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Arts and culture

The Washington State Historical Society is collaborating with Write253 on a poetry event to honor Martin Luther King Jr.
Washington State Historical Society

In Tacoma, the observation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day is typically marked by celebrations, workshops and performances across the city. But this year, civic-minded organizations are finding ways to engage participants from a distance. The Washington State Historical Society, in collaboration with literary arts organization Write253, is doing this through poetry. 

Steven Schardt / Courtesy of Megan Griffiths

Author’s note: My most memorable story from 2020 was about honoring the legacy of Seattle-based filmmaker and television director Lynn Shelton. She died unexpectedly in May. I talked with her friend and fellow filmmaker Megan Griffiths about the posthumous Emmy nomination Lynn received and about the efforts to honor her in the Seattle film community. Megan and I discussed the “Of A Certain Age” grant created in Lynn’s memory, which is being stewarded by the Northwest Film Forum. Since we spoke, the first grant was awarded to Caribbean-American filmmaker Keisha Rae Witherspoon of Miami. Also, at the end of this post, you will find my interviews with Lynn Shelton from 2019 and 2013. (This story originally aired Sept. 18, 2020.)

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." janellequibuyen.com 

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.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Smith-Lewis

Performing arts groups are finding new ways to offer holiday season programs this year due to the coronavirus. In Renton, Evergreen City Ballet is reimagining “The Nutcracker” with a series of films starting Friday.

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. 

A public art installation by Tacoma's Jessica Spring allowed the public to take a poster in exhange for their own messages of healing.
Courtesy of Jessica Spring

If you’re traveling around Tacoma this month, you might see something that makes you smile. On the roof of the First Methodist Church, there’s a giant paper-mache megaphone and “I LOVE YOU ALL” spelled out in LED lights. This is one of 14 temporary art installations, created by public artists who received training and mentorship through the Public Art Reaching Community (PARC) program. Many of the artists are new to public art. 

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.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

UPDATE, Sept. 12: Thank you for attending Pandemic and Protests. If you were unable to attend or would like to view the program again, please see the link below. 

KNKX and Fresh Ground Stories present Pandemic and Protests: A Live Virtual Storytelling Event on Zoom on Friday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m. PDT. Hosted by KNKX's Jennifer Wing and Fresh Ground Stories' Paul Currington. Supported by Story Fruition through its work with new storytellers.

Northwest Folklife Festival has shifted online and will take place May 23-25.
Photo courtesy of Christopher Nelson

Countless staple regional events that typically mark the start of summer have been canceled due to COVID-19. But the 49th annual Northwest Folklife Festival has made the shift to online. “From Home to Home: Northwest Folklife Festival” takes place this Memorial Day weekend. 

Portland Art Museum / Courtesy of the US General Services Administration

Margaret Bullock did not expect the latest exhibition at the Tacoma Art Museum to be so timely. And it’s fair to say she didn’t want it to be timely, either.

That’s because “Forgotten Stories: Northwest Public Art of the 1930s” focuses on a time of economic catastrophe in the United States, when the federal government commissioned artists to paint murals and complete other works, as part of the massive effort to get people earning paychecks during the Great Depression.

Photo courtesy of Amy Piñon

When schools closed as a result of the pandemic, the local art education organization Arts Corps quickly shifted online. But its teaching artists worried that students without access to internet or art supplies would have challenges continuing their learning online.

So, the organization has been assembling art kits full of various supplies. The kits are distributed at locations mostly in the areas Arts Corps serves, including some school meal pick-up locations.

Tomo Nakayama


Most of the news about airports these days is about empty concourses and cancelled flights due to the coronavirus. But, 23 airports in North America are changing that up today by hosting a live on-line music festival. The JetStream Music Festival begins at 3 p.m. (PDT) on Facebook Live. It’s hosted out of Austin and features musicians who, during normal times, entertain passengers by busking at airports.

Photo courtesy Joseph Lambert

Arts, cultural and scientific nonprofits in the central Puget Sound region could face up to $135 million in lost revenue by the end of September. That’s the latest projection from a survey by ArtsFund, a group that supports arts organizations through advocacy and grant-making.

 

Jim Levitt

Over the next few weeks, the King County Council will be considering a $57 million emergency supplemental budget from County Executive Dow Constantine. Within it is a new push to support arts and culture workers and organizations. 

If passed, the bulk of the spending package would send $33 million to continue funding facilities to isolate COVID-19 patients in treatment and recovery. An additional $16 million would be directed in support of small businesses, arts and culture groups, and programs for homeless youth. 

People sit near the fire during a 2016 Silent Reading Party, at the Sorrento Hotel in Seattle.
Christopher Frizzelle / The Stranger

Lots of events have moved online since the pandemic forced bans on public gatherings. 

That includes The Stranger's popular Silent Reading Party. Once a month, people would gather in the Fireside Room of Seattle's Sorrento Hotel and just sit together in silence, and read. Christopher Frizzelle is editor of The Stranger, and co-founded the party about 15 years ago.

In this 2015 file photo, Marina Albero performs in KNKX's Seattle studio. Albero is one of the artists featured in a virtual concert series put on by Town Hall Seattle and Earshot Jazz.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Venues may be closed due to the coronavirus, but there is still a lot happening virtually in the music scene.

Locally, Town Hall Seattle and Earshot Jazz are livestreaming a weekly series on Saturdays featuring local artists. Cafe Racer also has taken its more avant garde improvisational sessions onto the Zoom videoconferencing platform.  Jazz fans can even watch a virtual festival through April 7 that benefits New York musicians.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX


This year marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. The Seattle Pro Musica choir is marking the centennial in an upcoming concert that features songs entirely by American women composers. The concert, "Shall Not Be Denied," takes place March 7-8, the weekend of International Women’s Day.

Curatorial contributor Sasha La Pointe is Coast Salish, from the Upper Skagit and Nooksack Indian Tribes. Many of her tattoos  commemorate her heritage, as do her traditional earrings, made of dentalium shells.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

An exhibition at Seattle's Museum of Pop Culture celebrates tattoos. "Body of Work" provides a historical overview of the genre, along with profiles of some of the most prominent artists based around the Pacific Northwest. And it offers practical tips for people considering getting one for the first time.

It also starts with something new for MoPOP.  

Port Angeles Fine Arts Center

Time was, being called “nerd” was a bad thing.

That is happily different now, says Sarah Jane, gallery and program director at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center, which is home to the exhibit “Obsessed: The Art of Nerd-dom” through March 15. Admission is free.

Seattle poet J Mase III and Vashon artists Beka Economopoulos and Jason Jones will receive a $100,000 award from Creative Capital for the production of new projects

Being black and transgender is at the center of J Mase's work. The poet will collaborate with Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi, a Washington D.C.-based artist, on a book and documentary project called The Black Trans Prayer Book: A Performative Documentary.

The Seattle Times has released its second annual critics poll of the best Seattle music albums of the year. The Times solicited input from more than 20 writers, radio tastemakers and plugged-in media folks. Michael Rietmulder curated the list and joined us to talk about the top five albums. 

5. Reckless Endangerment by Travis Thompson

Tanesha Ross sings during a rehearsal of "Cabaret," along with cast members Azaria Johnson, Natalie Thompson and Alie Orme.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Just before “Cabaret” begins, actor Casey DeCaire, in character as the M.C., walks out on the stage and barks at the audience.

“Before we start, turn off your cell phones!” he shouts in a German accent. “Ja! And anything that buzzes. We have many beautiful actors on the stage. We will not touch you, so please do not touch us.”

Ruth Fremson / Viking

In Timothy Egan’s new book, “A Pilgrimage to Eternity,” the Seattle author walks the Via Francigena, a nearly 1,100-mile pilgrimage from Canterbury to Rome – the seat of the Church of England, to the epicenter of Roman Catholicism.

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