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Innovative art, times two

Avant Garde at Feast Arts Center and 950 Gallery

“Cyclone-o-phone” mixed-media sculpture by Andy Behrle. Photo courtesy 950 Gallery

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An online dictionary defines "avant garde" art as new, unusual or experimental art. Synonyms offered up include innovative, ahead of the times, cutting/leading/bleeding edge, pioneering, progressive, Bohemian, and revolutionary. In Tacoma, the places to experience avant garde art are 950 Gallery (formerly Spaceworks) and Feast Arts Center.

This week winds up an interactive exhibition/performance piece by Natasha Marin called "BLACK IMAGINATION: The (g)Listening." The show employs technology and storytelling to create a dialogue about black joy, wellness and creativity in a series of guided 30-minute events. Hard to explain, it must be experienced live and in person. "This show is an incredible immersive experience," says Feast co-owner Todd Jannausch.

Marin is a poet and interdisciplinary conceptual artist. Her written work has been translated into several languages and has been showcased in exhibitions, performances and events around the world. She received grants from the City of Austin, Artist Trust, and the City of Seattle for community projects involving text-based, visual, performance and multimedia art.

The show opened with a three-course "blind" tasting with award-winning chef Tarik Abdullah. Included are contributions from more than 100 black people from Washington State and all over the world. There will be a closing ritual this weekend featuring a live performance by co-curator, Rachael Ferguson. To attend, RSVP online at

Down the hill at 950 Gallery, another interactive exhibition has just opened. Called "The Light We Hear," it features multi-media, music-making sculptures and installations by Andy Behrle. The sculptures look like antique radios and record players, often housed in gleaming wood cabinets. Deceptive at first glance, they are more than radios and record players; they are sculptures with what might be seen as a steampunk appearance -- but very subtly so. For example, a piece called "Cyclone-o-phone" is a highly polished wooden radio and turntable cabinet with a drop-down door. But instead of a turntable inside there are objects made of glass or plastic that look like test tubes and other chemical lab equipment, both antique and futuristic at the same time.

Gallery manager Gabriel Brown says Behrle's sculptures all play and are fully interactive. "(They are) super engaging. They require the viewers to play with them for the experience. There are instructions posted for operating each piece."

As of this writing, I have not seen either of these shows, but I intend to, and I will review the Andy Behrle exhibition for this column.

"BLACK IMAGINATION: THE (g)LISTENING," 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 10-11, closing ritual 1-3 p.m., May 12, Feast Arts Center, 1402 S. 11th St., Tacoma,

"THE LIGHT WE HEAR," 1-5 p.m., Thursdays (until 9 p.m. Third Thursday), or by appointment, through June 21, reception 5-9 p.m., May 17, 950 Gallery, 950 Pacific Ave., Suite 205, Tacoma, 253.627.2175,

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