Arts and culture

“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world." – Malala

KPLU presents an advance screening of He Named Me Malala, directed by acclaimed documentary filmmaker David Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth).  The film opens in theatres on October 9 and is rated PG-13.


Viola Davis made history at Sunday night's Emmy Awards when she won for best actress in a drama for How to Get Away With Murder: It's the first time that award has gone to a black woman.

When Davis' award was announced, Taraji P. Henson — nominated for the same award for her work on Empire — gave Davis a fierce hug and a one-woman standing ovation.

You probably never will see most of Jason deCaires Taylor's public art projects firsthand — at least, not without goggles and fins.

Most of his sculptures stand at the bottom of the sea. His life-size statues — ghostly figures of men, women and children — seem to walk the ocean floor as they hold hands, huddle, even watch TV.

Ed Ronco

The photo of Michi Hirata North’s professional debut is in black and white. She’s 8 years old, sitting at a piano on a concert stage in Tokyo with an orchestra behind her.

“I couldn’t even reach the pedals,” she said.

The photograph suggests that this little girl is about to become something big – a professional musician whose talents as a performer and teacher are still respected, 75 years later.

AP Images

A towering fish trap standing on end . Hundreds of pristine white ceramic shapes eating their way into the bark of a fallen tree. Or an estuary sculpted out of shipping containers. These are just a few examples of the dozens of art installations that have recently popped up alongside Seattle’s only river.

The exhibition is called Duwamish Revealed. It’s meant to remind viewers that the waterway running through the city’s industrial core is more than a toxic Superfund site. 

The efforts to expand perspectives on the Duwamish include works by 40 artists from around the world.

You can experience the work of a local sound engineer by venturing out onto a pier at West Seattle’s Jack Block Park. You might not see anything unusual right away, but you could find yourself startled by the sound of art emerging from the water beneath you.

Robb Kunz co-created an 8-channel installation that surrounds the pier with sound together with composer Joshua Kohl of the Degenerate Art Ensemble. The piece is called “Under Pier Pressure.”

Kunz says he wanted to contribute to the show because he's enamored with the strange confluence of the industrial and natural that he finds on the Duwamish. His composition aims to match the physical surroundings.

“So, found sounds, concrete sound of nature and industry,” he said.

You can push a button to activate the sounds, but Kunz says he likes it best when people happen upon them mid-stream.

Team Totem

A long-lost treasure of Tacoma’s past will come bursting to life on the big screen this fall, if enough money can be raised to make it happen.

The silent film, “The Eyes of the Totem,” made in Tacoma between 1925 and 1928, was recently found. A Kickstarter campaign has been launched to bring the film, complete with newly composed music, to Tacoma’s Rialto Theater on September 18.

Norma Miller / Courtesy Photo

At 95, Norma Miller can still bust a move. “Swing baby,” says Miller, who will dance with a partner as she hums the Count Basie song “Shiny Stockings.”

That song, she explains, gets any Lindy Hopper dancing. Lindy Hop – that’s a type of dance borne from the Swing Era of the 1930s and ‘40s. It was the dance style that evolved in Harlem alongside all the jazz greats from Basie to Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington. And Miller, who first stepped into Harlem’s famous Savoy Ballroom when she was just a child, is the last great Lindy Hopper from that era.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

A maritime festival taking place in Seattle this week is a good reminder of our city’s strong ties to the ocean. Thursday evening, an event called Stories of the Sea takes place at a pub at Fishermen’s Terminal. It’s like a story slam for fishermen, ferry captains and other mariners. 

For a taste of the event, I tracked down emcee John van Amerongen, who pulled out his guitar and sang his song, "Trip to the Bering Sea," a wry tale about a guy on a crabbing boat for the first time. The young man has an unfortunate encounter with the bait chopper, a machine that grinds up fish.

Photo: David Bazemore

There’s no question Ira Glass is talented. But among those talents, let’s just say that, according to him, he’s not the greatest dancer in the world.

Pike Place Market

A major addition is coming to the Pike Place Market. The $65 million dollar project includes a pedestrian connection to the waterfront. Monday, the Seattle City Council approved selling $34 million in bonds to help pay for it.

Paula Wissel

Volunteers spread out around downtown Seattle today carrying buckets filled with daffodils. Handing out the flowers on the first day of spring is an 18 year tradition.

Pike Place Market spokesman Scott Davies says it's a way for the market to celebrate spring.

“We share the floral love with people downtown," said Davies.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

When Lucas Smiraldo became Tacoma’s poet laureate two years ago, he had the spark of an idea. He wanted to get the people around him writing their own pieces and then share them through an interactive map.

Now it’s ready

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

March 2 is the birthday of Theodor Geisel, better known to readers everywhere as Dr. Seuss. He would have turned 111 this year.

KPLU's Kirsten Kendrick and Ed Ronco remembered the children's author during Monday's Morning Edition ... in full Seussian rhyme.

Jennifer Wing / KPLU

On a Saturday at the Pacific Science Center, life-size robotic dinosaurs roar. A giant video monitor shows a person sneezing as a spray of mist shoots down from the ceiling. Nearby, naked mole rats scurry blindly through a maze of tunnels.

And since it's all mud and rain outside, the place is packed with curious children and adults trying to keep up with them.

Loud noises, bright lights, crowded spaces: This is exactly the situation Mike Hiner tries to avoid with his 20-year-old son Steven, who is autistic.

Courtesy of Peregrine Church

Next time you’re walking on a sidewalk in Seattle and it’s raining, look down. You just might see a message reveal itself.

At least that’s the intention of a 21-year-old magician who has created unusual sidewalk art. His stenciled messages are only visible when it’s wet outside.

Read the story and see a map of the artwork on >>>

Joel Ryan / Invision/AP Photo

Dame Edna brings her special brand of comedy to Seattle this weekend for the launch of her farewell tour. For nearly 60 years, the Australian housewife-turned superstar has entertained audiences around the world. Now, the character created by comedian Barry Humphries is saying goodbye to her fans. 

Courtesy of Ian Cheney. Copyright Wicked Delicate Films LLC. A Sundance Selects release.

Consider apple pie and how we regard it as quintessentially American.

Now, says Jennifer 8. Lee, consider Chinese food.

“How often do you eat apple pie versus how often do you eat Chinese food?” she asks.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Listen closely to the music playing next time you’re grabbing coffee at Starbucks. If it’s a relaxing piano piece, it might just be the work of Tacoma teenager Marc Estabrook.

Courtesy of Eric Frommer

December is an especially busy time for the members of The Beaconettes. There are loads of benefit events and holiday concerts, not to mention the annual Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition to perform in. There is also a whole heck of a lot of thinking that goes into just how decorative you’ll make your 15-inch, festooned-in-lights beehive wig.

Courtesy of Craig Downing

Helping people make new friends is one of the goals that inspired the creation of “Couch Fest," a one-day film festival that happens in homes across Seattle and all over the world this weekend.

Olson Kundig Architects

This weekend the Tacoma Art Museum is inviting the public to explore its new spaces. An addition was built to hold a collection of art that was donated by a German family with Northwest ties.

Courtesy of the Burke Museum

Just where did the Seattle Seahawks’ logo come from?

Amid the fever pitch of last year’s Super Bowl run, one of the art history classes at the University of Washington got curious.

Zac Davis Photography

Zac Davis has lived all around the Puget Sound region — Issaquah, Bellevue, Bremerton, Bainbridge Island. But about six years ago, he moved to Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood.

He was drawn to the vibrancy of the area, pulsing with different languages and cultures. He describes this as we walk down the street, past African women with their heads covered and moving smoothly in their long robes.

“In my cul-de-sac alone, there’s probably four languages spoken, and yet we manage to have a block party every summer,” he said. “It makes us stronger.”

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

The Seattle City Council is marking a cultural anniversary Monday: 40 years of legal busking in the city. Seattle musician Jim Page was behind the ordinance that legalized street performing back in 1974.

Page said he was playing guitar and singing one day in front of Oliver’s Meats, near Pike Place Market.

“I’m just singing along, and a motorcycle police officer pulled over,” Page said. “And he shouted at me over his motor and said, ‘Do you have a permit?’ I said no. He said, ‘Next time I see you,, I’ll give you a ticket.’”

Page said he offered to get a license, but was told he couldn’t do that, since he was not blind.

Daniel D. Morrison

As a boy growing up in the 1960s and ‘70s, Alex Tizon was well aware of a racial hierarchy that existed, a hierarchy that put him, a Filipino immigrant, at the bottom. 

His parents admired white Americans and all things western. Tizon once caught his father massaging and pinching his nose to make it sharper and narrower, and less round and Filipino-looking.

“I took it a step farther,” Tizon said. “I used to put clothespins on my nose.”

Alison Marcotte / KPLU News

Three sets of oversized orange headphones have arrived at Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park.

They’re parts of  “YOU ARE HEAR,” a temporary installation by Seattle sound artist Trimpin that will be unveiled Saturday.

Luis Sinco

Lily Tomlin calls for our interview just before lunchtime.

She's on the road, driving through Beverly Hills. I ask her to park before we start in on the questions, because I don't want to be the guy who distracted Lily Tomlin while she was behind the wheel.

Courtesy of London Tone.

A Northwest record label has made it a little easier for musicians to launch their careers.

London Tone has signed contracts with 52 mostly unknown artists for just one song, and allowed them record the single at the famed London Bridge Studios in Shoreline.