Artscape

KPLU's weekly feature about art in the Pacific Northwest.  Available online every Sunday and played on-air on Monday mornings and afternoons.

Courtesy of Jan Johnson, the third owner of the Panama Hotel

The muse behind Steve Grigg’s musical project is a brick, six-story, century-old building that stands in what used to be Seattle’s Japantown.

The Panama Hotel, on the corner of Sixth and Main, remains a working hotel. But the historic building is also a time capsule. It features belongings left behind by Japanese Americans who were forced into internment camps during World War II.

Griggs’ project, called “Panama Hotel Jazz,” weaves in music with narration to tell the story about the incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans in 1942.

Courtesy of Stephanie Mallard Couch.

What if Don Quixote, the famous character from 17th century Spanish literature, was reimagined as a homeless man living in Seattle? That’s the premise behind a new bilingual play being premiered by eSe Teatro, a local Latino theater company at ACT Theatre.

Jennifer Wing

The clouds hang low over the water along a quiet stretch of gravelly beach in the Strait of Juan de Fuca near Sequim, Washington. A sailboat silently glides past and a clear creek runs into the strait. A gang of seagulls stands at the watery crossroads, preening their feathers.

Perched on a grassy overlook capturing this on a small canvas of balsa wood is plein air artist Sandy Byers. Painting en plein air is the French term that simply means painting outside — something artists have been doing for hundreds of years.

Courtesy of Michael July.

One of the first things you notice about someone is the hair. How people wear the hair can say a lot about their politics, religion and even their health.

A photo exhibit currently on display in Seattle focuses entirely on individuals who choose to wear their hair in one type of hairstyle: the afro. This halo of high hair has gone from a symbol of black power to a fashion choice that challenges conventional ideas of beauty.

Courtesy of Christopher Monsos / Intiman Theatre

  

Twenty years ago, Seattle’s Intiman Theater was the first regional company in the country to produce “Angels in America.” The 1993 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama is a sweeping tale about the deadly AIDS epidemic from the 1980s.

It’s a cathartic story about politics, sexuality, religion and forgiveness. The protagonist in the story is a young gay man who is fighting AIDS, is abandoned by his boyfriend and becomes a prophet after being visited by an Angel of God.

Considered an American masterpiece, the play has been adapted into an HBO mini-series as well as an opera.But those who have seen a live production will tell you it’s meant to be seen on stage.

Andrew Swanson

The Westerlies are a new young brass ensemble based out of New York City. They’re an all-over-the-musical-map group whose first album is already garnering critical praise.

And this first bit of success could have something to do with their Seattle roots. All four musicians, all in their 20s, grew up in Seattle where they absorbed much of the local music scene. They’re the product of two of the best high school jazz programs in the country: Garfield and Roosevelt high schools. And their debut album, recorded in a family friend’s cabin on Lopez Island, is a reinterpretation of an eclectic mix of compositions by Seattlelite Wayne Horvitz.

© Brandon Patoc

Speight Jenkins is stepping down as general director of Seattle Opera after 31 years. And among the things he’s most proud of are the productions of two successful Ring cycles, surviving the economic recession by not resorting to just producing popular operas and advancing the opportunities for African-American men.

Alison Marcotte / KPLU

Have you ever bought a pair of shoes that truly made you happy? Unlike jeans or a bathing suit, the one part of an outfit most women don’t dread putting on are shoes. According to a poll by ShopSmart magazine, 19 percent of women have purchased shoes to put them in a happier state of mind.  

If you want to see shoes that have been uplifting women’s moods and their physical stature over the last 10 decades, a treasure trove of heels, pumps, boots and stilettos is currently on display at the White River Valley Museum in Auburn. The Sole Obsession exhibit features more than 100 pairs of women’s dress shoes from 1910 to 2010 that are lit like movie stars and ready for their close-ups.

Light in the Attic Records

Back in the day — we’re talking the 1960s, '70s and ‘80s — local Seattle bands played funk and soul music in the city’s dance clubs.

The music was the soundtrack of a black-owned radio station operating out of the Central Area called KYAC.

Florangela Davila

At 6-foot-3, Garry Webberly is a towering figure with a head of white hair and a matching mustache. The 76-year-old Webberly's musical tastes run from classical to classic rock. But for the past 48 years, he’s taken to the stage to perform in volunteer productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.

“It’s good music, great dialogue. I love it all,” Webberly said about the operettas that are known for their wit, their absurdly complicated plots and technically-challenging songs.

Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery

There are so many ways we can listen to music. Usually the easiest these days is playing tunes on a digital gadget such as a phone or laptop. It wasn’t that long ago when we had to make a trip to the local record store to stock up on the latest hits.

The current exhibit at the Henry Art Gallery, The Record: Contemporary Art And Vinyl, shows how the flat black disk and the sleeve that holds can do so much more than just play music.

Chris Bennion

After running out of money and shutting down last year, Intiman Theatre is back with a groundbreaking summer festival.

"Groundbreaking" because the theater has a new repertory format: a cast of 17 actors -- Intiman's Class of 2012 -- staffing all four summer productions.

For audiences, that means a chance to see an actor stretch in various roles: "Romeo and Juliet" one day; a drag queen take on Helen Keller the next.

Photo by Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

Many experts call him the greatest iconoclast of 20th-century music.

The avant-garde composer John Cage is perhaps best known for his pioneering use of silence in music. He also broke ground with the use of everyday objects as instruments, electronics and chance in composition.

He was born in California and died in New York. But some of his most formative years took place in Seattle.

Dean Wong

An old five-and dime store that helped Seattle's Japanese community rebuild itself after World War II is being celebrated in a new way: in a permanent exhibit by the Wing Luke Museum in a local gift shop/art gallery.

The exhibit features a variety of old store merchandise from a business that lasted 96 years. There's also an assortment of personal items from two generations of the Japanese-American Murakami family.

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