Art of Our City

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KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

When Ela Lamblin was a little boy in Oregon, his father said he wouldn't buy him any toys. Instead, Lamblin's father offered to help Ela build anything he wanted.

Fast forward several decades. Ela Lamblin still builds things at his Vashon Island studio. He and his wife, Leah Mann, landed in the Seattle area more than 20 years ago after they finished art degrees in Atlanta.

Lamblin is a sculptor, but his artwork doesn't just sit there. Most of Lamblin's creations move. And they can be played like musical instruments.

Seagull Project company members in Uzbekistan.
Courtesy of the Seagull Project

When a Seattle theater troupe decided to make the long journey to Tashkent, Uzbekistan last spring, the artists had no idea what was in store for them.

"We had meetings with the American embassy that helped us get over there," says director John Langs.

"They basically said don't do anything or say anything in your hotel room that you wouldn't want your grandmother to hear or see, because you will be bugged."

Karel Cruz, principal dancer at the Pacific Northwest Ballet, ended up in Seattle after being rejected by the Cuban National Ballet for being too tall.
Pacific Northwest Ballet Photo/Angela Sterling

Seattle ballet dancer Karel Cruz remembers exactly how he felt when President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. would begin to mend its relations with Cuba.

"It’s one of those things you don't think is ever going to happen," he says. He shakes his head, still a little overwhelmed. "You look to the sun and say, ‘Is this happening right now?’"

Cruz, 36, lives in Seattle now, but he was born in Holguin, Cuba.  His family moved across the island to the town of Pinar del Rio when he was 8-years-old.

New Seattle Opera General Director Aidan Lang
Facebook/Seattle Opera

The first sign that change has come to Seattle Opera is on the walls.

Many of the temporary partitions that for years divided the Opera's administrative office into a warren of cubicles are gone. The cramped room feels bigger, or at least roomier. There's space to breath.

New General Director Aidan Lang has performed a similar surgery on his corner office. Gone is predecessor Speight Jenkins' couch and stuffed animals. In its place are a neatly organized desk and a business-like round table and chairs.

A still from the music video Mississippi Misfit by Seattle band INLY.
INLY / Vimeo

The camera pans across four bathroom stall doors, revealing a set of legs in each.

It stops at the last stall, where no legs are visible. Instead, a muscular arm reaches down, and Seattle musician Mindie Lind lowers her body to the floor, to the beat of the tune she wrote, “Mississippi Misfit,” performed by her band INLY.

It’s part of Lind’s not-so-secret strategy to create a public conversation about what she calls “Crip Culture” – the issues that people with physical disabilities face every day.

Poet Nora Giron-Dolce at a Seattle bus stop.
KUOW Photo/Marcie Sillman

If you live in King County, you're surrounded by public artworks: murals, sculptures, fountains — you name it. Art is everywhere in this region.

That's due in large part to the county's One Percent for Art Program, one of the oldest in the nation. One percent of public construction project budgets are set aside for art or integrated design for those specific projects.

The people behind "Now I'm Fine," a performance that melds music, comedy and storytelling at On The Boards this week.
On The Boards

It was 2006, and Ahamlefule J. Oluo was not fine. 

"I was very young, in my early 20s," he says. "I had just gone through a divorce." 

His Nigerian father, a man he'd never met and only spoken with once on the telephone, had died before Oluo got to fulfill his wish of forging a relationship with him.

A scene from "All the Way," a play about President Lyndon B. Johnson by Seattle playwright Robert Schenkkan.
Seattle Repertory Theatre

For those of us who came of age in the 1960s, Texas Democrat Lyndon Baines Johnson was larger than life. 

Johnson had years of Congressional politicking under his belt when he was thrust into the presidency after John F. Kennedy's assassination. He used that political experience to change America. The Johnson administration ushered in a new era for civil rights, as well as environmental protections, among other cultural paradigm shifts.

Courtesy Cornish College of the Arts

What do acclaimed dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, drag performer par excellence Jinxx Monsoon and conceptual art darling Sutton Beres Culler have in common?

They are all graduates of Seattle's Cornish College of the Arts.

Courtesy Tacoma Art Museum/Lisa Terry

When we think about blankets, we usually conjure comforting images: babies swaddled in flannel wraps, colorful afghans hand knit by loved ones, puffy quilts that we snuggle under when the weather is cold.

When artist Marie Watt thinks about blankets, she sees the raw materials for sculpture.

Courtesy Book-It Repertory Theatre

Seattle’s Book-It Repertory Theatre is like the "Little Engine That Could."

Courtesy On the Boards

Amy O’Neal is a formally trained white dancer who feels more at home with hip-hop culture and movement than with she does with Western European contemporary art.

Seattle Repertory Theatre/Nate Watters

  Acclaimed playwright Cheryl West’s work has been seen on stages from Washington state to Washington, DC. She’s written for the big screen and for television. This woman knows her stuff.

Courtesy of Seattle Opera/Brandon Patoc

Speight. That's the name that conjures Seattle Opera for tens of thousands of fans.

photo by Benjamin Benschneider, courtesy Seattle Art Museum

It's a Monday afternoon in June, and Seattle Art Museum Director Kimerly Rorschach leans on a metal railing near Elliott Bay at Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park. The sun is shining, seagulls are whirling overhead, and Rorschach is eavesdropping.

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