‘Arts Explosion’ promises a boom for Federal Way arts scene

The city is hosting its inaugural “Arts Explosion” festival from June 2-4.

After years of planning, Federal Way will soon see its biggest art celebration come alive.

The city is hosting its inaugural “Arts Explosion” festival from June 2-4, celebrating photographers, painters, sculptures and all manner of creative souls at the Performing Arts and Event Center (PAEC).

Event organizers of the Federal Way Arts Commission and the Federal Way Performing Arts Foundation said they hope the event is a blast.

Interested artists have until April 19 to submit works of art to the festival. (The original March 15 deadline was extended.) Judges will vote on the best pieces of art, and all artwork will be available for purchase at the festival’s close.

Federal Way is home to outstanding professional artists but has no public festival or venue to highlight their work, Federal Way Arts Commission Vice Chair Karen Brugato said in an email. So this festival will be a chance to share the city’s creativity and highlight its diversity.

It’s a chance for Federal Way’s first “grandioso maestoso” — a grand, majestic performance — Arts Commissioner Iveta Felzenberg said with a laugh. She had the original idea for the festival years ago after participating in the Collective Visions Gallery exhibition in Bremerton.

She’d participated in Latvian-American art festivals, but Felzenberg wanted to do something bigger. And Federal Way has a large exhibition space so, she thought, why not host a similar event here?

Whether you visit a gallery, fashion show or exhibition, “the art changes you,” Felzenberg said. “The art always gives you some kind of sparkle, or kick.”

It’s also a chance to build artistic character for a city lacking in an art scene — at least compared to its bigger-city neighbors to the north and south.

“When I (came) to Federal Way, there were no art galleries, no exhibitions,” Felzenberg said. “This project will be a big moment (for) our city. The city needs art, or galleries, or art walks … it gives the city character.”

City leaders will present awards during a “vernissage” — or a private viewing — on Friday, June 2, and members of the public can peruse the art festival for free June 3 and 4.

Families are encouraged to visit that Saturday when there will be entertainment including kid’s artwork, food trucks, live music and public voting on the submitted artwork. The following Sunday will be a bit quieter and also give patrons a chance to buy artwork and take it home.

At least 70 artworks have already been submitted to the Arts Explosion, including paintings, sculptures, pottery, glasswork and more and featuring some artists from other countries.

Awards will be distributed for first, second and third place in each category, along with a People’s Choice award voted on by the public for each category.

The judges for the event will include:

• Artist Barry Johnson, recently featured at Winston Wächter Fine Art Seattle

• Tacoma artist and FWPS graduate Gerardo Pena

• Latvian artist Anda Elksnitis

$6,000 in prize money will be distributed across several award categories for winning artworks. First place in each category will win $1,000 each; second place will take $500 each; and both third place and People’s Choice awards will take $250 each.

How to submit

Artwork must be original, entirely the work of the person entering and without the supervision of an instructor, and copies of existing art or works solely based on copyrighted artworks are not eligible. Submitted artwork must have been completed within the past three years (i.e. since spring 2020). Artists don’t need to reside in Federal Way to submit entries.

Finally, artwork must be gallery-ready for display with appropriate hanging or supports, and no saw-tooth or ring hangers are permitted. The non-refundable entry fee for two pieces of art is $45 total.

Entries can be submitted to one of three categories:

• Photography and digital art.

• Physical two-dimensional art, like paintings and tapestries.

• Physical three-dimensional art, including sculpture, jewelry and wearable or body art.

Entrants will be notified about acceptance by May 1.