Kate Monthy ’04 and Dmitry Mikheyev ’10 are, among many things, performers.
Monthy graces audiences as an accomplished ballet dancer and choreographer. Mikheyev, also known as Dominique D’Amour and Mylo Precious, dazzles in drag and burlesque shows around the Pacific Northwest.
While both of them are comfortable center stage, it’s their performances behind the scenes at Spaceworks Tacoma that help fellow artists’ passions flourish.
Spaceworks, a joint initiative of the City of Tacoma and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, launched in 2010 with the goal of activating Tacoma’s empty storefronts and vacant spaces with art and creative enterprise. Today, Monthy and Mikheyev fill two of the program’s five staff positions.
Spaceworks has grown into a backbone of the Tacoma arts community in the past seven years. The organization has partnered with hundreds of do-it-yourself artists, small businesses and fledgling nonprofits, injecting the city’s creative class with the know-how and confidence to thrive.
The foundation of Spaceworks’ mission, Monthy says, is helping local creatives grow their skills, resources and capacity.
“Not everybody knows the 14-point plan to becoming a successful small business owner,” Monthy said. “A lot of times people just have two: the drive and the talent in making something. Spaceworks helps artists learn how to be a bit more business minded, how to write budgets, to plan strategically.”
Monthy, who majored in political science at Pacific Lutheran University, serves as Spaceworks’ development coordinator, a position she says “entails cultivating a lot of relationships in Tacoma with people who are interested in investing their time, money or other resources in our work.”
Monthy’s natural gifts and charisma, her teammates say, is key to the success she’s enjoyed at Spaceworks.
“It takes a certain personality to be successful at fundraising,” said Heather Joy, Spaceworks’ manager. “Kate has such a way with people that it makes you want to join forces with her and do whatever it is she is suggesting you do.”
Before Spaceworks, Monthy learned how to connect with potential donors, volunteers and collaborators while serving as an administrator at Tacoma City Ballet and co-founding a nonprofit called MLKBallet, which provides tuition-free dance lessons to Tacoma-area youth.
“I’m definitely a self-taught fundraiser and nonprofit person,” Monthy said. “I’ve just learned from experience how to cultivate relationships and get people to believe in what you’re doing.”
Mikheyev, who studied art history as well as publishing and printing arts at PLU, is the marketing coordinator at Spaceworks. “My job includes a lot of social media, blogging, feature writing and graphic design,” Mikheyev said. “Other people do the work, and I just talk about it.”
Mikheyev, who grew up in Russia, is quick to downplay his impact at Spaceworks, but his colleagues insist otherwise.
“Dmitry brings to life in stories everything that we do, which is invaluable,” Monthy said. “He bumped the level of all our communications way up. Everything is enhanced thanks to him.”
Mikheyev is also known in the Spaceworks office for his boundless vivacity. “He is full of energy, as a person and as a marketer,” Joy said. “His work always feels bright, fresh and new.”
Monthy and Mikheyev maintain their creative lives outside Spaceworks — Mikheyev as his stage personas, and Monthy as a choreographer and dance instructor at Tacoma School of the Arts as well as Harbor Dance and Performance Center. Arts leaders close to Spaceworks say hiring working artists helps make the program more effective.
“The secret sauce of Spaceworks is that it is a creative organization,” said Amy McBride, Tacoma’s arts administrator. “Having working artists and creatives at the core of it is important to understanding the needs of the community and responding in creative ways.”
Joy believes the trust built between Spaceworks and its clients is a product of the peer-to-peer relationships shared by individual artists and Spaceworks staff members.
“They’re part of that community themselves,” she said of Monthy and Mikheyev. “They’ve experienced the highs and lows of being an artist and small business owner, and they can relate by sharing.”
Monthy and Mikheyev say they’re thankful for the opportunity to serve a program that serves their community.
“It’s wonderful that we get to come to a job where our sole purpose is helping other artists,” Monthy said. “I can’t think of anything better.”