When Ginger Ewing was growing up, there was a decades-old narrative that if you were going to have fun or be successful in your twenties, you were going to have to do it anywhere but Spokane.
Yet when Ginger hit her twenties, she still loved Spokane more than ever. She was working as a curator for cultural literacy at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture and recognized some incredible pockets of creativity within the city. Ginger’s boyfriend (now husband) and three friends, who all worked in the creative industry, saw them too.
The problem was how siloed those creative pockets were. Emerging artists, established artists, poets, visual artists … everyone was separate. They also noticed a lack of opportunity for underbelly, grassroots-type artists.
So they asked themselves: What would happen if we put all these people together in one room for one evening?
That was the impetus for Terrain, an annual, one-night-only art and music event in downtown Spokane that celebrates local artists.
Recalling their first event in 2008, Ginger said, “We had no idea what we were doing, but we were dreaming big!”
In its first year, Terrain featured the work of 30 artists with 1,500 people in attendance. In 2019, that number grew to 274 artists with 13,000 in attendance.
Their flagship event is how Terrain, the arts organization, was born. Today they provide a variety of programs and events to build community and economic opportunity for local artists and creators, with the majority of their work focused in the downtown core.
“We believe that if we can create a strong creative economy and have a strong cultural downtown core, then it can emanate from there into other neighborhoods,” said Ginger.
As a black-led organization, it’s always been in Terrain’s DNA to promote artists of color, indigenous artists, queer artists and other underrepresented voices. It’s not about giving these groups a voice – they already have one. It’s about amplifying their voice.
One of the ways Terrain is doing this is through their collaborative retail storefront, From Here, located in Riverpark Square downtown. As the name suggests, everything in the store is locally made from a diverse group of artists and makers in Spokane’s creative community.
“When you purchase something at From Here, you’re not only supporting a local nonprofit and a local business, but you’re actually supporting a human being right here in Spokane,” said Ginger.
While she’s felt largely embraced by the community, there is still work to be done in creating an inclusive city that not only embraces diversity but cultivates it.
“I say to people all the time there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not reminded in some capacity that I’m a black woman living in Spokane.” She’ll often hear things like, “Wow, you’re so articulate for being black,” words that are intended as a compliment but cut deep. Ginger is quick to point out this is a problem nationwide; Spokane is simply the lens in which she views the world.
“The issues that black people face have been highlighted in an acute way in the last several months and it’s peeling back the layers of a reality that has always been there,” Ginger said.
To have white allies who are passionate about pushing the narrative forward so the killing of George Floyd doesn’t become another statistic gives Ginger hope for the future.
“My hope lies in the conversations I’m hearing our young people have,” Ginger shared. “For the first time in my life, I feel like there’s the opportunity to push our society forward in a really impactful and long-lasting way.”