Olive Showcases Community

James Kennedy

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Photo by Jade Blake-Whitney

When heading to a café or restaurant, the first thing on one’s mind is usually food. The Olive Café and Marketplace is still very much about stimulating your taste buds, yet with an additional focus on art exhibition, the downtown café steps apart from the crowd by stimulating your eyes as well.

“We’ve always featured art on the walls since we opened,” said owner and art director for Olive Tabitha Crenshaw.

The café started by exclusively showing the work of Seattle artist Eric Andrews, but after he had to pull his work for a separate exhibition, Crenshaw decided to feature a rotating selection of local artists, with new work displayed every four to six months. The displayed artist then has the option of holding an opening or closing reception during that period, which is accompanied by appetizers and drink specials.

The selection process varies based on the artist; sometimes Olive seeks out a local artist to display, and sometimes the artist approaches Olive him or herself. The newest featured artist is Dianna Wooley; her opening reception will be held on Thursday, Nov. 21. In an email interview, Wooley described the benefits these showcases give to local artists such as herself.

“The exposure at Olive is a win-win for Olive and for our artists,” said Wooley. “They provide nice hanging space, promotion in their newsletter and the artist is exposed to both local and tourist traffic for a nice period of time.”

The partnership is also profitable, with 100 percent of proceeds from the event and individual painting sales going to the artist.

But the question remains: Why is art so important to an establishment primarily concerned with serving food? According to Crenshaw, the two focuses complement each other.

“[Art] fits into the overall experience,” said Crenshaw.

Photo by Jade Blake-Whitney

While the artwork certainly provides a more pleasant environment for eating and socializing, the desire to help local artist is just one part of Olive’s overall goal: a sense of community

“Really, it’s about community,” said Crenshaw. “Yes, we are a café, but we’re also like a hub … for Walla Walla, as a prominent location on Main Street.”

Crenshaw’s goal is for the café to be a gathering place for members of the community and to bring together local food, local music and local artwork. Through the collaboration between the business and the artist, Olive becomes a connecting link for the people of Walla Walla.

“The artist is … always presenting their exhibit as a collaboration between Olive and themselves,” said Wooley. “I believe such a collaboration … will be a draw for tourists and more local folk that can point with pride to the talent in our community.”

That community spreads to Whitman as well, as Crenshaw said she would be open to displaying student artists should their art fit with the “general ambiance” of Olive. In the end, art really contributes a full sensory and communal experience at Olive.

“It’s our whole vision coming together,” said Crenshaw. “Supporting the community and giving locals a place to hang out and something to do.”

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