Tuesday was a hot night for Fabitat, Fab-5‘s super-tight creative lab on the Hilltop – and for Spaceworks Tacoma. The event was an exceptionally cheery fundraiser: hard to believe, but Fab-5 has been at it for 12 years mentoring local youth in the creative arts, and this was their first call for support, ever. Not only that, but the busy studio at 1316 Martin Luther King Way, which they occupied via a Spaceworks residency in 2011 and recently signed the lease for, is the team’s first-ever homebase. The Five’s dedication and leadership in igniting young minds through the visual and performing arts is the stuff urban dreams are made of. Attendees at Tuesday night’s event jostled to pledge support (you can make a donation here), and to sign the group’s door, graffiti-style.
Musician Nate Dybevik is an expert in piano restoration. Photo courtesy of Nate Dybevik.
At Spaceworks, such win-win situations (free space for creative entrepreneurs = potential paying tenants for landlords) are always cause for celebration. Fab-5 is but one of several Hilltop artists-in-residence who in the past year have activated a once dormant commercial zone and seeded the area around the Fulcrum Gallery with fresh life. Nate Dybevik also recently signed the dotted line and gained a permanent address for his “piano museum” (he is a musician who rebuilds pianos) and music studio. During its tenure, Toy Boat Theatre performed a miraculous facelift on a sterile office space, drew new audiences to the neighborhood with six months of high-caliber drama, and left an indelible mark before moving on.
We thought it was time to catch up with these Spaceworks alums and hear about their experiences in their own words.
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The transformation of the 1300 block of “Hilltopia” in 2011 wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of the Marie Thorp Wilson Trust, owners of the Thorp Building (where two of the four original. rent-free residency spaces are now leased by Fab-5 and Dybevik). According to Thorp family member Jeanette Sorenson, while the Trust’s intention has been to sell the Thorp Building, “It has been a blessing to have [it] occupied, especially by groups that appreciate the opportunity to try their wings at a business venture….By opening the building to the Spaceworks program, [it] has changed from a vacant, cold building to a lively, warm building that shows its true character.”
Sorenson admits to initial hesitation about the venture. But “after interviewing Rebecca [Solverson] and Amy [McBride, City of Tacoma Arts Administrator], it became clear that this would be a good way to occupy the trust building along with helping the K Street community grow in a positive way.” Sorenson’s family ties to Tacoma run deep: as a young man her grandfather, Theodore Martin Thorp, followed his cousin, Thea Foss, from Wisconsin to Tacoma. In 1967, her father, Bud (“Blind Man”) Thorp, “built the Thorp Building on property he had purchased when he was discharged from the Army Air Corps, a decorated airman.” Spaceworks is grateful to help usher in a new wave of activity at the Thorp Building.