Draw Tacoma

Artists create collectible playing cards

Images courtesy Tacoma Makes

Admit it Tacoma, you’re beautiful.

And we’re not the only ones who’ve noticed. Fifty-four of Tacoma’s most well-known and beloved sights, scenes and stories have been commemorated in a full deck of playing cards featuring the work of 14 local artists.

The brains behind the project are Maija McKnight, a supporter of the arts in Tacoma (She’s also the Auburn Arts Commissioner) and Amy McBride, the arts administrator at the City of Tacoma.  After months of planning and gathering more than $20,000 to back the project via the crowd sourcing website Kickstarter, the two will reveal the cards on Oct. 26,at Amocat Café. The opening show will host the original artwork on display and people who invested in the project will get their cards, posters, etc. and big thanks for making the vision reality.

The two credit the community and culture of the City of Tacoma for making this project possible. “It’s the type of town that if someone does something innovative, it resonates” says McBride. “There is a great support for local projects.”

Within the first six days that the idea was launched on Kickstarter, donations almost doubled the original project goal of $13,000 — the base minimum the two determined necessary to cover production costs. So they boosted their printing from 2,500 to 5,000. The decks of cards will be sold at area businesses for $20.

The collectible cards are literally works of art. Themes range from the picturesque landscapes of the Tacoma waterfront to the quirky representations of notable Tacoma characters. Learn about landmarks and histories long forgotten, like the first sighting of UFO’s over Mount Rainier, depicted in the deck by Parkland native and nationally recognized graphic designer Art Chantry.

Artist Shaun Peterson created a card complete with stunning contemporary Native American artwork combined with traditional imagery and vibrant, glowing colors. Lance Kagey of Beautiful Angle created a card with the eye catching style and bold colors he’s known around Tacoma for.

By incorporating different visual artists with various styles and backgrounds, the deck comes alive by including what is most beloved about Tacoma while still incorporating the unfamiliar. As McKnight explains, the deck allows “each artist to show their own interpretation, their own personal connection to people and places.”

Chandler O’Leary, the founder and artist behind the Anagram Press, is one of the prominent talents who contributed to the project. Her style is steadily being recognized as an aesthetic of Tacoma, with her careful and precise yet undeniably playful designs and drawings. She designed the card box as well as the back of each card.

“For the overall design for the cards and box, I researched a lot of historical playing cards, as well as typography and lettering styles from the 1880s-90s, which is when Tacoma was incorporated and had its first boom times,” O’Leary explains. This stylization is evident on the back of each card, which features a white and navy blue design with a bird’s eye view of Tacoma.

“This is a huge honor for me. It feels like Tacoma has adopted me as much as I have adopted it as my home,” O’Leary said. “What I never cease to be struck by is how beautiful this place is.”

Many other artists feel the same. Elise Richman, a professor at the University of Puget Sound and another artist featured in the deck said, “It’s been inspiring to be involved in celebrating the diverse architecture, compelling icons and beautiful natural setting that makes Tacoma such a rich, vibrant city.”

If you’ve lived and loved Tacoma your whole life, or are just now getting to know it as a trove of treasures, you’ll appreciate what this project has to offer. Meghan Mitchell, another artist involved, pinpoints exactly why the cards will be loved for years to come. “The deck of cards is a really great project that showcases how full of creativity, love, and humor the city of Tacoma and its citizens are.”

Artist Britton Sukys was able to nail down that trait in just a few words —“We’re all fiercely Tacoman.” Above all else, the Tacoma Card Deck proves that it is a place worthy of celebration – and fun.


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