Podcast: Talking Alma Mater Tacoma with Rachel Ervin and Aaron Spiro

hosted by
marguerite martin


alma mater tacoma wa

About This Episode

Rachel Ervin moved to Tacoma in 2007. She resided in Seattle before that for 3.5 years but moved to Tacoma because she had a baby and couldn’t handle living on First Hill. She currently lives with her husband and children in a split level in the West End, which attracted her due to the late 60’s architecture and suburban vibe. If Aaron Spiro uses the term, “the other day” it could mean yesterday or years ago, due to his self-proclaimed, “no sense of time.” That said, he was born and raised in Seattle and moved to Tacoma about 13 years ago. Though they had driven through many a time, dreading the reputed Tacoma Aroma, they came to visit once, viewed the cityscape from the 705, noshed on Thai food at Wild Orchid and were sold. Spiro currently resides in the North End.

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Show Notes

The Space: Alma Mater Tacoma at 1322 South Fawcett, is a live music venue, artist co-working space, café and lounge all wrapped into one. The grand opening of Alma Mater takes place the weekend of April 19, with festivities occurring each day through Saturday the 21. Festivities include an all ages dance party with DJ Eddie Bermuda and Sassy Black (Thurs), Live Music with Deep Sea Divers, SISTERS and Smokey Brights (Fri), Lucha Volcanica and Filthy FemCorps (an all ages afternoon show Sat), and Lucha Volcanica and Gritty City Sirens (21+ Sat Evening). Other festivities include art installations throughout the space. Ervin describes the space as an artist driven work, performance and hospitality space. “We don’t need to build community, we just need a place to connect them and have conversations from different communities.” This space hopes to facilitate those conversations. The Origin: The space has been a work in progress for 3 years now. Ervin and Spiro talk about the project’s roots beginning with founder, Jason Heminger talking about how physical space matters and inspires people to look at things and work in different ways. Heminger’s background in the arts and education really laid the foundation for what Alma Mater would evolve into. An investor befriended Heminger while working together in the education world and believed in his vision as a musician who wanted to explore what it takes for an artist to sell their work. At the core of what Alma Mater is doing is the artist incubator. The leading questions are what is it and how can we help you achieve your goals? Resources will include coach led mentorships focusing on the music studio. A 6-month program will come on line a bit later. The café, Honey and venue, Fawcett Hall are already in full working order. Next to follow will be the lounge Matriarch with the workspace and incubator to finish it all off. Honey Café offers up well executed espresso made with Heart Coffee paired with elegant and compelling brunch bites crafted by chef, Kyle Wnuk. Open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. the space boasts open, airy vibes with plenty of USB ports. The Matriarch Lounge will officially open in a few weeks. The menu will highlight a passion for carefully crafted libations paired with small plates highlighting big flavor. Shows being booked in the 500-person venue are elevated the live show scene on a local level. The first show hosted at Fawcett Hall was coordinated by Danno Presents and SOLD OUT. And there are already an itinerary of shows to look forward to thanks to the booking team, with Spiro leading the helm including acts booked by The Warehouse Team, Darryl Cruz. Many ask what it’s all about, what is this space for? Ervin says, "It’s for artists in Tacoma and their patrons and it’s about wanting to change the way a city interacts with artist.” Key concepts Alma Mater is trying to support includes accessibility, and a sense of ownership of the space on all different levels for all artistic communities. The space aims to be as reflective of Tacoma and the people who reside and create here as possible. In closing, Spiro wanted to express the reason the group chose the name that Ervin articulates so well. The name of the space, Alma Mater also translates to “Nurturing Mother” or spirit mother in Latin. Though schools have adopted it, and Alma Mater Tacoma has an education spirit at its core, the space as a whole is meant to nurture artists and provide a safe, nurturing, open and progressive experience for all without people feeling judged or that they don’t know enough or that it’s inaccessible. The name carries throughout the space with Mothership Studios, Honey Café and Matriarch Lounge.