Guest Post: Bookmarks and Landmarks in South King County

Century-old apple trees in the orchard at Mary Olson Farm. Photo by Rachael McAlister, White River Valley Museum.

SoCoCulture is a coalition of arts, heritage and botanical organizations throughout South King County, all working together to connect King County residents to the cultural vitality of the area. In this guest post, Barbara McMichael shares details on a brand new program created by a group of South King County historical organizations:

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Century-old apple trees in the orchard at Mary Olson Farm. Photo by Rachael McAlister, White River Valley Museum.
Century-old apple trees in the orchard at Mary Olson Farm. Photo by Rachael McAlister, White River Valley Museum.

SoCoCulture is a coalition of arts, heritage and botanical organizations throughout South King County, all working together to connect King County residents to the cultural vitality of the area. In this guest post, Barbara McMichael shares details on a brand new program created by a group of South King County historical organizations:

Ask the executive director of any local historical house museum and they’ll tell you: if they had a nickel for every time they met somebody who said, “I’ve always meant to check that place out,” they’d never have to apply to 4Culture for Sustained Support funding again. Drawing new visitors into these beautiful old landmark residences means that the nonprofit organizations running them have to go beyond hosting the traditional tours and teas.

Over the next few months, three historical sites are piloting a new initiative that was proposed by SoCoCulture and quickly grew into a generous collaboration among several cultural organizations in South King County. Bookmarks & Landmarks aims to bring readers to the following sites by hosting events that discuss books dealing with some of the themes that each site strives to interpret.

First up, the Greater Kent Historical Society will welcome participants to Bereiter House on May 21 for a discussion of The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. This bestseller celebrates the 1936 U.S. men’s Olympic eight-oar rowing team comprised of University of Washington students who came from the working class. Guest speakers will include rowing historians, current rowing enthusiasts, and a special appearance by local Olympic rowing champion Al Rossi, who brought home Olympic Bronze in 1952.

On June 18, the historic Mary Olson Farm in Auburn will host a program centered on the novel The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. The book tells the story of a reclusive Washington apple grower at the beginning of the 20th century – a perfect fit for the Mary Olson Farm, which has been restored to reflect its roots as a subsistence farm from that same era, and features a century-old orchard containing many heirloom apple varieties.

And on July 16, just outside of Auburn, the landmarked Neely Mansion will focus on Looking Like the Enemy, a memoir written by Mary Matsuda Gruenewald about her removal from Vashon Island during World War II and incarceration in a Japanese American internment camp, even though she was an American citizen. The author and other local members of the Japanese American community will participate on a panel to recount their experiences from that time. In the 1930s, the Neely Mansion was home to Japanese American farmers who built a traditional bathhouse on the grounds. Over the intervening decades, the structure had fallen into disrepair, but recently the bathhouse was recognized as a King County landmark, and its restoration is being completed this spring.

Pre-registration is required to take part in any or all of these Bookmarks & Landmarks programs, but participation is free, thanks to the generous sponsorship of 4Culture, the King County Library System, Humanities Washington, and realtors Kathi Jones (John L. Scott) and Vickie Chynoweth (Keller Williams).

Guest Post: Highline Historical Society Expands its Reach

The Highline Historical Society celebrates the opening of Latinos in Highline. Photo by Nancy Salguero McKay.

Nancy Salguero McKay is the Curator of Collections and Exhibits at the Highline Historical Society, soon to be the Highline Heritage Museum. As the organization grows and changes, Nancy shares some insight into how she approaches her work, and into how she and her colleagues work to reflect and engage their communities:

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Photo courtesy of the Highline Historical Society.
The Highline Historical Society celebrates the opening of Latinos in Highline. Photo by Nancy Salguero McKay.

Nancy Salguero McKay is the Curator of Collections and Exhibits at the Highline Historical Society, soon to be the Highline Heritage Museum. As the organization grows and changes, Nancy shares some insight into how she approaches her work, and into how she and her colleagues work to reflect and engage their communities:

We tell the stories of the Highline region and its people! We create exhibits, public programming, and the opportunity to add artifacts to our community collections. We are creating a bridge from the earliest pioneer recollections to the newest immigrant stories. We are the Highline Historical Society, and soon the Highline Heritage Museum. The museum is presently under construction. We are planning to open to the public during the winter of 2016.

Our passion is for our visitors to have access to a broad spectrum of information sources and cultural perspectives. We want our stories to spark discussions and to share differences and similarities. We are creating a place where visitors can connect with the stories and with each other. We envision ourselves sitting at a round table where no one is the leader and stories are heard respectfully regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, disabilities or ethnicity.

An example reflecting our mission is a newly installed exhibit at the City of SeaTac. The Latinos in Highline—Moral Courage exhibit is more than a re-telling of immigration experiences. It is inspired by families starting a new life in the Highline area who showed moral courage. Every immigrant is willing to face not only physical danger but emotional pain, disapproval, even financial insecurity! They have the courage and the moral values to be honest at the risk of community rejection or retaliation. This is about families passing these values to the next generation. This exhibit will be mounted at multiple locations around Highline.

We are providing a meeting ground for everyone to express his or her voice. We are inviting visitors to respond and add cultural artifacts and historical records to display. This exhibit is about bringing the immigrant voice to the round table.

For me, the Latinos in Highline exhibit is a personal matter. As an immigrant myself I know how it feels to face painful circumstances and to overcome obstacles. It is personal to bring to the table a woman’s voice in gender differences, or as a millennial to embrace intergenerational changes, or as a person with a hearing disability using hearing aids. History is a personal matter to everyone. We all have many voices we represent; we thrive in celebrating our uniqueness and in discovering our similarities.

Visit our new website. We feel it reflects our community. We invite everyone to preserve their stories, to collect their treasures, to engage in discussions, to keep remembering, to discover new points of view, to be inspired by people, to explore our collections, to share their voices and to learn together. Our goal is to capture diverse stories. It is not just about bringing stories from a variety of different races; it is about celebrating a variety of life experiences free of bias and prejudice.

Guest Post: Greg Ruby Rediscovers a Jazz Pioneer

Leon Hutchinson, Adam “Slocum” Mitchell, Glover Compton, Frank D. Waldron. Photo courtesy of the Washington State Black Heritage Society.

In 2015, I received funding from both 4Culture Heritage Projects and 4Culture Arts Projects to preserve, interpret, and promote musical compositions created by Seattle jazz pioneer Frank D. Waldron, one of the most important figures in early Seattle jazz. Born in 1890, Waldron settled in Seattle in 1907, and by 1912 was performing throughout the Pacific Northwest. In 1919, he established the Waldron School of Trumpet and Saxophone at 1242 Jackson Street, the epicenter of Seattle’s burgeoning jazz district. There he taught generations of Seattle’s young musicians including world famous jazz stars Quincy Jones and Buddy Catlett. In 1924, Waldron self-published a 32-page saxophone tutorial book, Frank D. Waldron’s Syncopated Classic. Utilizing nine of his original compositions as a vehicle to demonstrate the latest techniques of the era, he left behind a brilliant written collection of 1920s instrumental music.

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Leon Hutchinson, Adam “Slocum” Mitchell, Glover Compton, Frank D. Waldron. Photo courtesy of the Washington State Black Heritage Society.
Leon Hutchinson, Adam “Slocum” Mitchell, Glover Compton, Frank D. Waldron. Photo courtesy of the Washington State Black Heritage Society.

In 2015, I received funding from both 4Culture Heritage Projects and 4Culture Arts Projects to preserve, interpret, and promote musical compositions created by Seattle jazz pioneer Frank D. Waldron, one of the most important figures in early Seattle jazz. Born in 1890, Waldron settled in Seattle in 1907, and by 1912 was performing throughout the Pacific Northwest. In 1919, he established the Waldron School of Trumpet and Saxophone at 1242 Jackson Street, the epicenter of Seattle’s burgeoning jazz district. There he taught generations of Seattle’s young musicians including world famous jazz stars Quincy Jones and Buddy Catlett. In 1924, Waldron self-published a 32-page saxophone tutorial book, Frank D. Waldron’s Syncopated Classic. Utilizing nine of his original compositions as a vehicle to demonstrate the latest techniques of the era, he left behind a brilliant written collection of 1920s instrumental music.

Waldron never recorded his music. While Waldron’s work compares to contemporaries like Jelly Roll Morton, W.C. Handy, and Spencer Williams, Waldron’s geographical remoteness in Seattle prevented his compositions from being recorded, and he and other local musicians were left out of the history books. Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in Seattle author Paul de Barros helped coordinate research on Waldron, utilizing genealogy databases, Seattle City directories, newspapers, and other sources. This allowed us to create a thorough timeline of Waldron’s life, during which we learned that while he was previously thought to have arrived in Seattle in 1919, the directories showed a listing in Seattle dated to 1907. Waldron’s contribution to the First World War effort was made through patriotic songs. “The Kaiser’s Got the Blues (Since Uncle Sam Stepped In)” was his first self-published composition with a copyright date of February 25, 1918.

I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to view an original copy of this piece of music at the Library of Congress Performing Arts reading room. During this trip, I also tracked down a previously unknown work of Waldron’s from 1932 titled, “Valse Queen Ann,” copyrighted on April 15, 1932. Holding this piece of handwritten music by Waldron was a joyful experience. I was fortunate to interview saxophonist Barney Hilliard, who studied with Waldron while in his teens. He commented, “He would sit on his piano bench and talk me through all the fingerings…‘if you keep working with me, you will play as well as you would ever want to play. Charlie Parker can stand up and play along with an orchestra without music and I can teach you to do that if you keep working with me.’” The Black Heritage Society of Washington State provided access to the three only known photographs of Waldron: an iconic image of Waldron with the Wang Doodle Orchestra from 1915, a picture of Waldron performing with the Odean Orchestra at the Nanking Café at 1616 ½ 4th Avenue, and a 1925 photo of him with Hutchens, clarinetist Adam “Slocum” Mitchell, and pianist Glover Compton.

Left: Frank D. Waldron’s Syncopated Classic, from the collection of Paul de Barros. Right: Syncopated Classic digitally restored by Michael McDevitt
Left: Frank D. Waldron’s Syncopated Classic, from the collection of Paul de Barros. Right: Syncopated Classic digitally restored by Michael McDevitt.

Waldron self-published Syncopated Classic in 1924—it is unknown how many copies of the book were initially created. I have completely re-notated all nine songs, attending to the detail of each nuance and making every attempt to replicate the originals. Additionally, with the only available cover of Syncopated Classic a photocopy made by de Barros 25 years ago, I worked with artist and graphic designer Michael McDevitt to restore the cover and table of contents. The digital formatting of the written music, cover and table of contents will allow for a reprinting of Syncopated Classic as this project seeks future funding to publish a book combining Syncopated Classic, a definitive biography of Waldron, and audio recordings of the original manuscript. Additionally, the digital files of Syncopated Classic are in the process of being uploaded to the Black Heritage Society of Washington State’s archive.

My band, Greg Ruby and the Rhythm Runners, a six piece vintage jazz ensemble, will continue share Waldron’s compositions this month! This collaborative effort features musicians from the Pacific Northwest, New Orleans and New York. You can catch our upcoming shows here:

Wednesday, March 23, 9:00 pm
Century Ballroom, 915 E Pine, Seattle

Thursday, March 24, 12:15 pm
KPLU 88.5 FM, Live on air hosted by Dick Stein

Thursday, March 24, 8:00 pm
Cornish Presents – PONCHO at Kerry Hall, 710 East Roy St, Seattle

Friday, March 25, 8:30 pm
East Side Stomp at the Aria Ballroom, 15300 NE 95th Street, Redmond, WA

Saturday, March 26, 7:30 pm
Seattle Folklore Society, Phinney Center Concert Hall, 6532 Phinney Ave N, Seattle

Sunday, March 27, 7:00 pm
Traditions Café Concert Series, 300 5th Avenue SW, Olympia

Wednesday, March 30, 7:00 pm
Whatcom Jazz Music Art Center, WJMAC Room at the Majestic, 1027 N Forest St, Bellingham

Take a listen to the Rhythm Runners playing Waldron’s composition “Low Down:”

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Stephanie Guerra: Stories Unlocked

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Rob Ellis, 1/365 I think I've got too much time on my hands? Digital Photograph. (cc) 2011

Rob Ellis, 1/365 I think I’ve got too much time on my hands?, Digital Photograph. (cc) 2011

 

Stephanie Guerra was awarded an Art Projects grant for her project, Stories Unlocked, an ongoing publication of writing by students incarcerated in King County Juvenile Detention Center and at-risk teens in our region. Here Stephanie shares why she does this work and why these young people are motivated to write.

On any given day, more than 100,000 teens are incarcerated in the United States. Countless more are considered at-risk for incarceration, based on factors such as homelessness, poverty, gang membership, substance abuse, grade retention, and more. Research shows that literacy is one of the most important protective factors against recidivism.

I’m a teaching artist and children’s author, and since 2005, I’ve been running creative writing programs in detention facilities in King County. Currently I’m teaching the teen girls at King County Juvenile Detention Center, and I’m moved and inspired by their writing. Their voices are unique and their stories are powerful.

Thanks to an Art Projects grant from 4Culture and a Youth Arts grant Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, I was able this year to realize a long-time dream to offer my incarcerated students a chance to share their stories and poems with the public. Together we launched storiesunlocked.com, a digital magazine of their work. I invite you to visit the web site and experience the voices of teens whom you may pass on the street, know personally, or otherwise intersect with in King County.

Sometimes we write for ourselves alone, but for many writers, an audience is a powerful motivator. The Stories Unlocked Project brought out a new level of focus and determination in my students. Especially after the initial site launch, I noticed their intense motivation to write more and better.

In their own words (names omitted to protect privacy):

“This web site is really inspiring. It’s true stuff, that’s why I like it.”

“It’s great because we finally get a chance to tell people what it’s really like.”

“People actually listen to us.”

“It truly means a lot to me that you guys are going out of your way to publish our writing. Having someone come in and offer this program to us is amazing because we didn’t realize how others want to hear what we have to say.”

These are just a few examples of the positive feedback I’ve received from the girls. This opportunity means a lot to them; they feel heard. During the Stories Unlocked Project, I’ve seen emotional breakthroughs, friendships built, and stellar work produced. I’m especially moved by the handful of students who’ve committed to novellas and are sticking with a project for dozens of pages. Many thanks to 4Culture and Seattle Office of Arts & Culture for making this possible. Thanks and congratulations to the young writers at the Stories Unlocked Project. I am so proud to share your work with the world.

This is What It's All About

Creative Justice Mentor Artist Nikkita Oliver. Photo by Tim Aguero.

Creative Justice is 4Culture’s arts-based alternative to incarceration for King County youth. Spoken-word artist, teaching artist and anti-racist organizer, Nikkita Oliver led the final  project session of our inaugural year of programming. Oliver believes that the power of the arts is in the power of our voices, and works alongside young people, helping them develop creative skills and tell their stories. From September 15 through December 3, she mentored twelve teen participants twice per week as they spoke truth to power through writing, performance, poetry, theater, music, and visual arts, even publishing a chapbook—Things I Need You to Know—at the end of their session. Here, Nikkita shares her thoughts on the experience: 

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Creative Justice Mentor Artist Nikkita Oliver
Creative Justice Mentor Artist Nikkita Oliver. Photo by Tim Aguero.

Creative Justice is 4Culture’s arts-based alternative to incarceration for King County youth. Spoken-word artist, teaching artist and anti-racist organizer, Nikkita Oliver led the final  project session of our inaugural year of programming. Oliver believes that the power of the arts is in the power of our voices, and works alongside young people, helping them develop creative skills and tell their stories. From September 15 through December 3, she mentored twelve teen participants twice per week as they spoke truth to power through writing, performance, poetry, theater, music, and visual arts, even publishing a chapbook—Things I Need You to Know—at the end of their session. Here, Nikkita shares her thoughts on the experience: 

I began the 4th session of Creative Justice’s inaugural year with so much love and hope, as well as a bit of fear and trepidation. I have been a performance artist for years, so I feel less and less stage fright. Yet there is nothing quite like the anxiety welling up inside me just before I start a new teaching artist residency with youth. Young people can spot a fake from a mile away! They know if you are genuinely engaging with them, they know if you want to be there, they know if you truly care. They always demand authenticity and honesty from the moment they meet you—as they should.

Teaching is a constant dance. Each day has a different rhythm and you can fight it or be responsive to it. I have learned to be responsive; to expect and accept with humility that my plans will likely change. Teaching art requires the artist to be a learner! I have learned to be flexible and listen to the dynamic and self-determined hearts, minds and spirits that invite me to be a part of their creative process. As much as I may think I have something to teach, I have so much more to learn and those lessons often come from the youth.

Each day the youth artists brought their full, whole selves—their hopes and dreams, their struggles and fights, their growing edges and gains, their addictions and triumphs. No day was without a mountain or two to climb. No day ended without a mountain peak summited. It would be easy to look at the numbers, the attendance, the chapbook, the photos, the final celebration and miss the many important nuances—the daily challenges, the daily gains, the silent prayers, the open hearts, the bowed backs that stood a little straighter, the turned down heads that looked up for at least a short moment, or the attention span that extended a few seconds longer. I live for the small day-to-day moments because that is where the change happens exponentially yet often goes unseen.

Oliver led the participants in Session 4 in publishing a chapbook of their writing, titled Things I Need You to Know.
Oliver led the participants in Session 4 in publishing a chapbook of their writing, titled Things I Need You to Know. Photo by Tim Aguero.

While I am incredibly proud of the chapbook, the photography, and the powerful culminating 4th session celebration, I am most inspired by the day-to-day achievements. There were hard days. Days where the youth didn’t like me, didn’t like each other, and didn’t like their selves, but they kept coming back for more! They did not let fear nor hard feelings stop them from completing what they started. They allowed their selves to be challenged and accepted discomfort as a place to grow. They kept working on their selves. They continued digging into their creativity exposing places of hope, trauma, power, struggle, and resilience. In the end, while I may have facilitated a creative process, they did the work of Creative Justice.

Everyday many youth who are court-involved are forced to take risks for survival, and sometimes those risks come with unexpected consequences. However, the reality is that youth everywhere take risks—some youth simply have more safety nets to catch them when they fall and more opportunity to make mistakes from which they can learn and grow. Art is a risk. It is an opportunity to make mistakes and figure out which ones are worth keeping. In my opinion, this is what Creative Justice is about and why we must keep striving to build more art-based alternatives to incarceration in King County.

Flo Lentz Leaves a Legacy of Preservation and Advocacy

Flo received Northwest Seaport’s Maritime Heritage Hero Award in 2013.

The close of 2015 will mark the end of an era at 4Culture. Flo Lentz, who has headed our preservation program since its inception in 2003, will retire. She leaves behind a formidable list of accomplishments. Flo essentially invented the 4Culture preservation program and for years was its only staff.

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Flo received Northwest Seaport's Maritime Heritage Hero Award in 2013.
Flo received Northwest Seaport’s Maritime Heritage Hero Award in 2013.

The close of 2015 will mark the end of an era at 4Culture. Flo Lentz, who has headed our preservation program since its inception in 2003, will retire. She leaves behind a formidable list of accomplishments. Flo essentially invented the 4Culture preservation program and for years was its only staff.

When the King County Office of Cultural Resources morphed into the independent public development authority that we know today as 4Culture, the functions of the King County Historic Preservation Program stayed in county government, designating and regulating King County landmarks. We imagined 4Culture developing a preservation advocacy role, promoting the values of historic preservation especially at a time of rapid real estate development throughout the county with the accompanying pressure to replace the old with the new.

Who would head this new program area? How about someone with more than 25-years’ experience at the national, state and local levels in historic preservation. That of course was Flo Lentz, handed a blank slate: a bricks and mortar landmark rehabilitation program with total funding of about $45,000.

Over the years, Flo was instrumental in saving and restoring Washington Hall in partnership with Historic Seattle, partnered with a group of volunteers on Vashon Island to try to save Mukai Farm and Garden, a Japanese-American historic site, advocated with Washington Trust to preserve the Alki Homestead in West Seattle, actively worked to save the Skykomish Hotel; and much more. Flo and Heather Dwyer of the 4Culture arts staff are architects of a new program called Vets Restore, which offers returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans training in preservation carpentry. In just the past year, Flo convened a group of preservationists to address Equity in Preservation, which is focused on calling attention to and rehabilitating historic sites that are important to communities of color.

That one funding program that Flo was handed in 2003 when she took the preservation position? It is now four funding programs: preservation special projects, operating support for preservation organizations, landmarks capital, and an emergency fund. The two words that come up most frequently when talking about Flo’s accomplishments are “partner” and “save.” Flo is one of those rare individuals who focuses on goals, not credit. She readily works with any other organizations whose assistance will help achieve a positive preservation outcome.

The state of preservation in King County is much improved since her arrival. She will leave an indelible mark on the built environment of King County. Have a great retirement, Flo. You’ve earned it. We’ll be announcing the new manager of our preservation program soon—stay tuned!

Introducing the 2016 Creative Justice Mentor Artist Cohort

4Culture’s Creative Justice offers an arts-based alternative to incarceration for young people in King County, Washington. Through collaboration with mentor artists, participants consider the root causes of incarceration as they intersect with racism, classism and other oppressions and focus on the positive role youth voice can have in building a more equitable justice system for our region.

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4Culture’s Creative Justice offers an arts-based alternative to incarceration for young people in King County, Washington. Through collaboration with mentor artists, participants consider the root causes of incarceration as they intersect with racism, classism and other oppressions and focus on the positive role youth voice can have in building a more equitable justice system for our region.

Who are these mentor artists? The cohort changes each year based on the recommendations of a panel made up of professional teaching artists, youth and adult community members, and court representatives. This year’s panel recently convened and selected four incredible individuals that will give life to 2016 programming:

 

King Khazm. Photo © Cahn Nguyen
King Khazm. Photo © Cahn Nguyen

Daniel Kogita
Emcee, artist and organizer Daniel Kogita AKA King Khazm advocates for community empowerment through Hip Hop culture. As a bi-racial, disabled person from Seattle’s South end, Khazm’s story of perseverance is a testament to Hip Hop’s founding principles. He is the Executive Director of the non-profit organization, 206 Zulu Nation as well as the indie label, Fresh Chopped Beats/MADK Productions. Khazm’s commitment to nurturing youth has been recognized by communities around the United States and the world, as well as by dignitaries such as Hip Hop’s Godfather, Afrika Bambaataa, former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, and Governor Jay Inslee.

 

Olisa Enrico. Photo © Khadeidrah Cochran
Olisa Enrico. Photo © Khadeidrah Cochran

Olisa Enrico-Johnson
Olisa “Spyc-E” Enrico-Johnson has been rockin’ the mic for over 20 years. Born into a life of music, she began exploring theatre in 2003. She holds a BFA in Performance and an MFA in Theater Pedagogy from Virginia Commonwealth University. Olisa believes that artists and the arts are vital to the state of culture and society and she hopes to share her soul through performance and teaching. A board member of TheConciliationProject.org, she works to promote open and honest dialogue about racism in America through active and challenging dramatic works. Olisa teaches students of all ages and stages. Her teaching, of any subject, incorporates principles of community and shared responsibility.

 

Jamil Suleman. Photo © Aaron Jacob
Jamil Suleman. Photo © Aaron Jacob

Jamil Suleman
Jamil Suleman is a Hip Hop artist, filmmaker, traveler, and teaching artist. Acclaimed in his field not only as an artist and educator, but as a community organizer, Jamil uses music and entertainment to educate and empower people to become the strongest versions of themselves. A passion for creativity, culture, and sustainability, drives Jamil to work with like-minded individuals in the pursuit of a socially just and ecologically equitable world for future generations.

 

Shontina Vernon. Photo © Joanna Degeneres
Shontina Vernon. Photo © Joanna Degeneres

Shontina Vernon
A returning Creative Justice mentor, Shontina Vernon is a storyteller, singer-songwriter, performer, and teaching artist. Her interdisciplinary work fuses live music, poetic narrative, and multimedia to tell the diverse stories of underrepresented communities. She is a National Performance Network touring artist, a recipient of 4Culture’s Art Projects Grant, and a nominated playwright on the Kilroy’s List. Her solo performance piece titled WANTED centers music in a coming of age tale about forgery, fear, and juvenile justice. Shontina’s work has been produced by Seattle’s ACT Theatre, SoloNova, Hip-Hop Theater Festival, and the Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas in collaboration with the Hansberry Project.

 

Aaron Counts will continue in his role as Lead Engagement Artist and Nikkita Oliver, a 2015 mentor artist, will assume the position of Case Manager.

 

Local Arts Agencies: A Time of Opportunity

Theater Simple recently performed their outdoor fantasy Wonderland in Ballard, Kent, Bellevue, and Auburn. © 2013 Theater Simple, Wonderland, photo by Henry Alva

4Culture supports a growing network of more than twenty local arts agencies (LAAs)—volunteer arts commissions located in many of King County’s cities. LAAs advocate for arts programs within municipal governments, which are often the primary cultural service providers for residents in suburban and rural King County. LAAs regularly put on free performances, concerts, exhibitions, and arts education, and manage grants, public art selection, and cultural planning for their communities. Since its inception, 4Culture has convened a roundtable meeting of LAA staff coordinators every two months. This network serves as a regional peer group of arts staff and commissioners, sharing information, best practices, program development, and advocacy. Everyone is welcome at these meetings.

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© 2013 Theatre Simple, Wonderland, photo by Henry Alva
Theater Simple recently performed their outdoor fantasy Wonderland in Ballard, Kent, Bellevue, and Auburn. © 2013 Theater Simple, Wonderland, photo by Henry Alva

4Culture supports a growing network of more than twenty local arts agencies (LAAs)—volunteer arts commissions located in many of King County’s cities. LAAs advocate for arts programs within municipal governments, which are often the primary cultural service providers for residents in suburban and rural King County. LAAs regularly put on free performances, concerts, exhibitions, and arts education, and manage grants, public art selection, and cultural planning for their communities. Since its inception, 4Culture has convened a roundtable meeting of LAA staff coordinators every two months. This network serves as a regional peer group of arts staff and commissioners, sharing information, best practices, program development, and advocacy. Everyone is welcome at these meetings.

4Culture also supports the growth and development of LAAs with annual funding and collaborative programming. This year, the Maple Valley Creative Arts Council set a great example for how LAAs can positively impact their communities through the arts. Using a 4Culture grant, they plan to turn a neglected alleyway into a much-needed after school gathering place for high school teens in partnership with neighboring businesses and the city of Maple Valley.

With the dramatic growth and diversity of our Northwest region, many cities are looking for ways to distinguish themselves and to build a renewed sense of cultural identity. In many cases, these communities are comprised of immigrants from all corners of the world. This is a perfect time and opportunity for the arts to take a leading role in promoting cultural awareness, engaging people of all cultures, crossing generational boundaries, overcoming language barriers, sharing ethnic traditions, and celebrating the differences and the humanity that we all share. This is a time when local governments all over King County should be investing more than ever in cultural opportunities, and embracing the growing cultural richness of our region.