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Three pairs of creative collaborators who are South Sound originals

Michael Lent and Jared-Pappas Kelley

Partners in life and work, Michael Lent and Jared-Pappas Kelley are video artists and arts entrepreneurs. They founded ArtRod, a nonprofit dedicated to installing art exhibitions in nontraditional public spaces and also created the unique Tollbooth Gallery, an old kiosk standing on Broadway near 11th Street, billed as “the world’s smallest gallery.” They founded the quarterly arts publication Toby Room in 2001 and they have been active in Tacoma Contemporary which installs art in the windows of the old Woolworth building downtown. Their newest endeavor is Critical Line, an art gallery at 741 St. Helens. “We think of ourselves first and foremost as artists,” Lent says. But it is as curators and arts promoters that they have made their mark in Tacoma — so far.

— Alec Clayton


Joséphine and Paul Zmolek

 “We are both strong-willed, passionate, driven and highly opinionated,” says Joséphine Zmolek. “It’s amazing the collaboration works.” She’s describing her 19-year relationship with Paul, her husband, business partner and co-artistic director of Barefoot Studios and Callous Physical Theatre in the Dome District of Tacoma. Though they’ve been in Tacoma a scant year and a half, their contribution to the creative community has already been recognized by back-to-back awards from the Tacoma Arts Commission and the Pierce County Arts Commission. Their background is in dance, which they approach as theatre (“To dance is to be human,” says Paul); both have formal music training, as well. It’s hard to tell who does what in their collaboration. “Now the way I was and the way she was,” says Paul, “is the way we are together.”

 — Margaret Payne


Ken Swarner and Ron Swarner

Siblings Ken and Ron Swarner grew up together in the newspaper business. They’ve seen and done it all – from delivering the papers to (now) calling the shots. In October, they bought the Weekly Volcano from their father, Tom Swarner. The brothers created their first publication when they were pre-teens: “Vids,” a monthly review of movies on VHS. They work together every day, Ken on the business side and Ron on the editorial side. What holds their creative partnership together? Their differences, they swear. Ken wears a Christmas tie. Ron’s shirt is unbuttoned a third of the way down his sternum. Ken writes a syndicated column on parenting. Ron snowboards and makes the rounds of local art galleries. Ron claims to be a “creative perfectionist.” Ken nods his head.

— Bond Huberman

Photos by Jeff Caven

See more in the January 2007 issue   →