First came Marina Abramovic re-creating classic pieces of performance art at the Guggenheim, and people digging it and talking about it.
Then came Marina Abramovic sitting in a chair staring at people at MoMA while other performers re-performed her own early works, and people lost their minds over it.
Somewhere in there came the Marina Abramovic movie, which was largely content-less if you didn't count her narcissism. People loved it!
Then came Marina Abramovic and Jay-Z. There were no words, except "The Day Performance Art Died," on Hyperallergic.
Now come these brilliant quotes on the front page of yesterday's New York Times:
Lindsay Zoladz, a writer at Pitchfork, an online music publication, wrote on Twitter: “The video in ‘Infinite Jest’ that entertains you to death has finally come.”
“I respect Marina a lot in the overall sense, but I think the art world has lost its mind,” said Amelia Jones, a professor of art history at McGill University. “I keep wondering what’s next — is she going to set up her own small country somewhere?”
NOW YOU ARE FULLY UP TO DATE ON MARINA ABRAMOVIC NEWS.
How will we ever begin to address the fact that Marina Abramovic is taking over the world? BY PUBLICIZING HER, OF COURSE. Oh, media. We are screwed. Witness: this post is about Marina Abramovic. Wah-wah.
P.S. UPDATE: Frizzelle wanted "my take" on yesterday's story, so here it is. He feels it needs explaining that it is no accident that I am not linking to the New York Times story, or to any other Marina Abramovic news. Soon enough she will have her own news agency that will send dispatches straight into your brain, anyway.
Many of the galleries in Pioneer Square adhere to the monthly First Thursday schedule, changing shows faithfully every four weeks. But a significant handful also do six-week shows, and tonight there's a confluence of strong openings at First Thursday stalwarts: James Harris Gallery, Platform Gallery, G. Gibson Gallery, Prole Drift, and the newer Bryan Ohno Gallery.
Given the way the sun is holding up out there now, you might want to make a little evening of it.
Earlier this year, ArtNews editor Robin Cembalest wrote that the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts's big Peru exhibition—a version of it opening Thursday at Seattle Art Museum—was not your father's Peru exhibition.
She wrote (emphasis mine):
Lately—reversing centuries of discrimination—the art made after the Spanish conquest has been edging out pre-Columbian on exhibition schedules. The Philadelphia Museum just opened “Journeys to New Worlds: Spanish and Portuguese Colonial Art from the Roberta and Richard Huber Collection.” The Brooklyn Museum is planning a show exploring ways that New World colonial society used art objects to help create a notion of home. And this May, the Denver Museum will include a selection of Spanish Colonial paintings depicting Native textiles in its museum-wide “Spun” extravaganza. “Fashion Fusion” features some bizarre combinations of cross-cultural pollination...
The Montreal exhibition defines Peruvian identity by tracking symbols and myths that emerged hundreds of years before the Spaniards arrived—how they were manifested in pre-Columbian civilizations; how they persisted, submerged, in the post-Conquest era; and how they were reclaimed and reasserted in modern times.
Yay for museums entering the era of postcolonial studies! But... before there's too much shoulder-patting, the Spanish conquest is certainly not the only influence on Peruvian art and culture.
I'm all curiosity heading down there this morning, ready for glowing. "Kingdoms of the sun and moon"! Seattle needs glowing.
The first artists in the world may have been women rather than men. American archaeological anthropologist Dean Snow shares his findings that most of the handprints in caves 20,000 to 40,000 years old were female, not male, as had been assumed.
Her largest painting at Cornish is completely, mesmerizingly queer, a scaly thing, untitled, dated 2013, measuring 80 inches high by 60 inches wide. It is the kind of painting an entire book could be written about. Something big and dark is looming in the lower right of the picture like a rock, but it's not solid; dark halos radiate from its edges. It tilts forward. It feels like suddenly coming upon a leaning old tombstone in a blizzard.
It started out as a funeral procession at the museum on a blustery September night. There was a hush in the gallery, even as a thousand people streamed through. No one had died, but people were still crying, and, exiting through the same door they'd gone in, acting like they'd seen ghosts.
Veteran Seattle documentary filmmaker Heather Dew Oaksen spent 20 years making Minor Differences. She didn't mean to. It just wasn't enough to meet and talk to five kids while they were in maximum security lockup, though—for her or for them.
So they ended up forming long-term relationships. The movie follows all five youth 18 years later, too.
Two of the subjects plus the filmmaker will be at SIFF Film Center on Monday night to talk and screen excerpts from the movie.
The Vera Project's Diversity Committee is hosting the conversation, about race, criminality, and youth imprisonment, kicking off a Social Justice Fall Workshop Series on Indigenous People's Day.
The event is free.
The full press release is here.
I reached Grade on the phone just before he left for the airport. He's headed to the part of Iceland that's in the Arctic Circle, and he's going to spend the next three years—and the Arts Innovator Award money—creating work based on research he's doing in the Arctic Circle, from Iceland to Siberia to Finland to Alaska. He's meeting with experts and looking at the lands.
Plenty of people have heard about the dramas of coastal villages falling into the sea. But there's quieter and literally deeper change happening farther inland, Grade said, where the melting of pockets of ice folded inside layers of the earth is causing the land to buckle and bulge and depress.
"And then there's the whole issue of what do I make? I know I want to make something that has a presence in museums and can travel, but I think it also needs to be something that happens on site [in the Arctic] and might be there for years," Grade said.
Grade is known for journeying with his sculptures, carting them out into the wilderness or down to the sea, allowing them to record the marks of time and weather.
Shields, in a phone conversation, said "I can't imagine a more meaningful award to me." He's won lots of awards, but this one stands out.
Getting off the bus this morning at Convention Place Station, I noticed with pure joy a strangely shaped planter that reminded me immediately of one of my favorite buildings anywhere ever, which is in my hometown: The Egg.
I had no idea who made it, but I suspected an artist. There are several planters out there, in different shapes, each one kind of just this side of whimsy, clever but not necessarily calling attention to itself, and made of a mix of rough concrete and fine smooth granite. The one I liked, the Egg-ish one, also reminds me of a toilet, which puts me in mind of this Stranger Genius Award winning artist, whose public creation at the Tacoma convention center is stunningly radical.
I Googled the Egg planter and found another radical: Maren Hassinger, the black performance artist born in 1947 in LA, who began as a dancer and became director of the Rinehart School of Sculpture at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore—in addition to showing her work everywhere from the Museum of Modern Art to my bus stop.
It was 1989 when she made the Convention Place Plaza planters. They were inspired by bonsai.
Bonsai were not be the only influence, though. The planter in the photo above, I found out with a little Googling, gets it shape from the "curvaceous" elevator button you pressed to get to the Cloud Room at the Camlin Hotel across the street from Convention Place Plaza.
From a Seattle Times report in 1990:
Four of the plaza's planters were designed by Maren Hassinger of New York, who has formed links to the surroundings in both art and horticultural language. A tiny Asian rock-and-moss garden nestles in a rectangular planter with granite detailing over concrete. Another planter rounds intriguingly to its base - a good example of art influenced by environment, since Hassinger stayed for a while at the nearby Camlin Hotel and found herself admiring the curvaceous elevator button marked "Cloud Room.''
To my chagrin, I never did make it to the Cloud Room—it was gone by the time I moved to Seattle. But I've heard tell about the legendarily beautiful, full-view penthouse bar of the historic Camlin Hotel, which a decade ago was sold to a hotel chain that turned the Cloud Room into private penthouse suites.
Hassinger, not knowing how scarce it would become, brought a little of the Cloud Room's elegance down to street level. Back then, street folks couldn't make it up there, but average Joes, with a little gussying, could still ride up to their special occasions on the top of the hotel. Maybe this is a parable about the disappearance of the American middle class. Or maybe a planter is a planter is a planter. Up to you. I still think the fact that it's at "Convention Place" is pretty funny.
Below, an intense 2004 performance by Hassinger. I recommend watching it full screen with the sound way up.
Hrag Vartanian has a story on Hyperallergic about Banksy's new video of a Syrian rebel attack resulting in the death of Disney's Dumbo. Vartanian calls it "innocence lost" work by Banksy. The artist is certainly not choosing sides, or is he? The Syrian rebels featured in the footage seem like deranged people attacking lame fictional targets. I'm not sure how Vartanian found out it was altered Syrian War footage rather than the generic footage Vartanian says people will be more likely to think it is when they watch it without being told. Is the genericizing an intentional artistic device, a blurring of one war into many?
Anyway, here is Vartanian's piece about that and two other Banksy projects in New York right now (one a lit spectacle in the back of a van). You can watch Banksy's one-and-a-half-minute video for yourself:
David Hartt talked his way into the Johnson Publishing Company—the once-proud first black business to have its own building on Chicago's Loop, home of Jet and Ebony magazines—just before the company announced it would have to downsize and move from its iconic headquarters.
The headquarters had been built in a heyday both for magazine publishing and Civil Rights. When the building opened in 1971, it boasted of having the largest collection of African and black American art in the United States. The architecture and finishings were designed to within an inch of life, from test kitchen to makeup studio to the library.
Hartt took photographs and video in the last days of the building. From his footage he created the installation Stray Light, now visiting the Henry Art Gallery at UW. Stay tuned for a review. A handful of the striking images—of a place made to be photographed—follows.
That's a view looking northwest from the top floor of the Mount Baker Artspace artist housing project under construction on Rainier Avenue where Firestone used to be. I toured it yesterday. The top three floors are 56 units of low-income artist housing ranging from 700 to 1,300 square feet, studio to three-bedroom. The bottom floor is for commercial and shared spaces. Rebecca Morton, project manager (and herself a poet), said it she feels she has 7 or 8 "serious tenants" of 12 commercial spots, but no leases have been signed yet. (Artspace prefers small, new, and creative businesses.)
Construction is scheduled to be finished in or by June.
For low-income artists looking for housing: Artspace's plan is to release and take applications in early 2014.
Email Morton for information, or to be put on the interest list. Those on the interest list receive announcements and reminders about the timeline for applying (including upcoming workshops on how to fill out applications), but no other advantage—there is no "waiting list." The ultimate selection process is first-come, first-served, Morton said. I'm planning to find out more about the thinking behind that and the plans in the coming days. Stay tuned.
After a several-year hiatus, Bryan Ohno has opened another gallery of his own, and his first splashy show is Get Naked, a group of female artists who depict female nudes. A temporary wall is erected at the front of the gallery so that passersby on the street don't have to see the female bodies, some sexualized, some not, really. I suppose another effect of this wall is that it makes some people feel excited to go beyond it. Okay. The subtitle of the show, "The sexualized nude less controversial," is clunkily put but beyond the erection of the wall (the erection of the wall, people), it's a nicely quiet exhibition, full of mixed feelings and complexity rather than the splash the main title suggests.
I keep thinking of Seattle painter Claire Brandt's portraits of herself, like the one above. The grayscale of her skin makes her precisely rendered musculoskeleture look dead and ready for dissection despite its yogic strength. Her facial expression is alert and forceful, almost aggressive toward the viewer. But her hair is pure flirt. The single strand extending onto her face curves like the snake in Eden, ending its curve by pointing directly at the pubic hair between her legs, which leads to a tour of what's hidden and what's revealed about her body, the obscure angle of the breasts and nipples, the hidden vagina. What a series of great, familiar (to me) conflicts this depiction enacts. Here are more of her works in the show.
A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to men is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life. ...This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves.
To be naked is to be oneself.
To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognised for oneself.
Berger's configuration makes me feel a little victimized. Women have been using their doubleness for centuries to great effect, highly creatively, trying to maximize its potential as much as limit its damaging effects. Many, many, many artists and writers in all sorts of positions on the gender spectrum have made fascinating works on just this visualization-of-women theme.
Get Naked is uneven, but it's great to see such an elaborately curated group show at a commercial gallery. Ohno pulled together eight artists for the occasion from Seattle, Brooklyn, Beijing, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. He was inspired by the exhibition he organized several years ago by Lynda Benglis, the artist responsible for this legendary dildo episode from 1974.
Other pieces definitely worth seeing along with Brandt's self-portraits: the softly entangled bodies of Sarah Whalen; Amanda Manitach's watercolored maidens baring it all to audiences of skeletons with erections; Yanhong Ma's straight-up sexy surfaces; Erin M. Riley's lush porn weavings; and, last but very much not least, Caitlin Berndt's wildly uneasy echo chambers of paintings resonating with layers of doubt and sex and pride (keep looking, and you'll see more layers). Most of these artists are fully ready for their own solo shows, too. This is just a beginning at Ohno.
Caitlin Berndt's Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad, 2011, and Amanda Manitach's Another Situation (both morbid and sort of hilarious: look at the exasperated expression on her face), 2013, on the jump because of NSFW.
Since I reported last week that 7 of 8 finalists were men for the biggest annual arts award in the region—the Artist Trust Arts Innovator Award for $25,000 each to two individuals per year—several artists have asked the natural follow-up question:
wonder what the original applicant ratio was?
Lila Hurwitz, spokeswoman for Artist Trust, was one of the people to Like that comment.
After more than a week of requesting more information from Hurwitz and Artist Trust executive director Margit Rankin, Hurwitz finally responded this morning to say that Artist Trust didn't ask the 113 applicants to the Arts Innovator Award to mark their gender on the forms, so the information is unavailable.
Rankin said it would be impossible for Artist Trust to determine the gender breakdown of the 113 applicants because Artist Trust is too busy with other tasks to count. Artist Trust said the forms are confidential, so no one else is allowed to count, either.
To any women artists looking for advice, I am not sure I can help.
Rankin's take is that, essentially, this is just how the cookie crumbles sometimes. Panels prioritize quality, and then after that are balancing issues of diversity that include medium and stylistic diversity, geographic diversity (AT covers all of Washington state), and demographic diversity. The 7-of-8 thing this year is a fluke, Rankin said. She emphasized that four of six recipients of the Arts Innovator Award in its three years of existence have been women.
When I pointed out this didn't seem like a particularly large data set, she said Artist Trust has traditionally not asked for gender or socioeconomic data, so has no way to compare it to a larger body of information. Of the finalists whose names have been released over the years—I can't find names of finalists released from the award's first year, in 2010—17 have been men, and 7 have been women.
That's not nearly as good a ratio, and combined with the historical sexism of the arts—which everybody and their freaking aunt, uncle, and cousins has documented and talked about from the 1960s until last year's Elles extravaganza across Seattle—and the fact that all three of this year's Betty Bowen Award winners are men and no woman has ever won a Contemporary Northwest Art Award from Portland Art Museum, well, yeah, why not talk about it?
Rankin agreed in principle, and said these historical demographics have caused a change at Artist Trust in recent years. Artist Trust has begun to collect demographic data in the last few years, she added.
"We have started to try to think about issues of [demographic] diversity," Rankin continued. "We have changed, and are trying to keep more [information] about that. We've always simply asked artists to submit their applications and we've not historically, until the past few years, asked artists to submit a gender in their application."
This morning, Hurwitz said Rankin had gotten that wrong, and that the Arts Innovator Award applications do not collect gender data. Hurwitz said she was too busy to continue the conversation today.
Mike Farhat, onetime animator for The Simpsons who goes by the brand Art Mobb along with his partner, Chris Hoyle, has become the go-to artist for pro athletes. Each of Art Mobb's images captures an athlete in a moment of glory. Here's a piece about the rise of Art Mobb, coming to the Microsoft store—I mean the Microsoft Retail Story. From the PR:
This coming Tuesday, October 1, from 5:30 – 7:30pm, at the Microsoft Retail Story in University Village, celebrity artists Art Mobb (Mike Farhat and Chris Hoyle), who have established themselves as innovative artists by creating sought after mixed-media artwork for the NBA elite and other top athletes, will unveil and premiere their Seahawks plexiglas piece and create a new Seattle-themed piece of art using Microsoft Fresh Paint. The creation of the Seattle-themed artwork will provide a great photo-opp and will be donated to Consolidar, a local non-profit supporting Washington State’s Hispanic population.
During the event Microsoft will launch its new Cre8tive Workshop series, which aims to teach individuals how to use Microsoft technology to create work across multiple genres – art, music, film and photography.
I'm not terribly interested in Art Mobb, but there is something in Microsoft's push to change its image from robotic to artistic that's pretty intriguing: a new artist-in-residence program in Microsoft's internal research division.
Last Friday, I sat down with the first-ever artist-in-residence at Microsoft Research. His name is James George, and he's fascinating, it turns out. Check him out on his web site, and stay tuned for more about George, and more about why Microsoft Research wants an artist in-house.
Buster Simpson is one of Seattle's foundational artists—and the guy who's left more art out in public in this city than anyone else. Belltown has been called Simpson City. That refers to its good parts. Now he's the artist on the redesign of the central waterfront.
He's been running around impishly doing all this since the 1970s, after having gotten his start with a catastrophic installation at Woodstock in 1969.
The whole story of the artist is now on HistoryLink.org, the great online archive of Washington State that was founded back in the day by Walt Crowley and has become an invaluable resource. Here's the overall story, and here's the story of his first installation in Seattle in 1973, a little known installation/performance/sculpture/squat co-created with Chris Jonic called Selective Disposal Project. (I wrote them. I've started doing some writing on the side for HistoryLink, and it's really fun to just step back, research, and tell history.)
Make sure you get to the Frye Art Museum by October 13 to see the first-ever comprehensive museum survey of Buster Simpson's work, with sculptures, installations, videos, photographs, and plans to reshape the centers of whole cities and plant the scion of an English tree on the lawn of the U.S. Supreme Court. Buster is still, always, fighting the bullshit.
A bunch of Seattle artists who've formed a reading group chose an essay this month about installational painting, Anne Ring Petersen's 2010 "Painting Spaces." Artists of the 1990s and 2000s, Petersen writes, have rethought painting, making paintings not as pictures but as 3-D objects, as sites or places in themselves—paintings as installations. They connect beyond their frames. You see them in museums and galleries hung as flags or robes, leaned like protest signs, used to demarcate parts of a room, worn on the body, draped to form architecture or furniture.
Julie Alpert's Shape Shifters looks as if a painting exploded...
This spring, Greg Kucera Gallery featured a torrent of paintings by an 87-year-old artist that nobody'd ever heard of, David Byrd. Soon after, he died. (My review.)
Now, Trickhouse has published a response to Byrd's paintings by Rebecca Brown. The writing is part-personal history, part-eulogy, part-poetic captioning.
Beneath the painting above, she wrote only:
Someone or other thinks she might get out; another knows she can’t. She’s carrying the flowers for her grave, as if she could end prettily.
From the Loose Lips column in the paper this week:
On Friday night, nine bodies were laid out on mirrors on the floor of the Frye Art Museum for the "processional"/opening of Mark Mitchell's Burial collection—a collection of clothes for the dead. "I just keep wondering what's going through their minds," Roq La Rue Gallery's Kirsten Anderson said, looking down at a waxy, still model. The models would occasionally jerk and twist with discomfort, their eyes remaining closed. It looked like they were having nightmares. Above them, the museum's old paintings were packed together on the walls. People were crying. The crowd eventually hit nearly 1,000, and people who hadn't RSVP'd had to be turned away. The haute funeral parlor was fraught in about a hundred ways. Someone said that in the presence of all this death, those old paintings never felt more alive. Transferred to mannequins, the clothing will be on display through October 20.
This was yesterday in the same room:
I'll be writing more about both experiences soon. Visit it yourself. Info.
Matthew Richter is on a mission: to find out how many cultural square feet there are in Seattle. How much bookstore brick and mortar. How many seats for theater butts. Stages and backstages, studios and galleries. Movie houses. Music boxes of every kind, with oboes and altos and DJs.
In his new role as the city's cultural space manager, he's counting them all. The idea is that you can't work to improve something until you know what you've got.
I hear artists out there all the time talking about needing spaces—affordable spaces, better-located spaces, better-equipped spaces. Or maybe you're a building owner thinking you have a home for an arts group.
Tell this guy! Here: more info, contacts, and a quick online survey. Once all the data is collected, we'll all know more.
And speaking of good news about cultural space, the mayor's budget for 2014 includes $300,000 to equip Washington Hall in the Central District with an elevator, meaning the historic venue (such a cool place) will finally be able to accommodate everybody—including leaders of resident arts groups who're super-excited to go to their spaces, but have to get other people lift their wheelchairs and carry them into their own offices.
Cultural space management!
"What has and has not been documented by photography in the history of our state is a pursuit unto itself," Michelle Dunn Marsh writes in the label that hangs on the wall next to the photograph above, at the Photo Center Northwest.
It's a picture of a family in San Francisco checking out a diorama at Standard Oil's San Francisco headquarters—a diorama that depicted Seattle's first service station, which some say was actually the first gas station in the world.
HistoryLink has the details on the station, and Vintage Seattle had a post about it in 2009 with several good links to old photographs, plus a description of where today you can still find a plaque at the waterfront at Terminal 30 put up by Standard in 1947 that boasts, "Site of the WORLD'S FIRST SERVICE STATION."
Dunn Marsh found the photo while digging through the Washington State Library archives in search of images that tell stories about Washington's history through photography. It wasn't intended as fine art, but at the Photo Center it hangs alongside prints by photographers ranging from Carrie Mae Weems, the only visual artist to win a MacArthur this year, to legendary rock photographer Jini Dellacio, to longtime New Yorker and Village Voice photographer Sylvia Plachy, to video artist Susie J. Lee, to documentarian-of-all-562-federally-recognized-tribes Matika Wilbur, to Seattle-based former White House photographer Barbara Kinney, to art-photo stars Imogen Cunningham, Alice Wheeler, Steve Davis, Eirik Johnson, and Ella McBride.
Most but not all the photographers live/d in Washington. All the images have a strong Washington connection of some kind, though—Boeing, studio glass, Merce Cunningham and John Cage meeting at Cornish, Quincy Jones.
This is the story of photography in Washington—not just one strain, but photography's many, many strains. It's a fascinating show full of the unexpected, and a compelling and creative way to ask for money while also providing a service, the service of telling an important tale in a way that only a regional photo center can.
All the works will be up for auction at the Photo Center's annual gala on October 18, but hey, not everybody can afford a ticket to that, so Dunn Marsh didn't just assemble the pieces for one night only, she put them up in an exhibition open to the public, for free, every day.
It's her first big act since taking the job as Photo Center director, and it's full of good stories and good ideas. Makes you want to know more about her, frankly. You can do that in a series of lectures she's giving all fall.
You can preview all the pictures that are in the show here, but it's still worth seeing the prints in person. Here are a few...
Artist Trust just announced its list a second ago, and I have to say: Are you serious with this gender disparity?
David Shields, Juniper Shuey, Doug Nufer, Gary Hill, John Grade, Paul Kikuchi, and Peter Scherrer are all the dudes up for the $25,000 award. Haruko Nishimura is the one woman on the shortlist.
All three Betty Bowen awards just went to male artists.
No. Just no. This is ridiculous.
I'll be reporting back.
This post has been updated.
Last May, the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture sent out a press release that said the admissions tax was up in 2012—way up—and that revenues from Chihuly Garden & Glass and the Great Wheel were the bulk of the new money.
But I asked for a breakdown of the numbers, and it got a little less clear. Turns out the city is not allowed to divulge where the money actually comes from, due to taxpayer identity protection law.
The "ad" tax funds OAC and its programs. It's a five-percent tax on admissions at venues from nightclub to stadium to theater, and 75 percent of it goes to form OAC's budget.
Here are the numbers I was able to get (from the helpful and patient OAC spokeswoman Calandra Childers): 2010, $4.967 million (75 percent of total tax); 2011, $4.394 million; 2012, $5.300 million.
Childers said the tax is projected to grow at an average of around 2 percent a year through 2016. (I do not know what this is based on.)
"Reasons for [the 2012] increase include a better local economy, the opening of both the Chihuly Glass Museum and Seattle Great Wheel, and tax payments made in 2012 for prior years' activity," Childers wrote. "Tax payments made in 2012 for prior years' activity" means back tax payments coming in, but she was not at liberty to say how much that totaled, for the same privacy reasons.
Essentially, I think the Chihuly Glass Museum and the Seattle Great Wheel have raised some great money for the arts locally—yay! I think—and it's being spent not on giving bigger grants to museums and orchestras, but on making sure that every K-2 kid in Central Pathways schools gets an hour of music education a week this year.
Especially kids who are the least likely to get it, in the district's ongoing effort to close big and persistent socioeconomic gaps in supposedly "progressive" Seattle.
Study after study shows that in Seattle, education is not equal. Kids with poor families and black and Latino students suffer disproportionately from low-performing schools with no arts education. Arts education, in our dysfunctional system, is commonly not actually funded by the district but rather supported and paid for by parent-teacher associations (kind of like the ad-hoc system of school counselors that now exists, which is also deeply concerning). Our public school system looks very much, from certain angles, like a private school system.
A little temporary money going toward music classes is not much, but it's something. Five hundred thousand dollars of the seven-hundred-and-seventeen-thousand-dollar ad-tax increase is now, and through the 2014 school year, going to fund music education for K-2 students in the Central Pathways schools (the name used for the schools that feed into and out of Washington Middle School—from John Muir and Bailey Gatzert elementaries to Franklin and Garfield highs, which are generally lower performing on the front end but have great music programs in the later grades, meaning students that can get access to early private lessons have a huge advantage and that if students can get public lessons at that same early age, they, too, have something to work toward).
More good news is that the person managing the program is Lara Davis, who's been doing amazing work with Arts Corps for a while. (Randy Engstrom, the new-ish director at OAC, is surrounding himself with smart people: Eric Fredericksen on the waterfront, Matthew Richter and Tim Lennon on cultural spaces and events, Davis in arts education.) I wrote about why Arts Corps matters so much in Seattle here.
Dig down into the statistics published in a June study on arts education in Seattle's public schools here.
More than 40 percent of schools K-8 in Seattle reported having no certified arts instruction, "None":
"For Visual Arts, more than 40% of schools responded 'None'; for Music, more than 50% (except in the 4th and 5th grades where 72% of schools offer some Music); for Theatre, more than 80%; and Dance, more than 70%."
Now that the school year is underway, if I hear anything more conclusive or more interesting, I'll report back.
(This post has been updated since original publication.)
Seattle street/gallery artist Kristina Griffith has some women she'd like to introduce.
They're Khatsini Simani, Haneen Ahmed, Amy Polansky, Meng Yu, Aleesha Contreras, Lauren Kite, and Angeline Villalobos. More, too: twelve in total. She's been working toward this introduction since 2010. For each of the women she selected, she made a portrait in black and white, blending the curved lines of art nouveau with her own street style.
She calls the series Iconic Women, and it's on display for the first time at Twilight Artist Collective this month.
The pieces bring double pleasure. There's the pleasure of looking, plus the pleasure of meeting these characters. In real life, they perform poetry, design clothing, teach youth photography and cooking, arrange flowers, curate music, lead yoga students, keep the broader world stocked with graffiti supplies, and they're all in Seattle.
If you're looking for inspiration, you know where to go.
Here's an interview with the artist by Xavier Lopez Jr.
In talking about her new paintings—some painted directly on the wall at Greg Kucera Gallery that will stay for a long, unspecified time—Léonie Guyer pointed out that cave paintings weren't made in living rooms. Ancient artists worked in the depths of cave systems, the darkest, hardest-to-reach places, and getting there was part of the art. There was a faraway quality. Art was at the end of a tunnel, where you had to make your own light.
Do you know about Clyde Petersen, the Seattle artist/musician/filmmaker? He is a force. But not a forceful force. He's more like a radical shift in the air. He's political but not oppositional because he just doesn't even start from the terms as they are given. He goes a different way entirely , joining and bringing with him a giant bunch of other people who feel the same way, that things are crazy, that people who feel this way aren't alone, and that even if everything in the world feels wrong, you still have each other, and music, and art, and laughing and puppets and Lake Washington.
You could talk about queer and trans politics, or you could just say that Boating with Clyde, his exhibition at Gallery4Culture (it closes September 26, so go soon), is about getting off this land and entering a very different world to meet up with some people you will really value.
The show consists of a talking fish on the gallery wall, a few other mounted fishes on the wall in various forms of species drag (a furry fish, for instance), and then an actual wooden dock you walk up onto and sit on.
From the dock, you're looking out at about a thousand handcut cardboard lily pads "floating" on a plastic blue sea with an actual red rowboat on it that Petersen made.
He also made the continuous stream of videos shot on Lake Washington that are playing on the wall above this nautical imaginary. You are positioned out on the water, sitting there on your dock.
There are 20 videos playing on a loop, each one three minutes, and they feature indie, punk, and folk musicians, scientists, and authors, talking about everything from the real town of Pity Me in England to water science, and playing their songs.
All of these people actually went out boating with Clyde on Lake Washington. It turns out that many instruments are playable and passably recordable from a rowboat: percussion, ukelele, electric guitar, xylophone. Longer versions of all the videos that play in the gallery are worth checking out at Petersen's Boating with Clyde video page.
In the gallery, intercut with the live-action videos are short puppet shows (made with Karl Blau). There are recurring characters, like the cast of an underwater TV news crew for a station called KARP. New Report (2005), the feminist news station that's "pregnant with information" by Wynne Greenwood and K8 Hardy, is a sister work to those segments of Boating with Clyde, which also shares something with Susan Robb's experiment in Northwest communal trekking, The Long Walk. It's another entry, too, in a heartening rise in feminist works from Seattle spaces like Hard L and Reel Grrls (where Petersen also works with youth).
Boating with Clyde is an installation whose core creation is safe space. Maybe that doesn't sound like it's supposed to be what art does. That in itself could reveal something not quite humane about assumptions about art inherited from modernism, all those dumb xxxtreme-art cliches about breaking boundaries and et cetera that have steadily been getting pushback since at least the rise of the feminist art movement, but that have remained so dominant.
Going boating with Clyde feels good. Try it. Here's one of my favorite videos from the show, featuring the band Onsind (from Pity Me, England), who don't perform it here but also wrote the anthem "Heterosexuality Is a Construct":