Homecoming : Meet the Artists

Homecoming is about embracing and celebrating where we're at - right now - and finding ways to tell truths about the reality of home in hopes of a better future. It's about being unafraid to excavate where we're from and having the courage to return. Homecoming is a parade, a dance, a smear of oil paint on glass, an homage to the past, and a bubbly toast to what's to come.

Experience Homecoming through the lens of 14 artists from our home, Tacoma on April 19th, 2018.

artist spotlight 02: Sarah Gilbert

artist spotlight 02: Sarah Gilbert

We look for signs wherever we go: navigating the freeway, exploring a restaurant destination, searching for the bathroom. We seek out ‘signs of life,’ we talk about ‘telltale signs,’ and excavate our past for missed signs — red flags. We are obsessed with signs and signifiers as a species, always on the hunt for the visible that signals that we are on the right track. We believe, intrinsically, in right tracks and wrong tracks, and any song, poem, or proverb that speaks of paths or tracks will tell you that the right way always leads you home. 

October Update

So, we've been quiet for a while.

Online, that is. Things have been anything but quiet at the Carpenters Building. We've been working to the sweet sounds of nail guns, jackhammers, and the back-up 'beep beep beep' of forklifts. It's getting closer, everyone, and the countdown has officially begun.


If you've passed by the building

on your way to work, or home, or for dinner, it may not look like much has changed. But we have new windows now, and sparkling steel frames for our future elevator, and ducts, and fire sprinklers, and a two-story skylight. In the next two weeks, the view will shift again, and if you peer closely enough, you may see our smiling faces through our windows, because we know what comes next.


:if you lived here you could be home now:

:if you lived here you could be home now:

This is a rendering of what our green space will look like. Today, it is piles of broken up concrete and rubble; container-sized trash bins and construction office-trailers; people in hard-hats and high-vis yellow vests. But in a few more months, it will be you. And me. And hopefully some trees. And a good amount of ferns. 

Our recording studio has a new name.

Introducing Gold Cat Studios. Home of All Her Children Productions and our talented engineer, Mr. Aaron Spiro. You can follow the Golden Caton Instagram.

Upcoming events

Celebrate the 2017 Amocat Arts Award winners at a F R E E event on October 4th called Kaleidoscope; featuring music from some of our faves, art-making, movie-screenings, and dance. More info here


City Arts Feature: A Ridiculously Ambitious Art Space Rises in Tacoma

As featured in City Arts

Monday, August 28, 2017 | by AMANDA MANITACH


On a sunny day in late August, a once-derelict building in Tacoma is swarming with workers in hard hats. The Carpenters Building—a 23,000 square foot complex built in 1954 to house multiple unions—is perched on a high point on Fawcett Avenue. From the rooftop, the view takes in a sweeping panorama of downtown. Nested amid an ever-expanding urban sprawl, the shimmering white of the Tacoma Dome is visible.

The Carpenters Building is home to the soon-to-launch Alma Mater, a monster-sized, multi-use venue that opens to the public early next year. The enterprise is ambitious enough to be laughable and visionary to the point of delusion. But while many a utopian daydream of sustainable, artist-driven space flounders in the imagination, this one is happening, and with an inspired urgency.

“At its heart, it’s an incubator,” says Jason Heminger, a resident of Tacoma for the past 14 years and one of the artists spearheading the project. “We’re designing this place to orchestrate connections, offer up resources, generate mentoring opportunities.”

Heminger is sitting on a couch in a spacious-yet-cozy, light-infused recording studio, flanked by Alma Mater co-directors Aaron Spiro and Rachel Ervin. The low-key setting serves as HQ for now, as the rest of the building is carved up in various stages of construction. Unlike most boxy, soundproof recording studios, this one feels more like a giant living room peppered with analog synths, drum kits, vintage organs and dashes of smile-inducing kitsch. An oversized statue of a gilt cat, fitted with matching vintage gold shades, is perched on a plinth like a funky totem. Despite the duress of construction all around, the studio is functional; Motopony has been recording an album here.

“This project has pretty much taken over our lives,” says Ervin, laughing. Formerly a writer and makeup artist, she was most recently plucked from her job in the advancement department at UW Tacoma—where she also earned her undergraduate degree—so when the three principals were brainstorming a name, the tenor of “Alma Mater” fit.

“It’s like everybody’s a part of the collegiate spirit,” she says. “This is a new kind of school.”

Heminger’s background is in experimental education; he developed agricultural projects for a Montessori school in Colorado. Late in his creative life he began collaborating with Spiro, a seasoned musician and producer. Working with Spiro, he learned the building blocks of writing music and making albums.

“The developmental path of typical artists can be ambiguous, confusing,” Heminger says. “A lot of the motivation for this comes from looking at alternative education models, talking with some investors who were also excited about figuring out more expedited ways for artists to get resources, to get connected. To finds ways of navigating all the confusing art world stuff.”

Investors responded. (Heminger calls it lucky; his charisma suggests otherwise.) A few regional angel investors swept in to purchase the Carpenters Building, otherwise on a track to be razed and replaced by condos, and set the redesign in motion.

The first floor is a labyrinth of interconnected public spaces that will include a cafe, restaurant—they’ve brought on an as-yet unrevealed chef to design the menu—cocktail lounge and art gallery. The beating heart and centerpiece of the space is “a huge-ass music venue,” per Heminger, with a 500-person capacity. Upstairs, the second floor will be additional recording studios, rentable private work studios for artists and a communal space outfitted with kitchen, lounge and other perks for working artists. Seattle-based design firm Lead Pencil Studio, helmed by artists Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo, have overseen the rebuild, retaining elements of the mid-century, industrial vibe and enhancing the deco-cum-brutalist bones of the space, like the curved concrete facade framing the main entrance and foyer.

When finished, the disparate elements of the complex will be intertwined, connected by halls and common spaces that flow into one another. The main stage will be wired to the recording studio, as will be the green rooms, back stage and work lounges.

“There will be some spaces designed for privacy,” says Heminger, “but overall the idea is to create a fluid space that inspires collaboration, where, say, recording artists will be working around people who are making video, graphic design, illustration.”

On the way out, Spiro stands on the rooftop, accessible via the street behind it, as the building is built into a hill. He reminisces about one of the early events they threw on this very roof: a paella-themed dinner party.

“There were around 400 people up here, surrounded by the light of the city as a backdrop,” he says. It was one of the most magical Tacoma moments I’ve been to. It’s not like we’ve built it and it’s gonna happen. We’ve already seen this beauty happening. We’re just going to continue that.”

view the article here: http://www.cityartsonline.com/articles/ridiculously-ambitious-art-space-rises-tacoma

Spring (or the time of year when we get to work with rainbows and ponies)

Last month we held an info session for those curious about working with us when we are officially open. To be sure, our project takes a while to explain. It has a lot of moving parts. We are (or will be, when we open) a restaurant and a bar, a music venue and an apprenticeship program. We are messy space and beautiful space and a space to be entertained and a space to work. And it’s easy to lose focus in the planning of those details that our whole purpose for existence—the force behind our drive—is to carve out a permanent space for artists in our city.                                                      

We know, and you know, that this is a critical time to dig our heels in and stake our claim for the creative working class. Things are changing quickly, and our cityscape is shifting. And while we don’t have all of the answers, we do (and will) have space, time, and support to offer.

Part of that support comes in the form of sponsorship and collaboration. This summer, Alma Mater will be working with The Rainbow Center as a producing partner of the Tacoma Pride Festival, where we’ve teamed up with Groundswell Arts Collective to produce a three-part event celebrating the Northwest’s burgeoning ball and vogue scene and culminating in Tacoma’s first-ever all-style vogue competition called Ball Out! It will be radical, gender fluid, and fabulous. We’ve chosen to partner with Groundswell because of the important work they’re doing in their community: centering the needs and identities of the oppressed and bringing together artists, entrepreneurs, and leaders by creating radical spaces and events to gather and connect. You can read more about their mission here.



We also have collaborations on the horizon with our friends over at Feast Arts Center. We’re big fans of the talented Todd Jannausch and Chandler Woodfin, and think that the work they’re doing is filling a great need in Tacoma’s art scene, so we’re excited to reveal more as we finalize those details.
We’ve been up to some other things, too—like testing our future menumonthly with new and old friends, crashing through giant sections of our building, and recording the latest Motopony album in our studio (they’re also gearing up for several shows soon, including at next week’s Upstream Music Fest, so be sure and check them out—they’ll probably play you something new).

Photo courtesy of Motopony

Even though we’re under construction, our work outside of the building just doesn’t seem to be slowing down. And we’re looking for more: more partnerships and collaborations, more ways to support the work of artists in our city. If you have an idea or project that you’re looking to pull off, or are interested in our space to work in or hold your show/project/experience in when we’re open later this fall, shoot us an email.

Until then, we’ll be over here at the Carpenters Building, chipping away.


Alma Mater is Tearing Down Walls

In case you haven't heard

our building is getting a major update.


We've had a bit of radio silence these past several weeks as we prepped the Carpenters Building for demolition - which has begun! So far, half of the walls on the second floor have been torn down to reveal a large and light-filled space that will open as shared studio, office, and lounge space this fall. Check out our live construction feed (if you're as excited about this as we are). 

Want to work in the Carpenters Building?

There are several ways you can work with Alma Mater when we open:

  • To learn more about our artist development program or how to work out of our artist studios, coworking space, and recording studios, visit our webpage, hit the 'contact' button, and fill out our form. We'll take it from there!
  • For employment, internship, and volunteer opportunities, hit the "work with us button" here.
  • To find out about renting one of our spaces for your future event, email us at info@almamatertacoma.com.

Keep an eye out for news of our next events around town, and remember to add Alma Mater to your contacts list so we don't end up as spam.

Working with Alma Mater

First off, thanks for your patience. A month ago we sent a request out into the world asking for your letters of interest in working with us. The response we've received has blown us away, and the amount of talent that has poured in from all over has us excited to start growing our team. We will begin our interview process in June and July for most positions, with the exception of our food and beverage programs, which will begin in August. Between now and June, we will be holding a few sessions to provide you with all the info you may need before this summer (things like who we are, what we will look like upon opening, and each of the positions we'll be hiring for). We will be sending out those dates and times before the end of this month, so keep an eye out. See you soon!