Photo of Kibibi Monie (left), Ben Leiataua (middle), and Kouyate Arts (right) seated and smiling at the camera.

Rainier Arts Center Hosts Weekly Porch Festival Showcasing BIPOC Artists

by Chamidae Ford

This Wednesday, Aug. 11, the Rainier Arts Center will be hosting its second installation of the August Porch Festival. From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. you can find local BIPOC artists taking the stage to perform music for their community. Each week offers a wide range of styles and genres of music and performances. 

The Center was opened in 1997 and has served as a gathering space to support the arts for the Rainier community since. Throughout the summer, the Center hosts a wide array of events and activities located in Columbia Park. As a part of that, the Porch Festival aims to provide local artists the space to demonstrate their talents while keeping everyone safe and socially distanced. 

“We primarily wanted to showcase South End artists that were BIPOC,” said Ben Leiataua, manager of the Rainier Arts Center.

Located near the Columbia City Farmers Market, which also takes place on Wednesdays, the Porch Festival allows you to browse local vendors and buy fresh produce before ending your outing with the sounds and talents of your community. 

“We went ahead and aligned our festival with the farmers market since there are already folks out there from the neighborhood,” Leiataua said. “[Last week] we had a lot of folks from the market just walk down to our corner and [take a seat] and just enjoy the show.”

Last week Kibibi Monie and Kouyaté Arts performed, bringing African folktales, music, and dance to the stage. This week will feature Ashanti Proctor and Michael Powers, two blues-influenced musicians that Leiataua describes as “local legends.”

Proctor is a classically trained soprano who will be shedding her opera roots and performing an R&B, jazz, and soul-inspired set. She will be accompanied by Andra Green on the keyboard.

“Hearing her sing this genre of music just as an opera singer, it is amazing to see her transition to the other types of music,” Leiataiua said. “It’s astounding to me; she’s a wonderful vocalist.”

Powers, a Cornish College of the Arts graduate and South End guitarist, will also be taking the stage. Although his music is rooted in the jazz tradition, he plays with pop, R&B, and blues styles. 

“Powers is also a local instrumentalist. He’s an amazing guitar player and just an amazing virtuoso,” Leiataiua said. 

For the Rainier Arts Center, the Porch Festival represents an opportunity to remind everyone of the talent that exists within the South End and their own community.

“A lot of people venture to downtown Seattle, to all over the place, but just in their backyard, there are renowned performers in their own right that rival other performers that people sort of don’t know are in their neighborhoods,” Leiataiua said. “So I think it’s important to showcase our own people.”

The Porch Festival will continue throughout August, every Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Chamidae Ford is a recent journalism graduate of the University of Washington. Born and raised in Western Washington, she has a passion for providing a voice to the communities around her. She has written for The Daily, GRAY Magazine, and Capitol Hill Seattle. Reach her on IG/Twitter: @chamidaeford.

📸 Featured Image: Pre-show image of Ben Leiataua and performers Kibibi Monie and Kouyaté Arts. Photo courtesy of Ben Leiataua.

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