Artistic License Department Opens

Tacoma artist Gillian Norlund — shown with one of her fabric creations — will be opening an Artistic License Department April 8. The installation (below) is located at 930 Commerce St. The tongue-in-cheek project is part of an effort to vitalize the Theater District with art. Photo courtesy of Spaceworks

Tacoma artist Gillian Norlund is poised to launch an art installation that plays off the notion of “artistic license” defined as the freedom to create an artwork, musical work, or piece of writing based on the artist’s interpretation and mainly for effect. The idea is also referred to as poetic license. Once upon a time, artistic license provoked controversy by offending those who resented the reinterpretation of cherished beliefs or previous works. Nowadays, however, the term is unobtrusive. It simply means that there are no rules in the creating of a work of art.

The Artistic License Department will be staffed by local artist Gillian Nordlund, one of the recipients of 2017 Foundation of Art Award. The artist will host regular open hours and administer a test to gauge creative inspiration. Upon completion of the test, the applicants will receive a personalized license to make art. Opening day is Sunday, April 8, noon to 5 p.m. After that, the hours will be Sundays and Mondays, noon to 5 p.m. The installation is located at 930 Commerce Street, Tacoma.

Norlund’s Artistic License Department is marked by a big banner that shows off the artist’s skill with fabric and embroidery: one of her favorite art mediums. Born in Tacoma and schooled at the School of Art Institute Chicago, Norlund has been active in the local arts community and is involved with the new Alma Mater arts space on Fawcett Street (subject of the Tacoma Weekly’s CityLife section last week).

“The Artistic License Department,” notes Norlund, “exists as a service to the public. Inspired by an obvious play on words, its intentions are to encourage and support participants’ creativity and imagination. In this performance, participants take a simple test based on fundamental aspects of art-making. They are then issued an art making ‘license’ upon completion of the test.”

Photo courtesy of Spaceworks

By putting art and art making into the context of a familiar and mundane environment such as a Department of Motor Vehicles style situation, Nordlund intends to take away some of the mysticism and intimidating feelings associated with artists and art-making. The Artistic License Dept. intends to serve as a reminder that the ability to create is an innate human quality. Do you need a license to practice art? No, but sometimes evidence that you can is encouraging.

This project is part of Transform: Theater District culture and transportation plan development. Project partners are Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, Pierce Transit and City of Tacoma. The project is partially funded by Art Works.

This planning project explores how we can improve the design, function and programming of public spaces and streets in the Theater District. The goal is to engage residents, workers, businesses and transit users in shaping the future of the Theater District.

The Transform plan looks at ways to strengthen and improve the Theater District as a whole, with a focus on the heart of the district at Theater Square, Broadway and Commerce Street.

For more information visit

In related news, the next SpaceWorks information session is coming April 2, 6:30-8 p.m. at the People’s Community Center, 1602 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Tacoma. Learn about how to apply your ideas and ingenuity to make better spaces for artists, better home-grown businesses and better community. From growing your business through incubator and co-working programs to elevating your artistic profile through Artscapes, Spaceworks will help make your dreams a reality.

Learn more about four Spaceworks programs and services including Artscapes, Incubator, Special Projects and Coworking at this workshop. Go to and click on the “Join an info session” button.

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