NEPO 5K DON'T RUN Reaches the Finish Line

NEPO 5K DON'T RUN looked a lot like this. Not enough hairspray or zip ties in Seattle to keep things in place.


A palpable air of melancholy infused the fifth and final NEPO 5K DON’T RUN on Saturday. Tempests of epic proportion kicked up in the morning, strewing a salad of branches and leaves across streets. Some NEPO art suffered as well: the Epoch Battle! lemonade stand on the edge of the Jose Rizal Bridge was reduced to a mysterious, sparkling pile of debris; another installation to a crumpled tarp. DK Pan’s skywriting did manage to materialize, carving the words “TIME IS MEMORY” into the heavens for a brief moment before melting and scattering to the winds. Despite the shitty weather, hundreds turned out for the final stroll from Hing Hay Park in the International District to NEPO House on Beacon Hill.

At the risk of waxing too nostalgic, I had the honor of showing artwork in the first NEPO 5K in 2011 (video looping on a clunky CRT TV plopped on a sidewalk, drawing power from the garage of willing residents along the route). It was a magical event. That initial not-race was borne out of the homespun little empire of NEPO House, a DIY gallery project conceived by artist Klara Glosova and realized in her humble Beacon Hill home. Frustrated by the lack of places to show art in town, she opened her home to the public as an exhibition space in 2009 (“NEPO” is “OPEN” backwards). With all the furniture removed to the basement, she filled bedrooms, bathrooms, dining room, even stairwells with work by dozens of Seattle artists. No inch of wall space was spared. And she invited in the world.

With that same sense of generosity and adventure, she invited the world into her neighborhood, filling the outdoors with more art than any city-sponsored public art program could logistically muster. In doing so, NEPO 5K offered a transformation of everyday passages, parks, bridges, fences, undergrowth and underpasses into a limitless plein air gallery. It was a true derivé in the spirit of 20th-century avant garde artists who imagined urban landscapes as existential playgrounds filled with surprise and wonder at every turn—if we can only open our eyes to it.

But NEPO 5K had to end. Imagine the red tape involved in securing city and park permits, nailing inspections with the fire marshal, acquiring the correct number of Honey Bucket rentals. A skeleton crew of curators, including Sierra Stinson, Zack Bent and Serrah Russell, organized individual artists five years in a row.

Following are a few highlights from the final DON'T RUN. The city will be poorer without it next year. Here's hoping more iterations led by future generations will arrive in its wake.

Vis-a-vis Society's poetic racer bibs waxed a little fatalistic this year.

Claire Cowie and Leo Berk's "Start to Finish" temporary tattoos decoracted participants for the duration of the walk.
Kat Larson and No Touching Ground's "transformations" tucked in an abandoned storefront entry.

An art casuality of the storm.

Coco Allred's "Banana Split"

CARSON CITY by Max Kraushaar. Kraushaar dressed in his grandfather's western wear and buried himself in a six foot hole, with only a spoon in his mouth as a means to escape. "This is about my past year," he said. "I got myself into some situations and have found myself needing to dig myself out." At three hours in, he hadn't made much progress.



This sidewalk embellishment might not have been NEPO 5K-sanctioned but was left out prominently for the walkers.

One of the pieces peeping from Aaron Murray's "The Wonderful Wizard of Odd"

"Sparklefunk" with Peter Dee, Alyza DelBread Monley and Jan Trambauer

Kraushaar did eventually dig himself out and showed up at the NEPO House beer garden covered in dust. "I miss the hole," he said. "Life was simpler in the hole."

A momento from John Osbold's "Bridge Notes (abridged)" that had come loose and blown off the Jose Rizal Bridge. "This bridge was named after Jose Rizal," read one placard tied to the railing that overlooks the confluence of multiple highways below. "If it had been named after Jeff Bridges, it would be called Bridges Bridge."
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