By George Culver ’12
Pacific Lutheran University has many art students ready and willing to showcase their abilities. Although students have a immense amount of access to various resources on campus to express their craft, it seems that many PLU students could stand to have more artistic outlets in the Tacoma community to express their art. Chelsea Putnam, an art major in her senior year at PLU, has had an overall good experience throughout her artistic academic journey.
“I could not imagine myself anywhere else or WITH anyone else. The experience, opportunity, and knowledge I have earned from the PLU art program has been well worth the endless amount of time and not to mention money I have invested. Studying art…creating art is my passion! Based off my last 3 full years at PLU, there is no place that has inspired me more. Although there are many resources offered, there is no harm in their being more out reaches and facets in which artist can explore, and/or get their name out there”-Putnam.
Fortunately for PLU students, Urban Xchange, a consignment store that offers more than trendy recycled clothing but also a safe haven for local artist, is only a 10 minute drive from campus. With so many students seeking to express themselves through artwork, fashion and music; it is imperative to have a place to be able to express that passion and showcase their art.
Julie Bennet, manager and founder of Urban Xchange, opened the store in 2005. With her bachelor’s degree in visual communication from the Art Institute of Seattle, Bennet sought to open a dwelling that would offer more than just stylish recycled clothing; she wanted to create a place that offered artistic freedom.
“Urban Exchange is about discovering for yourself what you want and who you are. Our motto is Rethink, Restyle, Recycle. We are about empowering people. Come play your music, buy some clothes and just be yourself”-Bennet.
Along with being able to sell, buy, and trade used clothing, Urban Xchange encourages local artist to submit their artwork so that the store can sell their pieces to the public. Brita Johnson, employee at the store since 2005, describes how much of an impact the store has been in the community.
“The main concern of Julia opening the store was for community involvement. The community has flourished in recent years. It’s just a different neighborhood now. I love to see local artist bring in different artwork throughout the years and watch their pieces sell like nobody’s business. It has definitely been a great experience being able to support artist in the community”-Johnson.
For those living in the 253 area code, you might be familiar with a popularized insignia designed in a heart shape with the numbers “253” designed within the heart. This insignia was created by a local artist by the name of Daniel Blue. Bennet described how she witnessed Blue’s journey and success firsthand,
I remember the day so clearly. Daniel had come into the store and told me that he had a brilliant creation. When he showed me the design, at first I didn’t understand it. It took me a while to figure out that he had incorporated “253” into a heart shape design. I was amazed and impressed. Over the next couple of weeks, he printed the design on stickers and T-shirts and sold them within the store. It immediately took off. It is cool knowing that it was birthed right in our store”-Bennet.
Over the years, Urban Xchange has put on several events inviting community members to participate and support different local artist. Recently, the store put on a fashion at Kings Book store. This event showcased different clothes of amateur designers within the community.
Video produced by Sound Playback Production Company
Urban Xchange is a place that artist are welcomed to come and express themselves through the vehicle of their choice. “Whether you are a PLU student or a native of Tacoma, Urban Xchange wants to offer support in any way possible”-Bennet. Whether it is submitting various artworks for the community to purchase, or showcasing different designs at a fashion show; Urban Xchange seeks to nurture the voice of artist everywhere.
“We ALL have something to say. I have something powerful to say! Whether it is important to you is irrelevant, because it means everything to me and you are going to hear it. We all have an opportunity to say it and a WAY to say it. I say it through a universal language… the oldest means of communication known to man; art. Art is my voice. It is HOW I choose to say what I want to say”-Putnam.