Art of Our City

Madeline DeFrees in 1967. The poet, formerly a nun, would tuck an envelope and pencil into the deep pockets of her habit to write when she had time.
Lee Nye via MadelineDeFrees.com

Madeline DeFrees published her first poem at the age of 12.

It was called “Sympathy,” written for a Portland newspaper poetry contest.

Seattle artist Fay Jones created this mural in the Westlake bus tunnel in the late 1980s.
Metro King County

Even if you don’t know her name, you’ve probably seen artist Fay Jones’ work.

She created one of the giant murals on the walls of Seattle’s underground Westlake Transit Station. It's a 10-foot-high, 35-foot-long fantasia of men, women and fish.

Artist Lois Thadei in woven hat, photographed at Ginger Street in Olympia during Art Walk.
Courtesy of Kay Shultz

Lois Thadei’s full name is Lois Chichnikoff Thadei.

But everyone calls her Louie. She says white people have a hard time pronouncing her name.

Moises Castro, Reginald André Jackson, and Riley Shanahan in an Intiman workshop of 'John Baxter Is a Switch Hitter'  at the Intiman.
Photo by Jeff Carpenter

  Intiman Theatre’s Andrew Russell remembers exactly how he felt in 2011, when the venerable Seattle company shut its doors in the middle of an artistic season.

“Well, heartbreak. Absolutely heartbreak,” he says. “And confusion and anxiety and all of those things that happen when the human body faces something that’s unexpected.”

Leija Farr, Seattle's new youth poet laureate, calls poetry a form of "self-healing."
KUOW photo/RadioActive staff

Seattleites love their poetry. The city is home to one of the nation's few poetry-only bookstores, Open Books, in the Wallingford neighborhood.

The Washington state poet laureate, Elizabeth Austen, is a Seattle resident. And the city recently decided to create a Seattle poet laureate position.

Seattle Playwright Yussef El Guindi.
Courtesy ACT Theatre

Seattle-based playwright Yussef El Guindi was born in Egypt. But he feels more at ease in his adopted home.

"Egypt is always going to a part of my background, my heritage," he says. "But I've been here 30 years now. I definitely consider myself American."

Lara Davis is the arts education manager for Seattle's Office of Arts and Culture
Seattle.gov

Once upon a time, when you were young, you probably painted pictures, sang songs and danced yourself dizzy.

Many artists and arts educators believe that making art is second nature to humans. And they believe it helps kids learn. But somehow, by the time children reach their teens, many lose their enthusiasm for creative activities. Experts say that lack of arts curriculum in schools may be to blame.

PNB soloist Kiyon Gaines in Twyla Tharp's "Waiting at the Station."
Courtesy PNB/Angela Sterling

Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Kiyon Gaines says he didn’t find ballet -- ballet found him.

The Baltimore native didn’t start dancing until he was 10. He studied tap and jazz. Somebody told him that ballet lessons would help him with how he carried his arms. So his mother enrolled him in a local class.

Artist C. Davida Ingram's exhibition, "Eyes to Dream: A Project Room," is a rumination of what it means to be black and female in America in 2015.
Courtesy of C. Davida Ingram

The smell.

That's the first thing you notice in C. Davida Ingram's exhibition at the Northwest African American Museum.

It smells like the sea: fishy and briny, with a sort of musky undertone. You can trace those aromas, in part, to a white dress that's hanging on the gallery wall. Thousands of tiny fish that look like minnows or sardines are sewn onto the fabric.

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. 

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