by Amanda Ong
This Saturday, May 14, Inscape Arts will host a Spring Open House highlighting some of the impressive artists and studios in residence at the former Immigration and Naturalization Services building at 815 Seattle Blvd. S. The event was organized by Friends of Inscape, a group dedicated to preserving the historic building after it was listed for sale in 2021 and put at risk of redevelopment. The Spring Open House is another way that Friends of Inscape hopes to showcase the history of the space and its current use as an artist enclave with strong roots in the Seattle community and deep personal and historical resonance for many. Inscape has been closed to the public for the past two years, and the Spring Open House will mark the first time since the start of the pandemic that the building has opened its doors to the public.
There will be performances by the Mak Fai Kung Fu Dragon & Lion Dance Association and School of Taiko, the opening show for Inscape Artist-in-Residence Haein Kang, a special installation by artist Jessica Cheng, a silent auction, and opportunities to connect with local community groups like Pride Asia.
“I think it’s gonna be a fantastic event,” Kirsten Mohan, a photographer and board member of Friends of Inscape, told the South Seattle Emerald. “It’s been so long since we were able to hold our studios open, and with all the work that we’ve been doing to get the word out about the building, we’re really excited about this opportunity for lots of people to come through the space and get to experience it and all the history and all the creativity here, bursting out of every corner.”
The event will have open studios for guests to see, and art displayed from Inscape residents — photographers, printmakers, painters, ceramists, mixed media artists, and more.
Before the pandemic, the Wing Luke Museum offered tours of Inscape. The museum also has an exhibit and signage within the Inscape building. These tours and exhibits were a way to bring the public into the space and to explain its significance to the local community. For the last two years, the museum’s tours have taken place virtually.
“So few people really know about the building,” Mohan said. “Since the building is going up for sale, we’re really getting the word out about just the fact that it exists. We really want the building to be more accessible to the public, and for people to get to experience what’s going on with the creativity and rejuvenation of the artists in the space, and also the history of the building.”
The special installation by Inscape artist Jessica Cheng will take up much of the building’s courtyards — a powerful space where detainees wrote their names on the walls in tar. Cheng’s installation is titled “Sacrifice of the Big West” and will explore themes of sacrifice, disappointment, and grief. In her artist statement, Cheng says her work uses allegories from nature to make tangible the often invisible processes of suffering, grieving, and healing during and after trauma. The installation will be made from ceramics, born from tenderness and controlled violence, which reflects the dual nature of traumatic healing. The installation will also include an audio feature.
Friends of Inscape will have a table at the event with information about their efforts to save the former Immigration and Naturalization Services building from redevelopment. They will also present a silent auction of pieces donated from artists within the building, the profits from which will go toward their fundraising.
The event will also include the opening show of Inscape Arts new Artist in Residence, Haein Kang. Kang has previously worked with the open-source electronic prototyping platform Arduino and industry music software from Ableton to create an interactive experience with art and sound.
In addition to coordinating performances, Mohan will also be displaying her photography.
“I’m really excited to activate the space,” Mohan said. “Particularly after two and a half years of not being able to do things like this, and it is such a beautiful space, we want to preserve it … we want to make use of it. If this is our mission to make it more accessible to the public, then that begins here by opening the studios up and bringing both the neighborhood and the culture at large into the space, and welcoming everybody in.”
The Open House will take place from noon to 6 p.m. Mak Fai Kung Fu Dragon & Lion Dance Association will be performing in front of and throughout the building at 1:30 p.m. School of Taiko will be performing on the second floor patio at 2:40 p.m. Pride Asia will be tabling at the front of the building to promote Pride Asia Fest on Sunday, May 29, and Friends of Inscape will also be tabling all day.
“If we are going to preserve this as an art space for the community and for culture,” Mohan said, “Then it is important that the community be able to experience the space by coming inside of it, getting to see the artists and see the space.”
Inscape Arts is located at 815 Seattle Blvd. S.
Amanda Ong (she/her) is a Chinese American writer from California. She is currently a master’s candidate at the University of Washington Museology program and graduated from Columbia University in 2020 with degrees in creative writing and ethnicity and race studies.
📸 Featured Image: Artist Grace Flott is one of the many artists with studio space at Inscape. (Photo: Kirsten Mohan Photography)
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