The Arts Issue - In Search of Beauty

Spokane artist Ken Spiering in his workshop

September 01, 2017

By Kate Vanskike
Photo by Zack Berlat (’11)

The colorful metal fish near the Spokane Convention Center, the big red wagon in Riverfront Park, the cougars at the STA Plaza: These are the work of Ken Spiering (’72), who also is a painter, high school art teacher, community leader and mentor to countless artists. Here, Spiering shares more about his life’s passion: “Helping people to see the beauty and art in our surroundings.”

Spokane artist Ken Spiering

role: Perpetuator of Art

keys to inspiration: Nature and how other artists interpret nature

spokane fave: Jundt Art Museum

What are some of your current major projects?

I’m working on a sculpture for the City of Coeur d’Alene and furnishings for the chancel at Whitworth Presbyterian Church, but I’m also executive director of a foundation that started as a fundraiser for Freeman High School’s art department. Art & Soul Foundation now serves the greater Spokane area, providing scholarships and project funding.

Why is Gonzaga’s Jundt Art Museum one of your favorite local treasures?

Jundt is one of the best museums I’ve seen from Montana to Seattle to California. It’s a world-class gallery with tremendous value. Their docents are so giving of their time, and the exhibits are second to none. A recent showing of the Mexican masks? [Crafting Identity by Felipe Haora and others] That’s great art – it inspires me.

What about the Spokane art community excites you?

When I was graduating from GU in ’72, someone asked if I was going to stay here or not. I loved Spokane and figured it was just large enough to make a living doing art. I thought, “I want to be here when Spokane ‘arrives.’ ” And I think it has!

Everywhere you look, there are young artists breaking the stronghold of the art scene once held by the old guard. There’s a start-up focused on traditional printmaking (Millwood Print Works), and there’s Terrain, a community nonprofit to foster the arts. The Spokane Art School is enjoying a renaissance, with increasing enrollments in art classes, and is reasserting its mission, specifically around bringing art to children.

Between your own projects and the community work you do, what are you enjoying most?

Of the many things that are fun are the volunteer positions. As you get older, it helps you feel needed to provide “institutional wisdom,” if that’s the word. In addition to working in my studio it’s a real source of fulfillment in my life.

What’s next for you?

I still have my Airstream dream. I want to paint my way from campground to campground with water colors.

Read more of Gonzaga Magazine's Arts Issue here.