by Beverly Aarons
Rat City Records & Relics — gone. Cow Chip Cookies — gone. The famous downtown Elephant Car Wash — also gone. If you just arrived in the Emerald City, you can be forgiven for not noticing that Seattle’s cultural and business landscape has been … terraformed. Yes, I know the old saying: “The only constant in life is change.” But what happens to a city when the places where people gather, connect, and build community disappear? What happens to a city’s soul when locally owned and quirky is replaced by corporate-owned and … well, boring? Since 2018, Vanishing Seattle filmmakers Cynthia Brothers and Martin Tran have been documenting Seattle’s rapid transformation in a six-film series, so they’re intimately acquainted with the city’s metamorphosis. I had the opportunity to speak with them about how the city has changed, why they’re documenting disappearing places, and how they’ve been personally impacted by it all.
Continue reading Seattle Isn’t Dead But it Is Vanishing: A Conversation With Vanishing Seattle Filmmakers
by Mayumi Tsutakawa
Bonsai. Many of us know broadly what it is (small, highly cultivated trees), but few of us recognize the depth of history or patient care required to create these living art works.
The exhibition at Pacific Bonsai Museum (PBM) in Federal Way, “World War Bonsai: Remembrance and Resilience,” offers perspectives and history — and perhaps hope — in our difficult time of both introspection and public cries against racism — and while we also shelter ourselves from a pandemic.
Katherine Wimble Fox, staff of Pacific Bonsai Museum, explains, “The exhibition focuses on 32 bonsai, the work of America’s first bonsai masters, who, sadly, experienced tremendous personal suffering, the loss of livelihoods, and cherished trees, when they were forced into World War II incarceration simply because they looked like the enemy.” Art works by Erin Shigaki illustrate these stories.
Continue reading ‘World War Bonsai: Remembrance and Resilience’ Showcases History, Culture, and Resistance of Bonsai in the Northwest
by Susan Fried
Artist Kimisha Turner, one of 15 artists that worked on the Black Lives Matter street mural on Pine Street, knew exactly which letter she wanted to paint when the artists picked their letters. “I knew I wanted the ‘B’ because it was the ‘b’eginning of such an important and powerful statement; ‘B’ is Black, Brown, Beautiful, Bold, Blessed, Bodacious, Brilliant …” Her letter, which is painted in vibrant, red, yellow, green, purple, and black, features an African-inspired design. “I wanted to create something that was a nod to African textiles and pride in Black culture. The mountain peak shapes represent the long road we’ve been on to justice, equality, and equity. They move forward along with the arrows to promote progression, hope for positive change, and a brighter future.”
Continue reading Photo Essay: Local Artists Come Together to Renew the BLM Street Mural
by Beverly Aarons
What is genius? Most people would say a naturally or exceptionally talented individual is in fact a genius. But the word genius was originally used to describe a guiding spirit that resided within each human being. It was believed by the Romans that every person was born with a ‘genius.’ So if you created some great work of art it could be said that your ‘genius’ was the source of this artistic creation. But at some point, people began to believe that only some people had ‘genius.’ When I spoke with Seattle-based poet and playwright Jacqueline Ware about her two plays — Madison Park Bench and COVID Dreams — I couldn’t help but remember this old definition of genius. You see, for a long time this talented writer could only see the genius in others. She watched others write poetry and perform their work, and she believed she could never be as good as them. But then something happened — she changed.
Continue reading With “COVID Dreams,” Seattle Writer Jacqueline Ware Awakens the Genius Within
by Vivian Hua 華婷婷
(This article first ran in REDEFINE Magazine and appears under a co-publishing agreement.)
Speak to Renton-based visual artist barry johnson for any substantial amount of time, and one quickly understands why his latest catchphrase, “anything is anything,” has become an overarching mantra. As johnson explains, “Because I’m a self-taught artist, [the phrase] gives me freedom …”
“anything is anything” was the title of johnson’s first solo art show at Tacoma’s Alma Mater in August 2019, and is now the title of his weekly podcast on “the origins of myths, idioms, stories, and nonsense.” Both offer tiny glimpses into johnson’s varied interests and atraditional way of moving through traditional art spaces, which has led to an art practice that includes numerous mediums, from painting and architecture to performance and film — all with a focus on Black communities.
Continue reading barry johnson Artist Interview: “anything is anything” Can Become Structural Change
by Beverly Aarons
Before the pandemic, death brought together mourners — relatives and friends alike — who could offer a warm hug, shed some tears, and hold hands as they remembered the deceased. But the pandemic has changed that — family and friends mourn at a distance and sometimes alone. There is no easy way to bring that plate of comfort food to the bereaved mother or sibling or friend. And for anyone who isn’t part of a “pandemic household pod,” a warm hug or kiss on the cheek is simply out of the question. Losing a loved one is difficult in any circumstance, but this pandemic is compounding grief for many mourners. So how can people offer support to their loved ones experiencing grief and still do so at a safe distance?
Continue reading Don’t Know How to Support Your Grieving Loved Ones? There’s an App for That
by Beverly Aarons
The 2020 Social Justice Film Festival (October 1–11) is streaming online now. This year’s theme is Transform: Another World Is Possible. Individual tickets and festival passes are available on a sliding scale. Dozens of films from around the world are grouped into 25 topic blocks: reproductive rights, environmentalism, Black Lives Matter, poverty, trauma, “good vibes,” and more. Four film panel discussions will be live-streamed via Facebook at no cost to the public. Since its inception, the Social Justice Film Festival has continuously expanded its cinematic offerings from independent and first-time filmmakers exploring important social issues. Originally launched as a festival that featured films from prisoners, the Social Justice Film Festival has grown to include numerous human rights issues under its banner. I had an opportunity to speak with the festival’s Managing Director, Aurora Martin, and one of the participating filmmakers, Gilda Sheppard.
Continue reading The 2020 Social Justice Film Festival Is Online Through October 11
by Anne Liu Kellor
Who cares about gardens and landscape design right now, in a time of widespread grief and despair?
Let me reframe that question.
Who cares about a story of resilience, racism, community, cross-cultural connection, place, and poetry?
Continue reading Book Review: Spirited Stone, Lessons from Kubota’s Garden
by Beverly Aarons
Witchcraft, futuristic tech, goblins, mermaids, magical spells, dystopian/utopian futures, and other fantastical imaginings are all common themes in science fiction. And every Black nerd knows that there is a sizable number of Black people who love to read the genre. So why is it still so difficult to track down speculative fiction stories written by contemporary Black women authors? There’s certainly no shortage of Black women writing in the genre. And many of those writers are incredibly prolific. The biggest challenge seems to be curatorial. Some of these works remain “undiscovered” by a wide swath of readers because there are not enough people who seek out, read, and vet published science fiction stories written by Black women.
Continue reading Sistah Scifi Makes Space for Stories Black Geeks, Nerds, and ‘Weirdos’ Will Love
by Beverly Aarons
Have you ever listened to music that lifts your spirit, even after a difficult day? Your heart slows down to an even, relaxed thump, and all of your anxieties dissipate. In almost every culture, this kind of music exists. It’s ancient. It’s unmetered. It’s sacred. And Seattle Sacred Music and Art (SAMA) wants to bring this sacred music from around the globe to Seattle stages and — during the pandemic — screens. Founded in late 2019 by John Goodfellow, SAMA has already begun featuring on its website livestreamed performances from international sacred music artists. I had an opportunity to speak with KEXP DJ and SAMA curator, Darek Mazzone, about his vision.
“I’m trying to get people to open up their hearts to other places,” Mazzone said. He describes himself as a cultural activist who uses music to change minds. “I’m seeing a lot of closed hearts right now — closed hearts all over this country and other parts of the world — and a lot of fear. And I find that with music as an art form, it allows people to let go of fear and it opens up their hearts.”
Continue reading Seattle Sacred Music: A Balm For the Soul