Art of Our City

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.

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.

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