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

Photo by Christopher Duggan

Here’s what a performance by  zoe|juniper won't look like:

"Predictable and controlled," says company dancer Christiana Axelsen.

"Having the music play. Having everyone dance. Having the lights go on and then having the lights go out," says sound designer Matt Starritt.

"I wouldn’t expect it to be simple. I wouldn’t expect to see anything I’ve seen before," says dancer and company manager Raja Kelly.

Critics have described the Seattle-based company as "visually arresting" and "a feast for the senses."

Gerwin Sturm/Flickr

"You're in a dark room you've never been in before. And it's very late at night."

Larry Albert is casting a spell. Cue up the sound of a creaking building and suddenly, you're transported to a slightly terrifying place.

Albert is one of the behind-the-scenes talents of Jim French's "Imagination Theater," which produces old-time radio dramas.

Seattle Art Museum

Seattle is home to one of the most extensive collections of Asian art in North America. It lives at the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park. But over the next several weeks the collection’s best pieces are on display at the Seattle Art Museum in downtown.

The exhibit is called Luminous: The Art of Asia. It features ancient Buddhas, delicate pottery, and a new modern work which ties everything together and transports you to a different place.

Photo by Alan Abastro

It used to be that aspiring opera singers would live with their voice teachers and practice every day. That was in the 1800s.

Nowadays, the typical track is college followed by graduate school and then professional training at a major opera company.  That’s where Seattle Opera and its Young Artists Program come in.

William Gottlieb / Library of Congress via Flickr

KPLU's Nick Morrison is glad the word "robust" is coming back into common parlance. He says that's the perfect word to describe the Texas Tenor saxophone sound. He's compiled a list of five titans of Texas Tenor.

Carolee Schneemann

There are some works of art that can make people really uncomfortable.

Artist Carolee Schneemann is a master at pushing the edges of decorum. She’s also one of the first people in the early 1960’s to ever be called a performance artist.

photo by Ed Lee

Long before “grunge,” Seattle was home to big band musicians, immigrant choral groups and a seafood restaurant owner who sang folk songs about clams.

Those are only some of the stories  in Kurt Armbruster's new book, "Before Seattle Rocked: A City and Its Music" (University of Washington Press).

Photo by Steve Korn

The year 1994 might not seem that long ago to you. But in the world of modern dance, it's ancient history.

Or at least history, the year in which Bebe Miller choreographed her funky, athletic "Cantos Gordos."

From the Paul G. Allen Family Collection. Photo by Brady Harvey

What is it about horror films that makes our skin crawl?

EMP Museum's new  "Can't Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film" exhibit dissects the horror flick, ripping apart the hair-raising soundtrack and giving us an up-close view of various movie props: from the gory to the just plain eerie.

Photo by Angela Sterling

Stephen Manes has been a TV writer, a children's author and a personal technology columnist for national publications. He's also co-authored a book about Bill Gates.

But he was a total outsider when it came to ballet.

He'd been a patron of Seattle's Pacific Northwest Ballet. But it wasn't until a behind-the-scenes tour of the company for donors got him thinking: How much do pointe shoes cost? What's it take to mount a season? What's it like to be an artistic director, a dancer, a dance student, a stager, a costumer or a member of the orchestra?

Scott Maddock

Twenty years ago, a group of like-minded theater folk felt there was something missing in Seattle. There wasn't a lab where actors could take classes and try out new things.

"In New York, people work all the time," says Robin Lynn Smith. "In Los Angeles, you study when you’re not working. Here we wanted to have an opportunity for people to have that option to keep challenging themselves to go further. And then for creating work, we needed a place for experimentation."

Can something be so terrible it’s actually good? Professor Fred Hopkins thinks so.

By day, Hopkins is a lawyer who helps people get out of paying big fines for traffic infractions. But in his spare time he is the enthusiastic host of Movie Marvels, a show that runs once a week on Seattle’s Community College TV channel.

Photo by Florangela Davila

What if your neighbors turned their house into a public art gallery?

That’s what a few artists are doing in Seattle. There's a house in Ravenna, a house in the Central Area and a studio on Capitol Hill that are all transformed into temporary art venues for an art-craving public.

In Seattle’s South Park neighborhood, Alex Lopez has carved out a reputation as the go-to-guy for making unique piñatas.

Case in point: a 26-foot-long, 7-feet-tall, 6-feet-wide pinata in the shape of a bridge. It dumped 450 pounds of candy.

Florangela Davila / KPLU

A busy street with lots of cars, bikes and people rushing from one place to another. Except for that one person over there with a camera ... and that one over there.

They're students with Seattle's Youth in Focus (YIF) program who are documenting the area around Second Avenue and Cherry in downtown Seattle.

Courtesy of Seattle Opera

You don't expect to find a banjo in the orchestra pit at Seattle Opera. But there it is, getting warmed up by John Patrick Lowrie, a half-hour before showtime for "Porgy and Bess."

From the first day of rehearsal, Lowrie made an impression upon the orchestra.

Charla Bear / KPLU

Native Americans have struggled to hang onto their cultures for decades. On August 20th, a local tribe will have a new resource to help.

The Tulalips are opening a cultural center on their reservation. It not only shares history the way the tribe sees it, but bridges the past with modern-day life.


When "West Side Story" opened in 1957 on Broadway, the audience's reaction was silence. Followed by applause.

"No Broadway musical ended with these deaths and this very sad young woman walking off the stage with her head bowed. That was just, 'Whoa!'" author Misha Berson explained.

Shizuka Yokomizo / Collection of Leslie Cohan, Minneapolis

The desire to be on the public stage is on display right now at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle. It’s called “The Talent Show.” The exhibit raises a lot of questions ranging from how much should we put on display to what happens to our images once they are out there.

It’s easy to forget how much effort went in to trying to be seen by the public eye.

Photo by Florangela Davila

What inspires bands to make music? For Recess Monkey, it’s the lives of kindergarteners and grade schoolers.

All three musicians – Drew Holloway, Jack Forman and Daron Henry – in the band teach at Seattle elementary schools. And they're having anything but a sleepy summer: playing gigs and promoting their latest CD, "Flying" is on their agenda.

Florangela Davila / KPLU

Seattle’s Occidental Park is a leafy oasis in the middle of the city. It’s now also the site of a whimsical installation where all 27 trees and 16 lamp posts and 57 short poles are dressed up in yarn.

Bo Nash / Flickr

Memphis, Tenn., is known as the birthplace of rock 'n roll. But KPLU's Nick Morrison says it should also be known for the blues.

Nick gives five examples of how Memphis and its neighbor, West Memphis, Ark., rank right up there with the Mississippi Delta and Chicago when it comes to launching the careers of influential blues artists.

Photo by Chris Bennion

Seattle playwright Yussef El Guindi usually delves into heavy stuff: racial profiling and terrorism.

But his new play, "Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World," which is having its world premiere at Seattle's ACT Theatre, is a romantic comedy.

Musa is an Egyptian immigrant who picks up a woman named Sheri in his cab on a late night in New York City.

Photo by Florangela Davila

There's a downside to hanging out at the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA) and that is, you start to feel really boring.

There's Nickolai Pirak, an expert juggler. And Erica Rubinstein, who basically juggles people.

"If you can imagine a 12-foot-long bar that’s kind of like a beam and a trampoline, but supported by people. Our flier stands in the middle of the bar," Rubinstein says.

Charla Bear / KPLU

It’s been more than nine months since a Seattle police officer killed First Nations woodcarver John T. Williams, and tensions are still running high among Native Americans. They say the shooting brings up the long history of brutality Native people have faced.

The anxiety has also affected children, who’ve had a tough time putting Williams’ death in perspective.

This coming weekend, a local theater group will debut a performance to help young Native Americans move forward, starting with a look at the past.

The art of disaster

May 29, 2011
Charles Krafft

When you think of porcelain, your grandmother’s fancy dishes might come to mind. The ones that are taken out of the cabinet only for Thanksgiving and other special holidays. Or maybe you own a beautiful china vase.

There are a lot of delicate dishes and trinkets in the home of Seattle artist Charles Krafft. But his pieces go beyond pastels and pretty flowers.

Krafft has made a career out of messing with our expectations of ceramic art. Pouring tea from one of his teapots or eating from one of Krafft’s plates might make you lose your appetite.

Florangela Davila

If you’re crazy about films, then this is the time of year when you’re over the moon. Over 25 days, the Seattle International Film Festival shows 450 movies at 20 venues in and around Seattle.
Among the ordinary festival-goer is a special type of film fan: those who don’t sleep, mow the lawn, or spend time with friends or family unless they’re with them at the movies.

These are the approximately 400 folks who have a full series pass, who may see around 100 films or so per festival.

A few tips if you wish to be this die-hard:

Courtesy of Hedgebrook

On Whidbey Island, among the evergreens, sits Hedgebrook, a writers retreat solely for women. Nestled on 48 acres, women writers, like feminist and journalist Gloria Steinem, have been seeking solitude at the property since 1988. It's a piece of land that many say is a source of creative power.

Recently, young women playwrights have been honing their works with only the sounds of the surrounding forest to interrupt their writing. They've been invited to Whidbey Island to join in the Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival.

For  KPLU's weekly Artscape series, I travelled to Hedgebrook to talk to two of the writers about their work.

Florangela Davila / KPLU

Throughout Seattle, on any given night, you can find some place hosting karaoke, which means “empty orchestra” in Japanese.

There’s karaoke in friendly community halls in Greenwood; in swanky clubs on Capitol Hill; in private rooms underneath cutesy bubble tea houses in the I-D.

Ursa Waz

Modern life can be difficult to live without help from our smart-phones and other gadgets. Apple is at the forefront of this technology and its users are often incredibly loyal. But a new show by monologist Mike Daisey at the Seattle Repertory Theater raises the point that all of this beautiful design and convenience comes at a cost to factory workers in China.

The production is called “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.”