Among the extraordinary people in Seattle history who have come here from elsewhere and made our city a better place than it was before, Anne Focke surely deserves high ranking. A California native and visual artist, Focke (b. 1945) traveled northward along the American West Coast in pursuit of a formal arts education and arrived in Seattle during the mid-1960s. After earning an art history degree from the University of Washington in 1967, she founded a local arts organization and gallery space that would become vastly influential during its ten years of existence from 1974 to 1984. The organization’s unique name was and/or, and its inaugural exhibition occurred on the date in focus here.
Located at 1525 10th Avenue in the historic Odd Fellows Temple building on Capitol Hill, and/or was established to provide an alternative space for avant-garde visual art exhibitions, musical and spoken word performances, and other experimental art forms that could not be experienced elsewhere within the Pacific Northwest. Along with Focke, several other local artists helped establish and/or as an arts collective using money from their own pockets, which gave the new organization crucial creative independence during its first year of operation. It would soon attract attention and resulting funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, which allowed it to eventually expand its influence while maintaining its independence.
The inaugural exhibition was strategically scheduled on the twelfth anniversary of the Space Needle’s 1962 debut. Titled The Space Needle Collection of the Seattle Souvenir Service, the exhibition displayed several hundred Space Needle-inspired artworks and souvenirs, including a six-foot-tall Space Needle replica made out of fruits and vegetables.
During its brief lifetime, and/or would attract an astounding roster of avant-garde visual artists, musicians, writers, and other such countercultural cognoscenti. Noteworthy Seattle-based artists who either exhibited or performed at and/or included Walt Crowley (1947-2007), Paul Dorpat (b. 1938), future Rosco Louie Gallery co-founder Larry Reid (b. 1953), Elizabeth Sandvig (b. 1937), Norie Sato (b. 1949), Michael Spafford (b. 1935), and Ze Whiz Kidz. National touring artists featured there included Kathy Acker (1947-1997), Laurie Anderson (b. 1947), Philip Glass (b. 1937), future Seattle Public Library architect Rem Koolhaus (b. 1944), Meredith Monk (b. 1942), Nam June Paik (1932-2006), and Terry Riley (b. 1935).
The founders of and/or never wanted it to become an institution, and so they gradually let it evolve during its decade of dynamic existence. After its final program on August 30, 1981, and/or closed its gallery space and became an umbrella organization comprising four parts: NX Library, a center for contemporary arts materials with an emphasis on periodicals; Soundwork, a composer-oriented new music organization; the Philo T. Farnsworth Memorial Video Editing Facility for artists and independent producers working within the emerging new medium of video; and Spar, a contemporary arts magazine.
After a profoundly productive and influential decade, and/or officially ceased to exist on October 31, 1984, when a costume party wake was held in Pioneer Square after its board of directors, following Anne Focke’s request, discontinued the organization, leaving the various programs it had sponsored to continue under independent legal status.
Sources: Jen Graves, “The 25 Greatest Works of Art Ever Made in Seattle (In No Particular Order),” The Stranger, March 5, 2009, p. 18; Jen Graves, “and/or (Seattle arts organization),” HistoryLink.org, June 26, 2013; Amanda Manitach, “Standing on Slivers of History,” City Arts magazine, June 24, 2014.