Artscape

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

Courtsey of Langston Hughes African American Film Festival

If we relied on Hollywood, we’d get a very limited view of African Americans. 

"There’s three models that we have of black people in Hollywood and none of them are any good. The ho, the gangster, the victim. And occasionally you get the saint."

That's Jacqueline Moscou, artistic director of Seattle's Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center. And what she's talking about are films like "Booty Call,"The Book of Eli" and "Precious."

Courtesy of Shelli Hyrkas

This week marks the 20th anniversary of when an audience heard Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the first time. The band played it at Seattle’s OK Hotel near Pioneer Square and the rest as they say, is history. A new exhibit at the Experience Music Project called “Taking Punk To The Masses: from Nowhere to Nevermind” looks at all of the factors that led to Nirvana explosion onto the global music scene.

Photo by Bob Cerelli

Each winter and spring, the Paramount Theatre in Seattle hosts a silent movie series on Monday nights.
This month’s classic films showcase New York City and it also features one of Buster Keaton’s best works.

But the star attraction isn’t what’s on screen. It’s the instrument making the music.

AP

April is National Humor Month. So, Nick and I thought we'd explore the funny side of jazz.Here are  five jazz artists known for their wit as well as their jazz chops. 

Jennifer Wing/KPLU

The little ukulele is having a moment in the spotlight. It has come a long way since Tiny Tim tiptoed through the tulips. 

Florangela Davila / KPLU

Some of Washington’s toughest kids, at the toughest moments in their lives, are locked-up at the only state-run children's psychiatric hospital. They spend their time as residents, patients and students. And on occasion, they also get to be poets, working with the non-profit Pongo Teen Writing Workshop.

The weekly writing workshop unfolds in an ordinary classroom: five kids paired up with five adult mentors.

The mentors ask questions: How are you feeling? What's on your mind? They type up the answers and then flesh them into verse.

Photo by Barbara Kinney

What's the new show at the Seattle Art Museum look like? Think Chewbacca painted neon yellow and bubblegum pink, without any eyes in a cone-shaped head.

There's a tiger-masked creature with a huge cage surrounding his body. The cage is made up of ceramic birds.

There's a jumpsuit stitched from hundreds of Beanie Babies. And suits that look like astronauts made entirely of mother-of-pearl buttons.

There are more than 50 otherworldy, jaw-dropping creations featured in the exhibit, "Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth."

The show is the first museum tour for the Chicago-based artist (not to be confused with that other Nick Cave). It's a riot of texture and pattern that can be experienced in two major ways.

We all know where to go to see “great” art. But what about really “bad” art? Where do you see that collection?Well, you are in luck because Seattle has its very own Official Bad Art Museum of Art. It’s The “OBAMA.” The collection’s curators are the Seattle couple Marlow Harris and Jo David.

Club House for the Creative

The museum is housed inside Cafe Racer, a blue, nondescript coffee house and bar right at the edge of the University District in Seattle.

The people who hang out here are burlesque artists, cartoonists, musicians and the occasional sword swallower. It’s a club house for the creative. To get into the “OBAMA” isn’t easy. Joe David says the artwork has to meet a certain standard."

“It’s a piece that started out with the right intentions and then something horribly went wrong along the way.”

Yes, the pieces are bad, but they are still interesting to view. The collection goes well beyond "Dogs Playing Poker." 

Photo by Rozarii Lynch

Seattle Opera’s latest production is “Don Quixote.” The show is a spectacle, featuring sets that look like humongous books; computer-animated windmills; and flamenco dancers.

The cast also features a memorable pair from Bothell who is making its operatic debut: Millie, a donkey, and Desperado, a horse.

Chris Bennion

We know that how information is being communicated and paid for is quickly changing and that because of this the field of journalism is in a state of flux. But what does this exactly mean for today’s reporters and a public that wants to be informed?

A new play in the Seattle area explores how “instant information” through texting and tweeting is affecting the way news is covered and consumed here in the Northwest. It’s called “The New, New News…a Living Newspaper."

Photo by Craig Schwartz. / Courtesy 5th Avenue Theatre.

Bipolar disorder has been the inspiration for many artists and many works of art…from the movie A Beautiful Mind to Sylvia Plath's autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar

Now it's showing up in a musical, called "Next to Normal." 

Ten years ago, the production had its genesis at The Village Theater in Issaquah.  Now, after numerous revisions, it's back in the Seattle area at the 5th Avenue Theatre.  For the latest in our series ARTSCAPE, KPLU's Bellamy Pailthorp caught up with Bryan Yorkey, the writer of the show, who together with the composer, Tom Kitt, was the surprise winner of last year's Pulitzer Prize for drama.

Courtesy of Jeffrey Alan Smith

Right from the beginning, the Lakewood Playhouse made an impression on Minnesota-transplant Jeffrey Alan Smith.

"When I auditioned for the show, I was kind of taken aback because I’d never seen a theater in a mall."

Yes, a mall, with an Old Navy and a Bed, Bath and Beyond.  But the Lakewood Towne Center also has a 160-seat theater called the Lakewood Playhouse.  And this is where 23-year-old Smith has gotten his theatrical break.

Dr. Kyo Koike, c. 1922. Gelatin silver print. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, UW29042z

They were a dedicated group of mostly Japanese photographers from the 1920s whose work at the time was known all over the world.

But until now, there hasn't been much attention here on the Seattle Camera Club and its style of photography that some academics have dismissed.

A new exhibit opening at the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington --  “Shadows of a Fleeting World: Pictorial Photography and the Seattle Camera Club” -- showcases 200 black-and-white and sepia-toned images. Photos of awesome Mount Rainier and delicate ballerinas, such as Anna Pavlova who was visiting from Russia.

Photo by Weatherly Schiele

Go ahead and joke about the bagpipe: It sounds like a dying cat!

Just don't joke in front of 15-year-old Alexander Schiele. The Snohomish resident plays in two Northwest Highland pipe bands and commutes twice a week to Vancouver, B.C. just to learn from some of the world's best.
Nothing compares to playing the pipes, he says, while rehearsing with the Northwest Junior White Spot United Pipe Band in Shoreline on a recent Sunday night.

Photo by Chris Bennion

Actor Renata Friedman has a distinct look that sometimes cost her roles when she was in college.

"I wasn’t the traditional cute, beautiful blond girl who would be Juliet or Ophelia. I got cast as Hamlet. And did Richard II. I was always playing men. There were times that I resented that and would have loved to have played a little love story and have a stage kiss," she says.

La Vie Photography

On this morning, Olivier Wevers is playing the role of costume manager, digging into a plastic bag and pulling out a pair of casual tank tops to give to his dancers.

Eric “Two Scoops” Moore is a big, gregarious man who's released seven critically-acclaimed CDs. The Washington Blues Society has honored him with numerous awards. Perhaps more than those accomplishments, the blues musician is better known for his musical spontaneity and his big heart. 

Despite life's challenges and some true hardships, he retains a keen sense of optimism. Flesh eating disease? No problem. His wife Amy's multiple sclerosis?  That's easy. You find out why when you listen to his philosophy. The wild look in his kind eyes starts to tell the story. His uncanny connection with a piano punctuates it.

George Shangrow
Photo by John Cornicello

A Seattle musical institution and its volunteer performers find strength in the memory of the group's founder, a man whose creative energy remains an inspiration to move forward following his death earlier this year.

Chris Bennion / ACT

There's about 180 roles in Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker. There’s also some engaging props like a Christmas tree that grows right before your eyes, and one enormous rat with a twitching tale.

But the snow scene – the first time Clara dances with her Nutcracker-turned Prince is the sight to behold.

The couple dance in the moonlight, surrounded by ballerina snowflakes dressed in pale blue skirts. A dusting of snow falls throughout the scene.

Courtesy of MOHAI

I’m one of those people who carries a bulging, heavy handbag, crammed with so much stuff that I can’t always find my cellphone. But heavy or not, it’s my attempt at making a fashon statement. It’s the color of a tangerine.

Walk into the galleries at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI)and it’s impossible not to size up your purse.

Over here, from the '30s, a bag made out of Bakelite is the color of butterscotch. And from the 1990s, stylish Prada and Kate Spade bags.

There’s a century’s worth of purses, made out of sealskin, clam shells, cantaloupe seeds, even cigarette wrappers and aluminum can tabs. Purses meant to be worn under clothes or proudly shown off.

And purses from the turn of the century that weren’t even meant for one’s arm.

Courtesy MTV

If you ask anyone outside the Northwest what the region is known for, they will likely say coffee and grunge music. People here still love their lattes, but the new web-series from MTV and local filmmaker Lynn Shelton shows us how the music scene has grown far beyond the sounds of of Nirvana’s Teen Spirit.

Seattle Jazz Ed Advanced Ensemble
Charla Bear

Seattle public schools have some of the best jazz programs in the country.  Student ensembles dominate at national competitions and perform all over the world.  But many kids don’t get to participate because the bands only exist in a few schools.  Now a new program aims to give every middle and high school student in the area an opportunity to learn from renowned jazz teachers. 

Gary Davis/KPLU

In a time when films like Jackass 3-D and the Saw horror sequels are tops at the box office, some young Seattle filmmakers are winning awards for bucking popular trends.  A Ballard High School program is turning out talented film students whose work is inspired by an ancient model.  

Steven Miller photograph

 A new exhibit at Seattle's Frye Art Museum is full of items rich in double meaning. Like a large wax chair full of hundreds of arrows. Or a jar full of medicinal leeches. 

And then there's a stunner of a dress that stops you as soon as you walk in through the door. "You'll see a really beautiful dress, with wide wide sides. And it looks very sheer. It's organza," says Frye deputy director Robin Held. 

"Now the surface of the dress looks like it's covered in bugs."

It's actually covered with more than 2,500 black bows. But it doesn't stop there.

In addition to chamber music, the Olympic Music Festival offers patrons a chance
Florangela Davila / KPLU

It's 24 hours before performance time out here on the Olympic Peninusula, so while the grounds are getting soaked by sprinklers, I walk into a barn being bathed in Mozart.

A string quartet rehearses -- A pair of violinists, a cellist, a violist - all focused on perfecting music written for an intimate setting.

View the full story

AP

If you love jazz, then you know it's often a family affair. Here's one example: the Heath Brothers Quartet performed this weekend at Jazz Port Townsend, with Jimmy Heath on tenor saxophone and Tootie Heath on drums. Along with their late brother Percy, the Heaths are just one of the great sibling stories in jazz. In this week's installment of our Artscape series, KPLU's Kirsten Kendrick and Nick Morrison discuss more musical families as part of a list that Nick prepared for NPR.

Images from refugee camps
Souchinda Viradet Khampradith, Chakrya Lim, Choy Vong and Sam Ung / Courtesy Photo

On April 30th, 1975, the Vietnam War ended. But that was only the beginning for millions of Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians, as they desperately found ways to leave their war torn countries. An account of refugees' struggles and hardships is now on exhibit at Seattle's Wing Luke Museum. This is the story of two refugees who came here to start a new life.

View the full story

Kate Whoriskey
Chad Batka / Courtesy Photo

For the first time in her theatrical career, Kate Whoriskey can contemplate decorating an office. Because now she actually has one.
"I'm trying to work on posters and I'm hoping to do something with the ceiling. Because it's a little bit barren," she says.
Except for an orchid and a couple of stuffed animals for her 21- month-old son Rory, there isn't much else personalizing her new space. But she's still transitioning - from New York theater freelancer to artistic director at Seattle's Intiman Theatre.
View the full story

Bret Walker
Cass Walker / Courtesy Photo

The photos stand in a homey, makeshift gallery. On the floor of a garage in Clyde Hill. Owner Cass Walker has moved the cars out of the way to make room for her series of large mostly black- and-white images that tell the story of her older brother Bret.

View the full story, along with images and audio.

Liam Moriarty / KPLU

For most of his career, Edmonds artist Michael Reagan drew life-like portraits of the rich and famous; movie stars, sports figures, six presidents, the Pope. But several years ago, he started drawing pictures of American soldiers killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and offering them free to the families.

The artist - who's also a Vietnam vet -- feels this gift to the loved ones left behind is a kind of healing, not only for the families, but for himself.

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