Art of Our City

Some of the artists represented in "30 Americans" pose beneath a neon artwork created by Glenn Ligon.
Courtesy Tacoma Art Museum

The traveling exhibition "30 Americans" has finally arrived at the Tacoma Art Museum after four years of planning.

"30 Americans" actually features the work of 31 African-American artists, primarily drawn from the private collection of Florida art patrons Mera and Don Rubell.

Pacific Northwest Ballet's corps de ballet dancers in George Balanchine's 'Nutcracker.'
Courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ballet/Angela Sterling

Rock stars have back up bands.

Most Broadway musicals have a chorus.

The ballet version of these supporting artists is the corps de ballet; "corps" is French for body.

Banda Vagas entertains the audience in Seattle's South Park Duwamish River Festival.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

Only a whisper of a breeze drifts off the water on this scorching August afternoon, but temperatures in the 90s don’t wilt the South Park crowd.

Older couples, young parents with their children, even gum-cracking teenagers wait patiently in the shade for the main musical attraction of this year’s Duwamish River Festival: Banda Vagos, a Mexican big band that performs a traditional style of music known as banda.

Shiyogi Kawabata, 88, worked on a wooden chain (below) while interned at Minidoka, a Japanese internment camp in Idaho.
KUOW Photo/Marcie Sillman

At 88, Shiyoji Kawabata remembers the harsh conditions he and his family endured in the Minidoka Relocation Center during World War II.

Ticks. Coyotes. Scorpions. Black widow spiders.

Tenor Lawrence Brownlee clowns around during a Seattle Opera rehearsal for Rossini's 'The Wicked Adventures of Count Ory.'
KUOW Photo/Marcie Sillman

Lawrence Brownlee thinks of himself as a regular Joe.

He grew up in a solid, working class household in Youngstown, Ohio, the fourth of six children.

Brownlee's dad worked at General Motors’ Lordstown assembly plant. The family was involved in their church. They were salt of the earth Midwesterners.

Philipp Mergener, 13, as the lead in the Village Theatre production of the hit musical 'Billy Elliot.'
Courtesy of Village Theatre/Mark Kitaoka

The hit musical, “Billy Elliot,” tells the story of a British coal miner’s son who dreams of being a ballet dancer.

Billy has to keep that dream secret from from his family and most of his friends, or risk their ridicule. Thirteen-year-old Seattle resident Philipp Mergener can relate.


University of Washington conservators Kate Leonard, left, and Judith Johnson in the UW's Conservation Center at Suzzallo Library. Conservators repair and protect 10 thousand rare books, manuscripts, maps and other paper items every year.
KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

In the land of Microsoft and Amazon, a non-digital book almost seems like an anachronism. Why bother with paper and ink when you can download the latest thriller?

Millions of Seattle area residents do just that, at least when it comes to local libraries. The King County Library System reports patrons checked out more than 3 million digital items (including films and music) in 2015, giving KCLS the largest digital circulation in North America.

Varsha Raghavan, backstage at Cafe Nordo in Seattle's Pioneer Square
KUOW Photo/Marcie Sillman

Varsha Raghavan defies the tech-bro stereotype.

For one thing, as a woman, technically she’s not a bro. And while Raghavan works as an Amazon programmer, she isn’t obsessed with all things computer.

The Seattle Chinese Girls Drill Team at the Seafair Parade in 1952. The drill team got started in 1952.
Flicker photo of 2011 Chinatown Parade by Chung Ng, photo courtesy of Ng

Erin Josue was just 2-years-old when her grandmother took her to her first Seattle Chinese Community Girls’ Drill Team practice.

“I started on her back,” Josue says. “I just kept coming after that.”

Seattle pastry chef Kevin Moulder creates magic in his tiny Eastlake kitchen.
KUOW Photo/Marcie Sillman

Some people make art in a sun-filled studio.

Kevin Moulder creates his masterpieces in a hot, noisy kitchen.

Moulder is a pastry chef. For the past decade, he’s turned out hundreds of cakes, each one unique: cube-shaped structures decorated in vibrantly colored layers of thick sugar paste called fondant; traditional round layer cakes iced in graduated shades of blue; even a cougar sculpted in cake.

KUOW photo, Marcie Sillman

Summer at the Seattle Art Museum usually means a blockbuster exhibition, designed to encourage visitors from all walks of life.

KUOW photo, Bond Huberman

Growing up, Valerie Curtis-Newton knew how it felt to be the only African-American in the room.

“There’s a picture of a club in high school. It’s me and a bunch of white girls. There’s this picture of the softball team; me and the white girls!” She pauses. “I’ve spent a lot of time being the only one in environments that are largely white.”

Decades later, she says that’s still a common situation.

Jody Kuehner, left, without her makeup, and Jody Kuehner as Cherdonna, right, with her makeup.
KUOW Photo/Lisa Wang

The woman with the dirty-blonde pixie cut sits before a mirror.

Plastic bags with jars of yellow foundation and purple and blue glitters sit in front of her. Nine makeup brushes are lined up, waiting to be deployed.


Francisco Hernandez poses with his beaded Virgin of Guadalupe in his White Center apartment
KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

Francisco Hernandez ushers guests into the tiny living room of his modest White Center apartment.

He shows off what looks like a large, colorful painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Close up, you can see it’s not a painting; Hernandez has rendered the Virgin in thousands of tiny glass beads.


Terry Crane, artistic director of Seattle's Acrobatic Conundrum.
KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

Snoqualmie native Terry Crane has always been a climber.

“There are pictures of me climbing fences when I was two,” he laughs.

But Crane didn’t find his climbing bliss until he was 19. That’s when the circus rolled into Oberlin, Ohio, where Crane was a student at Oberlin College.

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