Calming music reverberated throughout the crowded coffee shop as clusters of people chattered away in a sea of colorful canvases and sculptures. The only sensation that could overpower the smell of coffee roasting was the feeling of pride and accomplishment that was felt by the artists.
Thirteen Clark students featured their work in Boomerang’s art gallery and showcase in downtown Vancouver on Feb. 3. Their pieces were displayed as part of Boomerang’s monthly First Friday event, where art galleries, bars and restaurants open up with live music and art shows for the night. February’s theme was, “Tell Me a Story.”
Founded in 2015 by Tom Relth, Boomerang is a coffee and generosity shop that runs off donations and volunteer work.
“The overarching idea of Boomerang is to stimulate and encourage generosity in the community,” Relth said. Relth started working with First Friday four years ago, and has held it at Boomerang for the past year.
“People come whether they like art or not. It’s a time for inquiries and celebrations.”
In the past four months, each First Friday gathered about 300 to 500 people. “One time we had so many people we couldn’t breathe,” Relth said. Executive Director of the Vancouver Downtown Association Lee Rafferty said the monthly event began in 2005. The VDA is responsible for organizing First Friday.
“Art is an important part of placemaking,” Rafferty said. “Having good design, public art and art appreciation downtown creates a place that is like no other.”
He said the atmosphere created by art spreads throughout the rest of the city. “Art is an important foundational piece for any community; the creatives often help shape its success and feel to others.”
Relth wants to forge a relationship with Clark’s art community. His goal is to feature students in an exhibit while they are still sharpening their skills. “Tell Me a Story,” is based on Relth’s philosophies surrounding art. “Art is about story, otherwise it’s devoid,” he said.
Relth wants to give students real world experience working with galleries. This includes application, installation and possibly rejection. He plans to coach students through the process.
To apply, students submitted resumes, brief biographies, art statements, pictures of their work and thumbnails of the submission to the gallery. Students agreed applying was time-consuming, but worth it.
Student Krystal Moldonado said she was inspired by animation, illustration and surrealism. Fellow artist Diane Hurst was influenced by the simplicity of lines, shapes and colors.
February’s First Friday attracted dozens of people throughout the night as family, friends and students gathered to support the artists. For many, this was the first time their art hung in a gallery.