A "fab" future for Tacoma

    People often ask about the significance of the "5" in Fab-5's name.

    For Chris Jordan this questinon used to chafe - but lately, he's come to appreciate the significance of the answer.

    Fab-5 is a group working to empower local youth through the exploration of art and hip-hop culture. They offer classes and mentorship in dance and breakdancing; grafitti, murals and other forms of public art; DJing and lyricism - four of the five key elements that make up what Fab-5 does.

    "But what is that last piece?" Jordan asked Tuesday evening, of an intimate group of friends and family assembled for a celebration of Fab-5's first physical space.

    "The space left is crucial to continuing on. That's a space that we leave for you. That's a space that we leave for possibilities."

    Fab-5 began in 2000, creating by a team of volunteers dedicated to serving local youth, creating safe spaces for them to "gather, collaborate, learn and share ideas."

    For the past 12 years, Fab-5 has moved organically from place to place, surviving on small grants and the support of the community. That all changed when the organization partnered last year with Spaceworks Tacoma - an initiative between the City of Tacoma and Shunpike to fill empty storefronts with temporary art installations and projects by artists and community groups.

    Fab-5 was granted a residency in a Spaceworks building at 1310-1316 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way last summer, as part of the initiative's expansion to Hilltop. Fast forward to today, and in what is being considered a great success for Spaceworks and two local arts organizations, both Fab-5 and N. Dybevik Piano Company have transitioned from Spaceworks residencies into full-time tenants of the building.

    Having a space is significant for the grassroots arts organization.

    "This is a huge moment for us - this is a really pivotal moment for Fab-5," said Kenji Stoll at the Tuesday celebration. "For 12 years ... [we] never had a space of our own. This space is really revolutionary for us."

    Stoll says Fab-5 will use the space to reach more people year-round, and because of it will be able to deepen its impact in the community. Securing a physical location is a step toward sustainability, and ensuring that the organization will be around for the longterm.

    As Tacoma Arts Administrator Amy McBride wrote in an email last week, "it is SO exciting that they are taking the steps to stabilize and grow. We need them for years to come in our community."

    The Fab-5 crew is planning to stick around - but part of that longterm plan means that the organization will need to seek more community support. Tuesday evening was first and foremost a celebration of Fab-5's success, but doubled as the organizations first ever fundraising event. Guests who pledged support had their photos taken with a flipboard stating their donor number.

    The space, dubbed the "FABITAT," brings with it the responsibilities of any physical location - rent and utility bills. Luckily, rent is inexpensive, and so are the talents of the organizations dynamic young staff.

    "Nobody gets a check from this," says program director Eddie Sumlin. "Every dollar goes straight to the students - this is really a community thing. We would still do this without money."

    That said, the Fab-5 will gladly take yours. If just 150 pledge $5 per month, rent and utilities will be taken care of, says Jordan. Fifty people donating $20 per month would cover rent and bills, plus equipment repairs and art supplies. Fifty people donating $50 per month for the next three months would take care of all of the above plus building repairs, including installing mirrors in the breakdancing studio, and looking at starting a t-shirt program to generate revenue. Beyond that, the possibilities are endless.

    Donations and pledges can be made online at the Fab-5 website.

    "We've spent the past 12 years proving to the community that we can do it," Jordan said. "Now, we're inviting support."

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