Art of Our City | KUOW News and Information

Art of Our City

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.

Seattle’s Frye Art Museum has named a new director. Joseph Rosa will become the Frye Museum’s new leader this fall.

Rosa currently directs the University of  Michigan Museum of Art, where he has worked since 2010. He replaces outgoing director Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker.

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.

Seattle’s historic Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute has new leadership, and a new mission.

The new nonprofit group calls itself LANGSTON. Its mission is to oversee all cultural programming at the Central Area landmark.


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.

Beth Barrett cheerfully confesses that she almost flunked the only film studies class she took when she was a student at the University of Iowa.


'Isis' painting by Noah Davis.
Courtesy Frye Art Museum

Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes believes that to be an artist, one must live life to the max.

“I meet people all the time that don’t live full enough lives,” he says. “I’m real adamant about living. If people ask me, I’d be more inclined to say I’m a bon vivant than to tell you I’m an artist.”

Courtesy of Niki Sherey Keenan

Niki Sherey Keenan’s moments of inspiration arrive when most of us are still in bed.

“There might be a sunrise that only lasts five seconds,” she explains. “It would stick with me all day.”

Sherey Keenan recreates these special moments in her dream-like paintings.

Tod Marshall is Washington state's new poet laureate.
Courtesy of Amy Sinisterra Photography

Tod Marshall grew up in the Midwest, but Eastern Washington’s high desert is the place that inspires his poetry.

Marshall, the newly appointed Washington state poet laureate, teaches at Gonzaga University in Spokane. He’s an avid outdoorsman, and he spends much of his free time exploring the nearby vast open spaces.

Linda Hartzell, left, with SCT staff, working on an adaptation of 'High School Musical'
Courtesy of Chris Bennion

Linda Hartzell’s office at the Seattle Children’s Theater is packed with memorabilia. Photos of colleagues, friends and family clamor for space on the credenza behind her desk.

Hartzell’s happy to give details about these mementos, but she pauses when asked about a framed child’s drawing. 

Sarah Rudinoff at the piano at On The Boards.
KUOW Photo/Marcie Sillman

Powerhouse.

That’s the best way to describe Seattle performer Sarah Rudinoff.

Velocity Dance Center Artistic Director Tonya Lockyer at V2
KUOW Photo/Marcie Sillman

Capitol Hill has more artists and arts groups per capita than any almost any other Seattle neighborhood. Now some of those artists have a new place to work, at least temporarily.

Last month city officials announced that the vacant Value Village store in the Pike-Pine corridor would re-open as V2 Arts Space under the management of Velocity Dance Center. 

Open Books, Seattle's only poetry-only bookstore.
Flickr Photo/J Brew (CC BY SA 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/3JQB13

The West Coast’s only bookstore devoted exclusively to poetry is up for sale.

John Marshall, co-owner of Seattle’s Open Books, said after 29 years in the business, he’s ready to retire.

He said the time is right for somebody younger with more energy to shepherd the bookstore into the 21st century.

High Voltage Music co-owner Chris Lomba in his backyard shop in north Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

When Chris Lomba and his partners decided to open a music repair shop, they chose a storefront near the corner of Pike and Broadway on the edge of Seattle's Pike/Pine corridor.

"I've always liked the neighborhood," says Lomba. "Throw a rock and you're gonna hit a musician!"

Musician Wayne Horvitz.
KUOW Photo/Amy Radil

When Wayne Horvitz moved to Seattle, he was looking for a quiet place to chill out between road trips.

He never imagined himself in a symphony hall.

Seattle mystery author J.A. Jance.
KUOW Photo/Michael Clinard

On a damp gray morning, J.A. Jance sits inside the Seattle Mystery Bookshop. Her cheery yellow blazer stands out in all the gloom.

Jance chuckles as she points out a large shelf devoted to her books.

If you read mystery novels, chances are you’ve run across one of them. Jance has published 51 novels, along with novellas and short stories. They’re divided into four distinct series; three are set in Arizona, where Jance grew up.

"Welfare," by Billy Shire. This denim jacket has metal studs, crystal beads and a call bell on the back. The jacket won the 1974 Levis Denim Art contest. In the background, a photo by Sam Haskins.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Tie-dye. Macrame. Fringes and beads.

If you came of age in the 1960s, you’ll recognize these in the signature look of the era.

Maybe you turned your old jeans into a skirt, or embroidered colorful mandalas onto the back of a faded work shirt. In the 1960s and '70s, clothing was as much about personal expression as it was protection against the elements. But did you know you were creating art?

Composer Wayne Horvitz.
Courtesy of Nica Horvitz

Seattle’s Richard Hugo House is a literary center in a large wood-frame house, just east of Cal Anderson Park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

The center’s namesake, the late poet Richard Hugo, might be taken aback by the trendy restaurants and modern condo buildings that now vie for space in one of the city’s hippest and most expensive neighborhoods.

Roger Shimomura's "American in Disguise"
Courtesy Tacoma Art Museum

Roger Shimomura wasn't even three years old when he and his family were sent to the Puyallup Assembly Center in 1942. He celebrated his third birthday there.

That's one of his earliest memories.

Pages