Artists Among Us | KNKX

Artists Among Us

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX


Musician Danny Torres hails from New York and Latin music royalty. But he had family in the South Sound — uncles who retired here. And he’d been coming out west for visits ever since he was a kid. So it made sense that he would eventually put down roots in Tacoma, where for the past two decades he’s been playing hip-hop, R&B and reggae with various bands.


Janelle Quibuyen, holding her depiction of a pinoy boxer at Hing Hay Park in Seattle, shares her Filipino heritage through art.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

"Anyone can call themselves a Creative Director, but it takes history with a team to honor and trust you with that title. So here we are: an experienced and enthusiastic Creative Director named Janelle Quibuyen." 

Del Brown and Najamoniq Todd make up Tacoma-based Mirrorgloss.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Mirrorgloss is the love-magic-alchemy that occurs when Najamoniq Todd and Del Brown combine creative forces. They’ve been a Tacoma dance-pop musical duo since 2012. But very recently, they grew into a trio when Leigh Anthony Jones, aka DJ LBSTR DelaHoya, stepped in.  

Seattle-based artist Rae Akino photographed at Blagden Alley in Washington, D.C. Akino has temporarily relocated to D.C. during the pandemic. That’s her self-portrait, “I AM. (Name Yourself),” on the right.
Charles Marlowe Jr. / For KNKX

Rae Akino’s work makes me uncomfortable; I’ve never been good with my own vulnerability. Her art reminds me of emotions I’ve pushed aside for far too long that need prioritizing.

Paige Pettibon is a multidisciplinary artist with an insatiable desire to explore all the facets of her creativity by boldly diving into wildly varied mediums. And she intends to never stop learning more.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Paige Pettibon wants Tacoma to do more — and be more — for artists.

But we’ll get back to that.

Pettibon (Salish and Black) is a multidisciplinary artist, working in mixed media, jewelry design, graphic arts, Lushootseed language and creative writing – and that’s just the beginning. She has an insatiable desire to explore all the facets of her creativity by boldly diving into wildly varied mediums. And she intends to never stop learning more.

Dance is Victoria Tangata’s first love; it is about moving freely and exploring storytelling. But she also wants to use the power of photography, poetry and film to open people's minds about how Black women/African women move through this world.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Victoria Tangata’s eyes are bright, large and smoky. They either want to tell you a secret or take in all of the secrets your ancestors ever held. She is a proud African woman from Kenya; she moved to the United States at the age of 8. She believes in God. The more I talk with her, the more I walk and relax in my own relationship with God. 

In Seattle, spoken word and social justice are deeply intertwined. For Ebo Barton, their connection to the form is a historical one, dating back to the oral traditions of many Black, Indigenous and other people of color.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

It’s after 1 a.m. at the Capitol Hill IHOP in Seattle. Ebo Barton is sitting in a corner booth with another poet, both of whom had performed earlier at Re-Bar in South Lake Union, home of the Seattle Poetry Slam. A few of us have stumbled in, closing out another Seattle summer night filled with poetry and juvenilia. It’s the first time I meet Barton.

Eric “Blakk Soul” Mercer Jr. is a singer-songwriter from Tacoma who has written songs for industry heavyweights such as Dr. Dre and Macklemore.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Eric “Blakk Soul” Mercer, Jr. is a singer-songwriter from Tacoma. Known as a soul man of the highest order, “Blakk” is respected across the music industry for a haunting, muscular voice and evocative, romantic lyricism. His songs are best described as dispatches from the heart of the modern man through all of its variations and situations.

For Perry Porter, art and activism are one and the same. He may not go out of his way to “Do the whole activism thing,” but it is there embedded in his work. “Sometimes just being a Black man doing what I do is a form of activism in itself.”
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Pablo Picasso once said: All children are artists. But the problem is how to remain an artist once the child grows up. This has not been an issue for Tacoma painter and rapper Perry Porter, whose mother encouraged him to be as creative as he wanted. 

“She made me a very fierce person and allowed me to chase my dreams,” he says. 

Saiyare Refaei stands in front of the Parkland Community Mural project she organized. The mural on the side of the Post Office building spells out “PARKLAND,” with each letter representing a theme drawn from community discussions.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Saiyare Refaei’s art and activism does not prioritize the prestige of spaces like galleries or museums, but rather the value of community. The Tacoma artist’s work lives at the intersection of the issues and the communities affected by them.

“I feel more like this conduit or bridge,” Refaei says.