Lisa Kinoshita Wrestles with the Tacoma Bear

9 Jul

In the 1890s, the Tacoma Hotel (located downtown near 9th St. and A St.) kept an 800-lb., pet bear named Jack, aka the Tacoma Bear. The exploits of this nationally renowned bruin, his untimely death – and the uneasy, provisional relationship of humans to nature – are the subject of Jack’s Epitaph, an installation by Lisa Kinoshita at the Woolworth Building.

“Jack’s Epitaph” by Lisa Kinoshita

In 1892, the Tacoma Hotel, designed by New York architect Stanford White, was the Northwest’s finest hotel; Jack lived in a pen between the rose garden and the neighboring firehouse. Raised by humans as a cub, he ate dainties such as “Olympian oysters, Spanish olives…and pommes Hollandaise.” Famously, he had a taste for beer and could hoist a mug like a man. Jack learned to unlatch his gate early in life and would roam the city’s streets untethered until a hotel steward was dispatched to retrieve him. He enjoyed a friendly and curiously non-eventful coexistence with the neighborhood for eight years – until one day he refused to return to his pen and was shot by a frightened policeman. A great public outcry followed.

Jack’s Epitaph is a visual poem about displacement and dislocation, about “shadow figures who survive in the periphery of our memory and our everyday lives,” says Kinoshita. The title of the work was taken from an 1892 poem eulogizing the bear in The Every Sunday Newspaper.

Futurism, by Lisa Kinoshita. Silver-lined agates, blown glass, sterling silver.

Kinoshita is the founder and owner of Mineral, a Tacoma jewelry studio and art gallery that “explores the intersection between art, design and fashion.” She is the 2010 recipient of the Foundation of Art Award, a $7,500 prize given by the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation. When she’s not at the bench she is a freelance writer specializing in art, culture and travel. Jack’s Epitaph, Woolworth Building, 11th & Broadway, through Sept. 24, 2010;

3 Responses to “Lisa Kinoshita Wrestles with the Tacoma Bear”


  1. Spaceworks Artists in the News « - November 24, 2010

    […] Lisa Kinoshita‘s sculpture, What You Own, Owns You, is on view at the Tacoma Art Museum through Jan. 16, 2011. The Tacoma artist was recently nominated for the Portland Art Museum’s second Contemporary Northwest Art Awards (formerly the Oregon Biennial). Five to eight artists working in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana or Wyoming, will be honored with a museum exhibition and catalog; recipients will be announced in Jan. 2011. […]

  2. Nature’s CODA « - July 21, 2011

    […] connection between human beings and the natural world is the subject of CODA, an installation by Lisa Kinoshita, on view at the Woolworth Building through October 31. In a stark white room, a herd of wild stags […]

  3. PA:ID Featured Artist: Lisa Kinoshita « Tacoma Arts - May 31, 2012

    […] and raised in the Tacoma area, Lisa Kinoshita is one of the 23 participants in the Tacoma Arts Commission’s Public Art: In Depth (PA:ID) […]

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