Although the Grand Cinema had had loyal patrons and volunteers, it was on the brink of financial disaster.  It was in April 1997, when, after considerable work by a core group, the Grand Cinema was declared to be a not-for-profit entity.  Since that time, it has become a community treasure and a resounding success.

When I spoke with Executive Director, Philip Cowan, he said that volunteers have been an integral part of the Grand’s success.  It was volunteers that initially converted the Grand to its present 501(c)3 status.  In the process, volunteers became board members and established the structure for operation within the new status.  Volunteers assure that the Grand is open every day of the year, working three-hour shifts, selling and collecting tickets, selling popcorn and helping guests with any special needs.  The volunteer corps is a reflection of the Grand’s community appeal, for it’s comprised of a wide range of ages, from teens to octogenarians.

Cowan, who came to the Grand via a five-year stint working for the Rainiers, holds degrees in finance and international business.  He has had a life-long interest in films, “especially the ones that make you think afterwards.” So, as the person who selects all the films the Grand shows, Cowan is guided not by the moneymaking aspect of any given film.  Consequently, the Grand has become an art house, which means that both domestic and foreign films are chosen for quality rather than profit, and a weeklong film festival has become an annual event.

Being a committee of one for film selection, Cowan reads all the trade journals and magazines, scans various Internet sites to see how films have been rated, and watches a trailer or two.  (A trailer is a small portion of a film that is shown as an enticement to watch the whole thing.) In addition, he attends film festivals such as Sundance, and views films that have been recommended to him.  This is not your average 40-hour-a-week job, but, Cowan says unabashedly that he loves his work.

Cowan speaks very highly of his staff, especially their flexibility in filling in on a job and their creativity in getting their jobs done.  They are guided by the three tenants outlined in their mission:  educate the viewing public regarding film; make the viewing experience a quality one; encourage the development of a passion for film as an art form.

Under the guidance of Cowan and the board, the Grand is always open to new ideas or a fresh approach to an old one.  Often implementing these ideas requires a partnership.  Farrelli’s Pizza and the Grand Cinema have partnered for what is called DATE NIGHT which includes pizza, wine, dessert and two tickets to the Grand.  Film lectures, a Q&A session over Skype with a director and a community round table on current issues are among the special events.  A relatively new addition is the one-day showing of new or classic films every Tuesday of the year.  On Tuesdays, the matinee is usually mid-afternoon and the second showing is early evening.  And that will be the only day/date that the chosen film will be shown. Thus, in addition to the regular program of films, Cowan can insert an additional 52 films each year.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the fact that you can become a member of the Grand Cinema.  The idea of receiving $1.50 discount on all movies when you present your membership card sounds good, and it is hospitable to also receive a free, small popcorn, but the benefit that really caught my attention is free parking.  Yes!  Through partnership with Pierce County Alliance, free parking for members is available in a lot just a block from the theater.   It should be noted that you can also buy “movie money” in $5 increments which can be used for anything at the Grand.

To learn more, visit the Grand’s website for show times, trailers, and special events. The Grand Cinema is at 606 Fawcett Avenue, Tacoma, WA 98402-2321, (253) 593-4474.

Lynn Di Nino was born in Roswell, New Mexico, one of five children raised by a single mother.  Di Nino and her siblings had minimal supervision, for their hard-working mother, receiving no financial assistance from any other source, often had to hold down two jobs at a time.  The children became adept at adapting to their circumstances in the bare, dry, dusty town that was Roswell.  They scoured the streets and by-ways for any thing that could be either used or sold.  Lynn recalls harvesting wild asparagus that came up through cement cracks.  They’d package it and then go from house to house selling their find for 3-5 cents a bag.  Di Nino attributes her hard work ethic, her tenaciousness, and her ability to live and work on a shoestring to these early years and ultimately contributing to her ability to be self-sustaining as a free-lance artist since 1974.

“The brain just doesn’t stop working,” was one summary Di Nino offered to describe what it is to be an artist.  The ordinary can easily become the extraordinary.  For example, one day she opened a book to the page headed “Table of Contents.”   She saw that ordinary phrase suddenly take on extraordinary properties and before she knew it, she had constructed a new piece.

Likewise, when she walks through her favorite store, Goodwill, a kitchen gadget could suddenly be seen as, perhaps, an arm or a leg for a creature she has yet to build.

All creatures are grist for the mill of Di Nino’s fertile imagination. In the mid 80s and early 90s especially, she traveled to other countries and continents to study their animals.  What were the salient features that identified each animal? What kind of spirit did their demeanor demonstrate? How did they appear during various activities at different times? By studying the animals, Di Nino could select those features that could be used in the stylized structures she created.  She welds a metal frame, or skeleton, over which she lays a hybridized concrete.  Over time, she became a leading expert in use of that special concrete and for ten years she was an instructor at the famous Pratt Institute in Seattle where she also had her work represented in several faculty shows.

After living and working in Seattle for 32 years, Di Nino moved to Tacoma in 2001.  She arrived expecting to find a community of artists, but try as hard as she could, she could not identify where that community congregated. Di Nino appreciates language, often finding humor in common words, but she is serious about one important word: “community.” Believing community to be a dynamic essential for artists to thrive, she established what has become a durable part of the local art scene, the 100th Monkey* gathering. The first party’s success became the pattern for subsequent parties which Di Nino continued to host for three years before she handed off the reins. By this time she had become an icon in the Tacoma art scene, supporting, advising, innovating, cooperating.

Di Nino’s resume consists of 15 pages, single-spaced, and it is still growing because she is still exploring, still creating.  Most recently, she constructed, from recycled materials, 25-30 coats, some of which will be in a show. Or consider her October show at the Sandpiper Gallery in which the humble, paper coffee filter is transformed into delicate jewelry.  Meanwhile she belongs to a group that sponsors a monthly slide show called TRIPOD.

Tacoma has grown fond of Di Nino, for she has roused the rabble (Tollefson Plaza), created a head rolling (First Night), challenged our view of what is normal or the expected (the red door project), and taught us we could turn a suitcase into an art object.  It is not surprising, then, as I write this that there are articles and blogs that review what she has done for our city in her ten years in Tacoma as we prepare to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Art at Work month in November.

For more information visit Lynn’s webe site:

*If you are interested in learning about the 100th monkey premise, one source is

Blessings can sometimes be hidden by what appears to be a problem.  Such was the case for Eileen Hudak whose job as a web developer was outsourced.  The hidden blessing was that she now had an opportunity to dream, to create the kind of job or position that would be fulfilling in a new way.  Her husband, Mark Hudak, a potter with 27 years’ experience behind him, was ready to embrace the dream, too.  After careful consideration and some physical work, this North End husband and wife team opened shop last March in Old Town as the Throwing Mud Gallery. The name of their enterprise embraces all aspects of their business, which has a fine crafts gallery in its street front, a middle room with potters’ wheels, and a back room with a cone 6 kiln.

There are 50 artists whose work is shown in the storefront gallery. Eileen has done a remarkable job of arranging all the work so that there is not a crowded sense, having so much to show in a relatively small space.  Often the work of one artist delightfully shows off the work of another in a mutually beneficial way.  Some people are happy to learn that there is quite a range of prices, so that it is possible to own original work.

Pottery classes are taught in the middle room where, Mark says, “We teach basics; we are not a college course, for example, so we don’t teach raku or sculpture.”  Included in the basics is a 25-pound block of clay that the student can use on the wheel or for hand-built items.

In the process of creating, firing and glazing, students learn about the properties of their medium, the characteristics of their clay and the glazes they can use.  For example, the glazes are locally formulated to meet the characteristics of the clay and the kiln.  Sometimes the lesson that must be learned is to not slather on a thick coat of glaze, for the glaze and the clay will be drying at different speeds, creating an unfortunate polka-dot effect.  By carefully heeding instruction, a student can produce a useful item that is pleasant to look at, will hold water, and is food service safe to use.  During September these factors came together as they created bowls for the annual Empty Bowls festival.

The classes are spread out over a six-week time span.  The hands-on instruction is for 2.5 hours per week and the student can schedule to work during open studio time for another 2.5 hours.  The cost of the classes includes all materials.  Students are asked to purchase a set of tools (usually costing around $18), which will become their personal items.

If you think you might be interested in a class, for $50 you can take a two-hour session on the wheel to see if that is something you’d like to do.   At present, the majority of students are women, (one of those random events), and the pleasant result of that is the sense of community that has evolved out of some of the classes.

In November, during Art at Work month, Mark will have a studio tour on Nov. 5 and 6.  At that time the gallery will be featuring those artists who live/work in Tacoma.  The Art Bus that usually runs for the Third Thursday Art Walk will be running for the studio tours so be sure to watch for information regarding schedules, etc.

Throwing Mud Gallery

Owners/Operators:  Mark and Eileen Hudak
Location:  2212 No. 30th, Tacoma
Phone: 253-254-7961

Class schedule:

Evenings:  6–8:30, M., Tues., Thurs.
Mornings:  10–12:30, Tues., Thurs., Sat.


One year old and going strong: B2 Fine Art Gallery/Studios

On Aug. 13, the B2 Fine Art Gallery/Studio celebrated it’s first anniversary as one of Tacoma’s dynamic galleries  “The Weekly Volcano” (August 1, 2011) called the B2 (pronounced B squared) “the hottest new gallery in town.”  In its one-year time, this gallery has garnered positive attention.

The B2’s direction is diverse, which might become the most singular aspect that will keep it afloat.  To use an old phrase, not all of its eggs are in one basket, so if one aspect of the business is slow, the activity in another can keep the doors open.

One strength of the business is that of relationships.  The gallery represents a small number of artists, a group that will probably continue to grow.  In addition, there are commercial clients that look to B2 for an artistic presence in their workplace.  For some artists work space or display space needs augmentation, so there are studios that are available to be rented.  B2 Gallery belongs to the Theater District Association and participates in the Third Thursday art walk every other month.

Another strength is the fact that the gallery is a blending.  One B, Deborah Boone, is a well-known fabric artist.  The B is squared (B2) by her husband Gary Boone, a self-acknowledged computer geek who is the managing partner in a Seattle software business, bringing business savvy to the mix.  The building that houses the gallery has a great history connected to Tacoma’s early newspaper business which is blended with a classical interior of neutral colors, white moldings, and tile floors.

Perhaps their greatest strength is the niche they have created for themselves when they established the first Beyond Crayons and Finger Painting youth art show.  The first show, held last fall, consisted of 56 pieces done by 17 students.  This year’s October show will be a selection of 75 pieces from submissions sent by students ages 7-19 from all over the world.  The plan is for this show to evolve into an annual, worldwide event.

The informing idea behind the children’s show is two-fold:  provide an early-in-life acknowledgement and encouragement of a child’s artistic abilities; and to give the child a sensibility of what an artist’s life includes.  For example, giclee prints will be made of their work so that they can sell reproductions during the month-long show.  In this showing, the students also become involved in processes such as framing and hanging. The show will travel to various venues, with the prints being shown to reduce the risk to the originals Each student receives any money earned in sales, and B2 hopes it can influence them to save that money for future art instruction.

Education will be part of the B2 package in other ways, too.  For example, there will be a two-week drawing class Sept. 6-10  (Drawing Fundamentals) with instructor Willie Bonner (contact the gallery for times and cost) and throughout the year there will be a lecture series, Verb, that will begin with Contemporary Native American Art.

Additional shows include the November through January show Cold Fusion:  Exploration Into Abstraction, the counterpoint to the current show, Hot Fusion.   The Youth Group Exhibition will run throughout almost all of October, opening on Oct. 8 and continuing through Oct. 29.  (This could be a good time to begin your holiday shopping.)



Owners and Directors:  Gary and Deborah Boone

Address:   711 St. Helens AV, Suite 100

Phone:      253.238.5065

Hours:      Tues. – Sat., 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

If parking is a problem, you might park at the Tacoma Dome and take the trolley to its farthest destination, the Theater District and walk a few blocks downhill.