Art of Our City

Eli and Oliver Abrahamson at home in 2012.
KUOW Photo/Marcie Sillman

Memorial Day weekend in the Seattle area means barbecues, camping trips and the annual Northwest Folklife Festival.

This four-day festival of folk traditions convenes again Friday, May 22, at the Seattle Center. Attendees can experience everything from do-it-yourself drum circles to square dancing to a bevy of string bands.

Three years ago, we introduced audiences to the Oliver and Eli Abrahamson, two boys who got their musical start busking at Folklife. At the time, they and their parents performed together as the Smalltime String Band.

Meditators at Seattle's Frye Art Museum during a recent weekly session.
KUOW Photo/Marcie Sillman

Five years ago, Frye Art Museum senior deputy director Jill Rullkoetter was casting about for the perfect public program to accompany an art exhibit called "Seance" which featured the work of German artist Albert Von Keller.

"He depicted images of women in seances, and kind of having these out of body experiences," Rulkoetter explains.

She wanted to create some kind of participatory event that would bring museum-goers into the spirit of this artist's work.

courtesy ACT Theatre

Any way you slice it, a half century is a milestone to celebrate.

And that’s exactly what Seattle’s ACT Theatre plans to do this 50th anniversary year.

But celebrations can be bittersweet.

Trimpin and Ludovic Morlot
Courtesy Seattle Symphony

Trimpin is the kind of artist who defies neat description.

The German-born artist is a sculptor. He uses found objects to create large installations that move.

But Trimpin doesn’t just create kinetic sculpture. His artworks are musical; he uses wildly disparate objects -- a line of wooden shoes, huge bamboo cylinders -- to make artful instruments that perform his own compositions.

Spectrum Dance Theater unveils a new "Carmina Burana" dance performance this month by its artistic director Donald Byrd.
Courtesy Spectrum Dance Theater

You may not know it by name, but you've likely heard Carl Orff's 1937 cantata, "Carmina Burana."

Chorale groups present it, commercials and films use it in soundtracks, and choreographers make dances to it. 

This spring, two Seattle dance companies will present works set to "Carmina Burana."

Donnie Wilburn, who is blind, and her husband Bob Wilburn observe a depiction of the Battle of Little Bighorn at the Seattle Art Museum with the help of a vivid description from museum docent laureate Suzanne Ragen.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Read this description, then imagine the art:

It’s a large ceramic jar, created in the 12th century by the Anasazi people who lived in the Southwest and the Colorado plateau.

The decoration on the jar is black and white, and there are stripes, likely to represent rain. Jagged embellishments could mean lightening.

“Then strange little hands, some with five fingers some with six fingers,” says docent Suzanne Ragen, who leads tours for the visually impaired at Seattle Art Museum. She has led tours at SAM for 50 years. 

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.

Ohio-based artist Ann Hamilton has a $1 million grant from the city of Seattle to create art for Piers 62 and 63.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Visions of a post-viaduct waterfront graced with million-dollar art are rising above Seattle’s stalled tunneling project.

Justin Huertas, center, and fellow "Lizard Boy" cast members William A. Williams and Kirsten deLohr Helland.
Courtesy Seattle Repertory Theatre / Andry Laurence

Justin Huertas is one of those people who seemingly can do everything.

Only in his mid-20s, he’s already been a musician with the national tour of the hit Broadway show "Spring Awakening." He’s also performed Shakespeare and musical theater.

Jennifer Zeyl
Courtesy of Jennifer Zeyl

Jennifer Zeyl cheerfully confesses that she knows her own mind. She's got a strong vision and she doesn't hesitate to make that vision a reality.

"I found when I first got out here, because I'm from the East Coast, people would react to me like, 'Whoa!'"

She starts to laugh, then turns serious.

Edna Daigre, center, teaches a class for older dancers in Seattle's Central Area.
KUOW Photo/Marcie Sillman

Doris Tunney doesn’t even pretend to be offended when you ask how old she is.

“I’m 86,” she says proudly. “I’ll be 87 on March 26.”

Tunney is petite, with cinnamon brown skin, short, curly white hair and perfect posture. Dressed in denim capris and a long-sleeved cotton shirt, this octogenarian is ready to dance.

photo by Teri Pieper

When you think about a dance performance, you may envision something grand and expansive, like “Nutcracker.” Or maybe a sparkly ballroom competition comes to mind, something akin to “Dancing With the Stars.”

Whatever the dance style, these performances are about bodies moving in space. In this case, big spaces.

Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready with Seattle Symphony Music Director Ludovic Morlot.
Courtesy Seattle Symphony Orchestra

Mike McCready, the lead guitarist for Pearl Jam, gave his first performance for the Seattle Symphony when he was just a kid.

"I was 12 years old," he says laughing, "and my band Warrior played a Symphony fund-a-thon underneath the Monorail."

Now McCready gets a chance to make music with the orchestra.

lelavision
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."

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