spokane brought together the hyper-cool creative atmosphere of Terrain and the innovative, entrepreneurial spirit of TED? Imagine a one-day-only conference focusing on innovation, creativity, and change. Imagine Spokane drawing together leaders in technology, the physical sciences, the social sciences, the arts, and others in a common, one-night festival of what’s next, what’s new, and what’s inspiring. We already have a TEDx event, but it’s small, limited in scope, and ineffective at building Spokane’s innovation culture.

This conference needs to be big.

Like, Convention Center or INB Performing Arts Center big. We need to inspire Spokane’s youngest kids to get interested in STEAM-based careers. We need to grow our startup infrastructure into something that can support a vibrant technology sector. We need to continue to develop strong events that build participation in local arts and culture. A TED-style event with the spirit, drive, and curation of Terrain could make that happen.

What do you think? Would you like to see a TED-style event in Spokane? What do you think of adding Terrain’s signature style and curation? Do you think that such a move could help to inspire the next generation of local youth to explore STEAM careers? What about growing our startup or innovation culture? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in person. We love to hear from you.

Mobile Murals Project goes live with a public Call for Submissions

The empty lot at Third and Division will see a lot fewer weeds and a lot more art with the public call for artists’ mural submissions released by Spokane Arts today. (PHOTO: Google Street View)

In February, during our Launch Week, we suggested that in order to improve the public image of our city at a major gateway, enhance opportunities for artistic expression, and finally do something about a significant nagging problem, the local community should rally behind the creation of a public mural at Third and Division.

What we didn’t realize then was that numerous individuals were already working on a similar idea.

In mid-July, the post went viral. Spurred by posts, shares, and other activity on social media, it gained steam. Around the same time, representatives from Spokane Arts, the Downtown Spokane Partnership, and the City of Spokane had begun formal planning meetings to make the concept happen. The idea was popping up independently in different places because it struck a nerve: why couldn’t our most important entry point be something other than an ugly pit? In time, Councilman Mike Allen committed funds to the project, and it began to look like it was coming together.

And here we are today: launch day. Today, Spokane Arts released its official call for submissions to the aptly-named Mobile Murals Project. The program will clean up vacant lots and construction sites around the city, starting with Third and Division. The first round of submissions will close August 25, with selection by August 29 and installation in early October. We encourage all interested artists to submit proposals. Because it’s our city. Let’s build it up.

How to fix Spokane’s “brain drain”

Biology and bioengineering labs are a critical component to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics) education. What if Spokane offered scholarships to local students interested in pursuing STEAM? (PHOTO: Noll & Tam)

Spokane has a “brain drain” problem. Currently, many of our brightest high school seniors choose colleges and universities located on the coast, in cities like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, or in the east, in areas like, New York, Massachusetts, and the Washington, D.C. area. (For example, this blogger attends Santa Clara University in the Silicon Valley.) That would be fine if those students moved back to Spokane upon graduation. But they don’t.

Typically, these students leave Spokane when they turn 18 and don’t come back, perhaps partially because in-routes to established companies, economic opportunity, and culture are seen as more plentiful in those larger, more established cities. There’s “more to do,” more “people like me,” and “more jobs.” (Or so people think.) The brain drain continues.

But what if we had a way to end it?

We talk a lot in this community about bonds and levies. These tax measures are designed to allow for infrastructure investment, parks and recreation improvements, road construction, and school renovations. A small levy, or even a large grant from a charitable organization, however, would be enough to make a big difference in our “brain drain” problem.

Let’s offer any high school senior in Spokane who wishes to pursue a career in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics) a $5,000/year college scholarship. In return, the student would agree to move back to Spokane for a period of at least three years post-graduation (with postponement available for years of service and graduate school). Simple. Easy. These fields are constantly cited as the types of industries which our city must attract in order to remain competitive in the 21st century. So let’s do something about it. Let’s encourage students to go into STEAM fields. Let’s encourage students to move back to Spokane. Let’s grow our local economy by leaps and bounds.

The best part is that this type of measure need not be expensive. A levy the size of the roads levy planned for the November ballot, for example, would make a big difference. $10 million/year for higher education is a small figure compared to the possible economic benefit of increased STEAM engagement in the area. Even a large grant or series of grants could be huge for area students.

And with a requirement that student return to Spokane, there’s a good chance that we’d hook them in for good.

What do you think? Could college scholarships/grants for STEAM students help improve Spokane’s local economy and increase the number of young, urban professionals? Would you be willing to pay $20 more per year in property taxes to fund scholarships for high school seniors? Disregarding a funding mechanism, what do you think about requiring that students move back to Spokane? Share your thoughts below, on Facebook, and on Twitter. We love to hear from you.

#SpokaneStoke: A Weekend of epic proportions

The Bartlett’s beautiful stage will host a number of poets and live music acts over the course of the weekend as a venue for the Volume Music Festival. (PHOTO: The Bartlett)

This weekend is jam-packed. There’s a lot going on in the area, and we wanted to fill you in so that you can take full advantage of all of the opportunities presented to us here in the inland Northwest. Here’s a roundup of the most popular events going on around the area this weekend.

  • Volume Music Festival. The Inlander’s music festival grows again this year, with eight venues and 80 bands. More shows than ever will be all-ages, and with acts like Summer in Siberia, Terrible Buttons, and Water Monster, it’s sure to be an exciting event. Wristbands are just $17, and they get you into every show tonight and tomorrow. Even cooler, for the first time ever, there’ll be a discussion panel on the State of the Spokane Music Scene. For more information, and to plan your schedule, check out volume.inlander.com.
  • ArtFest. Sponsored by the Inland Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture, ArtFest is Spokane’s major juried art festival. Brilliant paintings, stunning sculptures, and excellent photography will all be showcased, among other work. The event runs from 12p-10p today, 10a-10p tomorrow, and 10a-5p Sunday in Browne’s Addition. It’s free (including parking at the MAC garage, if that’s an issue for you, although we encourage you to utilize transit if possible), and there will be great music. For more information, click here.
  • SkyFest. After several years, SkyFest returns to Fairchild Air Force Base after a budget cut- and sequester-induced hiatus. The air show and vendor fair will be open Saturday and Sunday from 9a-6p, and will include all of the usual events. More information available here.
  • Spo-Can. The Elk’s second-annual craft canned beer festival will take place Saturday and Sunday in Browne’s Addition. Over 50 canned beers will be showcased, and four bands will be performing. More information by clicking here.

In addition to the above, Spokane Comicon is this weekend, in addition to a nature festival at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, farmers’ markets, and live music at the Rocket Market. Be sure to get out in the community check these events, and share your Spokane adventures using the hashtag #SpokaneStoke and #spokanerising. We love to connect with you.

Idea #13: Turn up the #Volume509

Spokane’s Volume Music Festival, sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Inlander, is a great event that needs to grow even further in order to build Spokane’s music destination credentials. (PHOTO: The Inlander)

Spokane’s Volume Music Festival, which is sponsored by the Inlander, is a fantastic event that has grown by leaps and bounds since its early days several years ago. Now being held for two days in late May, Volume has exceeded the wildest expectations of many, helping to launch newer groups and grow fan bases.

But let’s dream bigger. How about attracting some more regional acts? How about using new venues (that Riverfront Park amphitheater can’t be completed soon enough)? How about committing to making the event 100% all-ages? We’re looking forward to this year’s edition of Volume, but we can’t help but wonder what the year after will bring, or the year after that. Let’s hope it retains its hyper-local, non-commercialized roots while finding a good mix of local, regional, and perhaps smaller national (think indie bands with smaller fanbases) acts. There’s much to love about Spokane’s music scene, and Volume is an ode to its liveliness and authenticity.

Revival: The State of Live Music in Spokane

The Bartlett offers not just an excellent music venue in  a design-rich and incredibly inspiring atmosphere, but also an excellent café/bar open six days a week. (PHOTO: Brandon J. Vasquez via @bartlettspokane on Instagram)
The Bartlett offers not just an excellent music venue in a design-rich and incredibly inspiring atmosphere, but also an excellent café/bar open six days a week. (PHOTO: Brandon J. Vasquez via @bartlettspokane on Instagram.)

Who would have thought, a year or two ago, that for Spokane, still recovering from a deep economic crisis that hit many live music venues so hard that they closed entirely, 2013 and 2014 would be two of the biggest, most important years for live music in the city’s history? It’s been a year marked by triumphs (i.e. the opening of the Bartlett, landing Pearl Jam and Bon Jovi at the Spokane Arena) and setbacks (i.e. the closing of the Knitting Factory for reasons of public safety, unexpected delays in the opening of the Bartlett), but in the end, Spokane has learned a lot about itself and about its music scene.

We’ve learned that rock still rules. The Spokane Arena had a major coup last year when it landed Pearl Jam, maybe at the suggestion of the Inlander. Then it landed Bon Jovi (and then promptly initiated a brief tone-deaf but probably overblown name-change debacle). There was Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, but there was also Nine Inch Nails. There will be Tool. And Motley Crue. Really. Motley Crue. These high-profile bookings, especially of rock icons Bon Jovi, indicate that Spokane’s music scene is perhaps ready for something big. But there’s a good chance that it will be buoyed by Spokane’s strange-but-somehow-fitting love for arena rock.

We’ve learned that safety is important. Stabbings and other violence had become not commonplace, but perhaps not rare, before the Knitting Factory’s abrupt and somewhat controversial closure last spring. Police Chief Frank Straub ordered the facility closed until investigations could be made and agreements could be made with the venue’s owners to improve safety and police enforcement. Perhaps the types of acts which the Knitting Factory brings in is one of the culprits, but inadequate enforcement and police presence may have played a role as well. Similar events at The Hop later in the year caused another re-evaluation. Any ongoing conversation about the Spokane live music scene would simply be incomplete without a mention of these lingering challenges.

We’ve learned that all-ages venues matter. If nothing else, the outpouring of support for and the recent success of the Bartlett would seem to indicate that. The Bartlett is a meticulously-designed (and absolutely gorgeous) venue at 228 W Sprague near the vibrant and quickly-developing East End of downtown that has placed an emphasis on bringing in high-quality acts and utilizing its high-quality sound and acoustics system. But more than that, the venue bleeds Spokane in a very un-Spokane way, visually appearing as if it would be more fitting in Portland or Seattle, but in actuality exuding its own unique style and character. It is passionate, not cautious; a catalyst, not a one-time deal. It is an aspirational place that invites us to imagine what Spokane can be, but also to realize what it already is.

We’ve learned (or perhaps we hope to learn) that what’s dead is not always dead. Perhaps in response to the success of the Bartlett, a new group has taken the reigns at 171 S Washington and intends to reopen the Big Dipper, a primarily all-ages live music and events venue that closed during our last live music “crash.” While the venue recently reopened for events and other gatherings, it has yet to bring artists to its stage for live shows. As such, the owner has launched and Indiegogo campaign and hopes to raise $50,000 in order to recoup the costs of necessary fire sprinklers and safety improvements. (The state Legislature- and City-imposed fire sprinkler requirement, as you may recall, caused a couple of venues to close several years ago.) The Big Dipper is a Spokane landmark, and the success of this project is incredibly important to the our local music scene; we hope that it succeeds.

The upstart ventures of the Bartlett and the Big Dipper prove that Spokane live music does not need big investors to succeed. It just needs an incredible amount of passion and the support of the local community. Both the Bartlett and the Big Dipper have utilized Indiegogo in order to fund their openings, proving that crowdfunding can work. Even here.

Yes, even here. Even here, crowdfunding can work, and we hope to see that trend continue. In order to build a vibrant urban culture, live music is a must. Please support the Bartlett and the Big Dipper, and be sure to indicate your passion for our city and its local art scene. We can continue to make Spokane great; we just need to recognize that we all play a part in making a city in which we are proud to live. Music is a big part of that. It won’t be easy, but it’s true: we all build this.

How to (temporarily) fix the empty lot at 3rd and Division

3rd and Division has sat empty, dilapidated, and decaying for more than five years. We might have a temporary solution. (PHOTO: Google Street View)
3rd and Division has sat empty, dilapidated, and decaying for more than five years since the Best Western Peppertree Inn proposal was abandoned. We might have a temporary solution. (PHOTO: Google Street View)

You heard it here first, folks: 3rd and Division is officially the worst intersection in Spokane. No, it doesn’t have the ruts and crumbling asphalt of High Drive and Grand Boulevard, but it does have an empty lot with extremely unsightly rebar and concrete, remnants of an abandoned low-rise hotel project which will be the subject of a future If It Had Happened post.

City leaders have repeatedly tried to entice developers to this site, starting with the original owners, who are presumed to have finally sold the lot in the spring of 2013. Naturally, 3rd and Division serve as a gateway to Spokane and the south end of the Division Street Gateway project, so it’s not surprising that the City is attempting to get more involved. But despite this interest, the site still sits, languishing further by the day. Literally nothing has been done to improve it in the interim, despite the fact that an extremely small investment could result in a much more pleasant intersection.

Here’s our short term solution: erect a temporary construction fence and set local artists loose. What do we mean? Check out some examples and a call to action after the break. We want to make this actually happen.

Continue reading “How to (temporarily) fix the empty lot at 3rd and Division”

Idea #6: Popup Art Galleries

Spokane has its share of vacant and abandoned buildings. Fortunately, it also has a wealth of artists and designers. What happens when you put the two together? Enter a plan for popup storefront art galleries highlighted in last week’s Inlander. The idea is to develop “a corridor that carries visitors from one lively part of town to another by getting art into…empty storefronts on First Avenue.” Terrain co-founder Ginger Ewing and Laboratory owner Alan Chatham are spearheading this plan, which they believe will help make the pedestrian experience in downtown Spokane much more pleasant and enjoyable–and perhaps even safer. We just hope that it will get an airing from building owners.

The full article, including more of the excellent artwork featured above by Collin Hayes, is available here at the Inlander.

Idea #4: Large-Scale Public Art

While some around here may complain about large-scale public art, we think people are too quick to judge. Public art can be beautiful, expressive, and convey larger cultural truths about the area in which it is located. For example, some art pieces completed for the Vancouver Olympics represented the First Nations relationship to land, earth, and water. No word on what this piece, also from Vancouver, represents.