Why run when you can walk? Seattle’s NEPO 5k Walk Don’t Run 2014

Walk don't Run Sculpture

“It’s all downhill from here”, start line of NEPO 5k Don’t Run 2012. Photo by Eric Becker.

In 2011 writer and curator Klara Glosova opened up her home as an ad hoc gallery known as NEPO House (“open” spelled backwards). She invited Seattle denizens into its domestic nooks and crannies to view the work of local artists, both well-known and not so well-known. Glosova, who has defined the space as “a homing device for experimental, multimedia projects,” didn’t stop there. Soon afterwards the Czech Republic transplant helped organize an annual 5k traipse through the city’s core that lasts but one day, and which has become one of the metropolis’ most anticipated annual events. Of course, “anticipated” suggests that participants know what they can expect. They can’t. The attraction of NEPO 5k Walk Don’t Run relies on expecting the utterly unexpected.

Walk don't run Sculpture

NEPO 5k participants looking at an installation in Daejeon park. NEPO 5k Don’t Run 2013. Photo by Kari Champoux.

Originally the organizers toyed with the idea of a marathon. When they were unable to secure the necessary permits for a running event they asked participants to take it slow. And with good reason. Each year approximately 50–60 site-specific projects guide walkers from Hing Hay Park in Seattle’s International District to Glosova’s home in the residential neighborhood of Beacon Hill. In 2013 the event included synchronized dancing, a carnivalesque peepshow, fire juggling, and objects of the wild (like trees) branded as art—call it a modern, arboristic take on Duchamp’s urinal. Why, with all this, would anyone want to sprint?

Walk don't Run Sculpture

“L’apres-midi d’un Pham” a performance by Mike Pham. NEPO 5k Don’t Run 2011. Photo by Zack Bent.

Now in its 4th year, the walking and gawking en route is only part of the experience. The four curators enlisted for the 2014 walk (Sierra Stinson, Zack Bent, Serrah Russell and Glosova) round out the event with DJs, a Drink or Don’t Drink Garden, Food Trucks, live music and curated finish line performances. Performers along the route traditionally activate the city by taking advantage of oft-unused sections of Seattle like freeway underpasses, bike paths, and dilapidated garages. The website motto for NEPO 5k Walk Don’t Run sounds like a family friendly poolside warning: “Hop, skip and jump—just don’t run.” Glosova has just completed a series of paintings titled soccer mom.  She’s used to incorporating art into life. Now she’s making it easier for the city of Seattle to do so too.  At NEPO House pillows, closets, kitchen cabinets, and bathtubs can act as a stage (or not), making it possible for mundane, often overseen goods to take on strange sculptural and symbolic meaning. It might signal the end of the white cube as we know it, but it literally opens the door to a big beautiful world.

By Suzanne Beal

NEPO 5k Walk Don’t Run 2014
Saturday, September 6, 2014


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