Visual Art Postcard from Thorp
posted by August 7 at 11:29 AMon
The town of Thorp, Washington, doesn’t have a bookstore; it doesn’t have any stores at all. There was a store not far from the fire station, but it burned down in February in a chimney fire. The lady who ran the store used to stoke the fire real good before she left for the night so that the place wouldn’t be freezing come morning. Apparently she stoked it a little too good.
That house to the left is connected to a building with a sign out front that says F. C. Porter. Hanging from the rafters inside is a sign indicating that F. C. Porter sold tools, furnishings, novelties, and shoes, but now F. C. Porter is storage and studio space for artist Justin Beckman (who took the above photo).
As for the fire station, Howard and Lorri Barlow, both artists, bought it a couple years ago and turned it into a home. One downstairs room is full of Howard’s sculptures of babies covered in brightly colored foam earplugs; in the next room is a depiction of the family dog, made by Lorri, out of the dog’s own hair.
In addition to there being no stores, there are no bars in Thorp, and no hotels, and not many people. (The population in 2000, according to the census, was 273.) As of last weekend, however, Thorp has something a lot of towns don’t: a summer festival, consisting this year of about 40 people and intended to be annual. According to the schedule, it’s a festival of “art, beer, food, music, and friends.” It’s put on by the artists who run Pioneer Square’s Punch Gallery, most of whom live in Thorp and commute to Seattle—about an hour-and-a-half drive—every First Thursday. The festival is called Punch Summerfest, although there are those in the Punch crew who wanted it to be called Über Neat Summerfest, and a contingent of three (me and two ladies) insisted on calling it Thorpfest. The three of us set up tents and camped on the lawn outside Justin Gibbens and Renee Adams’s house, which houses Punch’s “satellite gallery.”
We went for the art, the beer, the food, the music, and the friends, but really we were there for the Yakima River. The heart of Punch Summerfest/Über Neat Summerfest/Thorpfest was a five-and-a-half hour raft ride. We lucked into a raft with Barlow (“Captain Howard” written in crayon and stuck into the front of his cap); a sculptor from Tacoma; and someone’s mom. Some of us dove in. No one died.
Afterward, there were studio visits, followed by a dance party at F. C. Porter. Here is a picture of Captain Howard with a Miller High Life taped to his hand.
Most people, however, were drinking SangioPepsi. Two years ago, a nearby winery ran out of storage barrels, bought a bunch of used ones from PepsiCo, and cleaned them out. But they came to learn that the taint of Pepsi is forever. There isn’t a market for wine that tastes faintly of Pepsi, so the whole batch had to be trashed. The Punch guys found out and relieved the winery of 500 cases of the stuff for the cost of the bottles and the corks, about 30 cents a pop. The people of Thorp have been drinking SangioPepsi for two years now.