History at Our Feet: Preserving the Ballard Sidewalk Mosaics

Circa 1905 Mosaic, 20th Ave NW at NW 59th St, Ballard neighborhood, Seattle, WA. Photo by Benson Shaw, 2015.

Ballard community-member Benson Shaw received a 2015 Preservation Special Projects grant to help save an often-overlooked piece of Seattle history. Find out how the work is going, and learn more about these century-old urban art pieces:

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Circa 1905 Mosaic, 20th Ave NW at NW 59th St, Ballard neighborhood, Seattle, WA. Photo by Benson Shaw, 2015.
Circa 1905 Mosaic, 20th Ave NW at NW 59th St, Ballard neighborhood, Seattle, WA. Photo by Benson Shaw, 2015.

Ballard community-member Benson Shaw received a 2015 Preservation Special Projects grant to help save an often-overlooked piece of Seattle history. Find out how the work is going, and learn more about these century-old urban art pieces:

Have you ever noticed the cultural assets literally at our feet, embedded in our walkways? Surviving artifacts from earlier times remind us that the past efforts of others affect our life today—they suggest that our actions now will affect future lives.

Many sidewalks in several Seattle neighborhoods are home to blue and white tile mosaics displaying street names. You can find them in Madison Valley, northeast Seattle, First Hill near Harborview, and a few other neighborhoods. Ballard is the mother lode with about fifty mosaics displaying historic street names that have since been changed: 61st St was once Chestnut, 60th St was Baker, Market St was known as Broadway.

I’m the self-appointed guardian of our Ballard mosaics, armed with a Preservation Special Projects Grant from 4Culture, funded by the King County Lodging Tax. I’m researching our mosaic history, developing a location and condition survey and map, writing specifications for preservation and restoration, and opening channels to tell the mosaic story. My preliminary findings can be found here. Lots more to do!

Seattle Municipal Archives, City of Ballard Records, Collection ID: 9106-06, Box 2.
Seattle Municipal Archives, City of Ballard Records, Collection ID: 9106-06, Box 2.

The mosaics at intersections along 20th Ave NW from Leary Ave to NW 64th St are circa 1905—relics from the years just before Ballard was annexed, ceasing to be an incorporated city, independent of Seattle. The Seattle Municipal Archives now holds the City of Ballard’s government records, and the University of Washington and Seattle Public Library offer access to the weekly Ballard News on microfilm. These sources tell how Ballard streets were planned and constructed: when property owners petitioned the Ballard City Council for neighborhood improvement, the City Engineer created design specifications and estimated project costs. At the time the work of building Ballard’s streets was undertaken, wood plank sidewalks were used—around 1903, cement sidewalks replaced them, and the mosaic street names appeared in 1905. What’s missing from this account? The “why” behind the installation of the mosaics. I’ll continue looking for this in my research.

Aging materials and rapid redevelopment in Ballard are threatening old and new mosaics. I’m working with BOLA Architects, the Seattle Department of Transportation, the Seattle Department of Planning and Development, and many others to provide detailed requirements for preservation, restoration, and replacement. Will this project continue into a restoration phase, to replace missing tile, regrout, and stabilize the existing mosaics? Stay tuned! In the meantime, tell me about similar mosaics in your neighborhood. I know the Ballard ones, but I want to locate others around the region—email me with the intersection, and a photo if you’d like! You can also explore the Ballard mosaic locations pinned on this Google Map, with photos by Luke McGuff.

An Artist's Perspective on the SODO Busway

Clarence The Cloud Creator by Dallas-based artist Michael Reeder, for Forest for the Trees, a recurring public art project in Portland, Oregon, curated by Gage Hamilton. Photo by Anthony Taylor.

The SODO busway spans two miles of 5th Avenue South, welcoming over 43,000 public transit riders into downtown Seattle each weekday. This open-air tunnel of building-backs has the potential to become a vibrant street art experience. 4Culture is convening artists, community-members, and SODO business-owners to begin the process of bringing that dream to life. In July 2015, Gage Hamilton, a Portland, Oregon-based artist and curator, was selected as Planning Artist to head up the project. Since then, Gage has been working to survey and inventory the SODO Corridor—here, he gives an update on his work. Check back often as this project progresses!

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"Clarence The Cloud Creator" by Dallas-based artist Michael Reeder, for Forest for the Trees, a recurring public art project in Portland, Oregon, curated by Gage Hamilton. Photo by Anthony Taylor.
Clarence The Cloud Creator by Dallas-based artist Michael Reeder, for Forest for the Trees, a recurring public art project in Portland, Oregon, curated by Gage Hamilton. Photo by Anthony Taylor.

The SODO busway spans two miles of 5th Avenue South, welcoming over 43,000 public transit riders into downtown Seattle each weekday. This open-air tunnel of building-backs has the potential to become a vibrant street art experience. 4Culture is convening artists, community-members, and SODO business-owners to begin the process of bringing that dream to life. In July 2015, Gage Hamilton, a Portland, Oregon-based artist and curator, was selected as Planning Artist to head up the project. Since then, Gage has been working to survey and inventory the SODO Corridor—here, he gives an update on his work. Check back often as this project progresses!

The first month of working on the SODO corridor has been exciting for me because I have a pretty big imagination. Even when I’m walking the corridor to analyze the nuts and bolts of the project, I can’t help but visualize the possibilities. To keep myself focused on the initial steps in this process, I make a point of narrowing in on one or two things at a time for each potential wall. For example, wall surface…is it paintable? If it’s not ideal for most artists, is there someone that could still work well with it? Will it hold up? What if we need to bolt in a scaffolding brace? Then I consider the ground below the wall…what kind of equipment can it support? How much space and mobility does it provide to the artist? Can the ground be improved to make it more accessible? Once I have a sense of if we can paint a wall and what it will take, then I begin to consider visibility, flow, and proximity to decipher whether we should paint the wall.

DALeast, Breaking Tempo, 2012
“Breaking Tempo” by DALeast, 2012

What excites me about this project is that in all of my research I haven’t seen anything quite like it.

I’ve experienced many neighborhoods around the globe in which you are surrounded by art everywhere you look—Brick Lane, Kakaako, Wynwood, Wabash, Easter Market, Grand River, and more—but none of these have a thematic approach, nor are they anticipating their viewers in motion. The Steve Powers tour in Philadelphia is probably the best example of a thematic project frequently viewed in motion, although it is, of course, all one artist’s. The rest of these projects seem to be favoring immersive experience and a democratic or opportunist approach, rather than seeking a narrative or specific identity. The challenge is taking advantage of the SODO corridor’s structure and flow to make it something specific and unique without being too heavy-handed and disrupting the artists’ creative visions. I’m really interested in creating a broad guideline, even something as simple as “movement.”

I’ve been meeting with artists, property owners, business operators—a variety of stakeholders in this dream. If you think we should be talking too, send me an email at gage.m.hamilton@gmail.com.

Creative Justice Mentor Artist Daemond Arrindell Embraces Challenge

Mentor Artists Daemond Arrindell leads Session 3 of the pilot year of Creative Justice. Photo by Tim Aguero.

With the pilot year of Creative Justice—4Culture’s arts-based alternative to youth incarceration in King County—almost complete, we are reflecting on lessons learned and looking towards the future. We asked Session 3 Mentor Artist, Daemond Arrindell to provide some insight into his experience working with participants and helping to shape this ground-breaking new program. The call is open for 2016 Mentor Artists—apply now!

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Mentor Artists Daemond Arrindell leads Session 3 of the pilot year of Creative Justice. Photo by Tim Aguero.
Mentor Artists Daemond Arrindell leads Session 3 of the pilot year of Creative Justice. Photo by Tim Aguero.

With the pilot year of Creative Justice—4Culture’s arts-based alternative to youth incarceration in King County—almost complete, we are reflecting on lessons learned and looking towards the future. We asked Session 3 Mentor Artist, Daemond Arrindell to provide some insight into his experience working with participants and helping to shape this ground-breaking new program. The call is open for 2016 Mentor Artists—apply now!

Last month saw the culmination of eight weeks of work for the participants of Creative Justice Session 3. The members of the group who took the stage at a celebratory closing presentation expressed pride, gratitude, and seemed to have enjoyed themselves afterwards. But, when I say “work,” I mean just that—they worked hard to get to a place where they could celebrate, and it was far from easy.

This group was at a disadvantage compared to the other Creative Justice session participants—their session took place during the summer. They had less time to get to know one another, build trust, take risks, and try on new versions of themselves. Summer is code for “break”—and it takes a great deal to compel anyone, much less a teenager, to give up part of their summer break to enter a classroom. Some of the participants knew each other, which in some ways is an asset as they supported each other, but also created cliques. If you were to sit down with any of the participants to engage in conversation, you’d find an individual with intelligence, who is inquisitive and has a mind of their own. But in a group, it’s not so easy to be an individual, especially amongst peers. So there was posturing, bravado, one-upping, and a lot of energy that was difficult to direct.

A big focus for this session was definitions and labels. All of the participants have been labelled—by family and friends, their social groups, society. Adolescence is a time when we really begin to define who are, and those labels can limit our scope, our self-worth and sense of what is possible. Each time that we got together, we began with a meal and a discussion. The topics: strength, beauty, power, respect, second chances, prison reform, self-sabotage. The discussions were rarely easy because these young people don’t typically get asked for their opinions on such matters—but that’s exactly why they should be asked. The objective: to recognize that words and definitions can be reclaimed and re-defined for ourselves, that we have agency.

Participants worked with graphic artist Greg Thornton to create their own t-shirts to visually demonstrate the principles that are important to each of them. Singer/songwriter Naomi Wachira visited them and gave a live, impromptu performance—as she began to strum her guitar and her voice filled the entire building, the participants were enthralled. It was the quietest the group had been the entire summer. They also watched a documentary called “Rubble Kings,” about the gang warfare that took place in the Bronx during the late 1960s, and how those kids transformed that violent energy into something positive—Hip-Hop.

Their final presentation followed the same format as their weekly gatherings. We began with a meal, but this time, the participants got to ask the questions. They went around to the tables of our guests and led conversations on the topic of their choosing. Some focused on second chances, others on the prison system. To close it all out they performed their script, which though edited by me was written completely by the participants. It provided an opportunity for them to share how the topics we had just discussed affect their lives personally.

It’s honestly hard to believe that it’s over—spending a little more than four hours with this group of young people each week doesn’t seem like that much, and very little of it came easy, but then they say nothing worth having ever does. All in all, that’s the deeper message, I think—to keep going, in spite of the work and challenge, so that we can become better people on the other side. That we, and the work, are worth it. Each young person walked into the sessions with a past filled with choices they made for themselves, and some choices that were made for them. The results? They still remain to be seen, but the process of trying to “Turn the Page,” which takes heart, patience, forgiveness, and courage, has begun.

– Daemond Arrindell

Making Art, for Life

Eunice Kim lives and maintains a studio in the Cascade foothills of Ravensdale, a small town located in Southeast King County. For more than a decade, Kim has been committed to a safer, sustainable approach to printmaking that utilizes nontoxic techniques. She is a recipient of a 2015 4Culture Art Projects grant. Here she shares a little about the making and presentation of her work. 

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Eunice Kim lives and maintains a studio in the Cascade foothills of Ravensdale, a small town located in Southeast King County. For more than a decade, Kim has been committed to a safer, sustainable approach to printmaking that utilizes nontoxic techniques. She is a recipient of a 2015 4Culture Art Projects grant. Here she shares a little about the making and presentation of her work. 

Eunice Kim, Porous #22, collagraph with chine collé, 23.5 x 23.5 inches (image) 28 x 28 inches (paper), 2005. Courtesy of the Artist. Eunice Kim creates printmaking plates via her own nontoxic process.  The artist forms, shapes, and polishes dot marks on her matrices--which she likens to miniature sculptures--entirely by hand manually, and prints them in a solvent-free environment.
Eunice Kim at work in her studio. Courtesy of the Artist. Eunice Kim creates printmaking plates via her own nontoxic process. The artist forms, shapes, and polishes dot marks on her matrices–which she likens to miniature sculptures–entirely by hand manually, and prints them in a solvent-free environment.

My printmaking journey began when, as an undergraduate art student, I pulled my very first print off the press.  I was instantly hooked.  Following many years of complete immersion in the medium, however, I was riddled with various allergies, sensitivities, and health issues as a result of exposure to caustic chemicals and solvents commonly used in traditional printmaking processes.  Making art was making me sick, and I found myself at crossroads: find an alternate way of working or give up printmaking.  The latter, of course, was not an option. I opted to take a five-year hiatus from printmaking to detox and regain health,and to find a way to do printmaking differently.

In early 2004, I began my investigation into a safer, sustainable approach to printmaking that foregoes the use of hazardous mordants and various organic solvents. Through this research in alternative processes, I arrived at a unique dot-based visual language that is specific to my work and intent, and informed by cultural, personal and formative experiences.

This October, I am thrilled to partner with Davidson Galleries with support from a 2015 4Culture Art Projects grant to mount a very special installation of my work produced via nontoxic printmaking techniques. Eunice Kim 2005-2015: Ten Year Survey will showcase nearly 80 select collagraphs from the past decade and present a rare opportunity to view the artworks in one comprehensive setting.  I invite you to come out and join us, take in the show, and perhaps take away a small inspiration for embarking on a safer, sustainable art making journey of your own.

To broaden the impact of this exhibition and ensure availability of my work to the public, two regional institutions–Swedish Medical Center and University of Washington Medical Center, have each received a gift of artwork for acquisition into their permanent art collections.  I can’t think of better or more fitting stewards to entrust my work to, and am honored to be able to support these organizations’ mission to heal and inspire.

Eunice Kim, Tessellation (144-3) #12, collagraph monoprint, 36 x 36 inches, 2012.
Eunice Kim, Tessellation (144-3) #12, collagraph monoprint, 36 x 36 inches, 2012.

Eunice Kim 2005-2015: Ten Year Survey

Opening Reception with the Artist: First Thursday, October 1, 2015, 6-8pm

Exhibition Dates: October 2 – 31, 2015

Gallery Hours: Tues – Sat, 10:00 am – 5:30 pm

Davidson Galleries, Pioneer Square, 313 Occidental Ave. S, Seattle, WA 98104

Free and open to public

 

 

 

Guest Post: Van Wolfe on VanFest 2015, an Open 4Culture Project

Photo by Mitch Barchi

In a region that features dozens of outdoor music festivals every year, Maple Valley’s VanFest is unique. Organized by 21-year-old Van Wolfe, the festival, which took place on August 15, is all about community – it features underground music in an all-ages setting, and profits go to the Maple Valley Food Bank. We helped fund VanFest through our Open 4Culture grant program, which exists to reach people and organizations new to 4Culture, and to fund projects happening outside of Seattle. We checked in with Van to get a recap of VanFest Five:

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Photo by Mitch Barchi
Photo by Mitch Barchi

In a region that features dozens of outdoor music festivals every year, Maple Valley’s VanFest is unique. Organized by 21-year-old Van Wolfe, the festival, which took place on August 15, is all about community – it features underground music in an all-ages setting, and profits go to the Maple Valley Food Bank. We helped fund VanFest through our Open 4Culture grant program, which exists to reach people and organizations new to 4Culture, and to fund projects happening outside of Seattle. We checked in with Van to get a recap of VanFest Five:

VanFest was a resounding success this year! In this fifth year, the vision of bringing the intimacy of DIY music to a large beautiful outdoor environment was realized in full. Being able to bring the community together to see 35 bands on four stages out in the park was an amazing opportunity, and marks the beginning of a full-fledged, year-round effort to bring arts and culture into the forefront of Maple Valley once again.

From the stage that we partnered with KGRG-FM‘s The Post to put on, which featured the best of large melodic rock, to the Tent where we had great hip-hop representation, to the Nicolas Stage, where the band SEACATS performed a talk show instead of a musical set, and everything in between, VanFest showcased a variety of the best music currently being made by and for the young people of the Pacific Northwest. VanFest’s youth access program, providing half price tickets to those in high school or younger, helped make the event more  available to the teenagers of Maple Valley and beyond who might be interested in new and relevant underground music.

All in all, the festival was friendly, fun, affordable, and ran smoothly. 4Culture’s contribution was a major factor in allowing an event like this to run at the level that it needs to, with the quality necessary to really start a movement in the city.

Piper’s Orchard Tours & Call for Volunteers from Artist Shin Yu Pai

Keepsake, part of the HEIRLOOM project by Shin Yu Pai. Courtesy of the Artist

Shin Yu Pai is a poet and photographer whose current work focuses on place-based writing, installation, and public art. She has received two 4Culture Art Projects grants, as well as a Heritage Project Award. She was awarded funding from Art Projects in 2015 for HEIRLOOM, which she shares a bit about with us here.

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Keepsake part of the HEIRLOOM project by Shin Yu Pai. Courtesy of the Artist
Keepsake, part of the HEIRLOOM project by Shin Yu Pai. Courtesy of the Artist

Shin Yu Pai is a poet and photographer whose current work focuses on place-based writing, installation, and public art. She has received two 4Culture Art Projects grants, as well as a Heritage Project Award. She was awarded funding from Art Projects in 2015 for HEIRLOOM, which she shares a bit about with us here.

Throughout this summer, I’ve been working on an ongoing public poetry installation project in the trees of Piper’s Orchard in Carkeek Park. HEIRLOOM is part of Heaven & Earth 7: Propagation, an exhibition of outdoor art curated by Thendara Kida-Gee and David Francis. As part of my project, I am “printing” words on apples using adhesive stencils applied to the fruit that are exposed to the rays of the sun. As apples ripen and the stencils are removed, words are revealed on apples throughout the trees. At the base of the orchard, a sign about the project includes a link to a QR barcode that directs smart phone users to a website where visitors can listen to a recording of a full-length poetic text about Piper’s Orchard set to an ambient soundtrack of sonic recordings made in the orchard throughout the seasons.

My project has faced some challenges in terms of natural and human interventions – ripe apples falling from branches, picking. From day to day, what’s physically on the trees changes – the rapid ripening of apple skins, bug infestations, rot. I never know what I’ll see when I go back into the orchard to work, which has been a very different process than creating for the written page.

This Saturday, I’ll return to the orchard to install the last batch of vinyl stencils for HEIRLOOM. I’d like to invite blog readers to join in the experience. Volunteers will help to install dozens of stencils, but more than that, I’d like to as anyone interested in participating, or seeing HEIRLOOM unfold, to take on the role of “apple stewards” Come back to the orchard every day, or as often as possible, to see the subtle changes in color through the ripening process and capture the experience before the apples fall from the trees or disappear. Send me your photos or post them to Facebook with the hashtags #FriendsofPipersOrchard #shinyupai or #theheirloomproject.

Volunteer work party this Saturday, August 15, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Piper’s Orchard in Carkeek Park, located at 950 NW Carkeek Park Rd. For more information on volunteering, contact City Fruit or Friends of Piper’s Orchard. Or just show up at Piper’s Orchard on Saturday!

Orchard tours and art talk/poetry readings scheduled for Saturday, August 29, 2-3 and 3-4 p.m. Meet at the Environmental Learning Center and wear hiking shoes.

HEIRLOOM is funded with support from Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture and The Awesome Foundation. Recording and production made possible through the Artist Residency Programs at Jack Straw Cultural Center. Find out more.

Plant 2015 at Jack Block Park, from Artist Jordan West Monez

Jordan West Monez is a multi-disciplinary designer who received funding through our Historic Site Specific program – below, Jordan shares more about her project. In 2016, the Site Specific program will be tech-focused – the deadline to apply is October 15, 2015. 

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Plant2015_installJordan West Monez is a multi-disciplinary designer who received funding through our Historic Site Specific program – below, Jordan shares more about her project. In 2016, the Site Specific program will be tech-focused – the deadline to apply is October 15, 2015. 

Plant 2015 has been installed at the Port of Seattle’s Jack Block Park and at Boeing Plant 2 as part of Duwamish Revealed, a multi-media celebration of the Duwamish River. Plant 2015 re-creates a series of sculptural trees inspired by the artificial suburban landscape built on Boeing’s Plant 2 during World War II. The scale model of the suburban fabric was built to camouflage the factory from the air and was decommissioned shortly after the war. Plant 2015 draws on this history to focus attention on the duality of nature and culture on the river and focus attention on what has been and is now concealed along the Duwamish River.

As Seattle’s only river, the heavily industrialized Duwamish holds layers of history and meaning, people and culture, contamination and habitat. The Lower Duwamish Waterway was recently named a USEPA Superfund Site and the cleanup process is underway. Boeing Plant 2 was recently demolished and the shoreline restored to remove polluted sediment and create wildlife habitat. Plant 2015 layers a past history onto the present landscape to remind us of how quickly things can change to alter a place.

A gathering to celebrate Plant 2015 is planned for Saturday, August 15 at Jack Block Park, and the project is currently visible to the public at Jack Block Park and at Boeing Plant 2 on the southeast side of the South Park Bridge.

A Challenge from Artist Gabriela Denise Frank

Artist Gabriela Denise Frank as a young girl. © 2015 Courtesy of the Artist

Gabriela Denise Frank, is a multi-disciplinary artist whose current work focuses on topics including identity, family, self-image and aging. She is a 2014 and 2015 4Culture Art Projects recipient and we asked her to share a bit about her latest entitled, Ugly Me.

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Artist Gabriela Denise Frank as a young girl. © 2015 Courtesy of the Artist
Artist Gabriela Denise Frank as a young girl. © 2015 Courtesy of the Artist

Gabriela Denise Frank, is a multi-disciplinary artist whose current work focuses on topics including identity, family, self-image and aging. She is a 2014 and 2015 4Culture Art Projects recipient and we asked her to share a bit about her latest entitled, Ugly Me.

Summer is when we loosen up, let down our hair, and in that regard, I have embraced the summer of 2015 like no other. Earlier this month, I opened a multi-media sound installation called UGLY ME at Jack Straw New Media Gallery in which I’ve let fall all pretense and propriety —no hiding behind makeup or bulky winter clothing— in the hopes of exploring the relationship between appearance and self-worth.

The idea for UGLY ME came about in 2013 (more about that here) though my struggles with self-esteem and identity began decades before. Little did I know when I proposed the installation to 4Culture and Jack Straw that my quest for self-knowledge would lead into dark and funny places, that I would draw upon the slings and arrows of childhood as much as the fashion of the 70s, 80s and 90s which, even now, influences my (ahem) modern wardrobe? Fashion photography, large-scale collage, distorted selfies and twelve original prose poems recorded at Jack Straw come together to tell a larger story about the link between a person’s insides and her outsides.

In preparing for this Friday’s artist talk, I realized how the self-image we create as kids becomes deeply entrenched in our self-understanding as adults—and why we need people throughout our lives to remind us that we’re better than we think we are. UGLY ME teaches the importance of mentorship, especially for young people, as they take creative risks and embrace the unknown landscape of growth and maturity, both as humans and artists. We need boosters equally to nurture us and push us into uncomfortable territory; their encouragement helps to light alternate pathways that we might otherwise not have dared. These artist-mentors inspire our bravery, spark our curiosity, spur our sense of adventure. They are the electrons that trigger quantum leaps that change the world.

In a time when an arts career is equated with a shaky economic future, when financial security is considered more valuable than creativity—when we feel we have to compromise a stable life for doing what we love— I would challenge everyone to act now in order to create a different future. Talk to your children about their creative interests. Encourage them to pursue untrodden roads. Rather than squash the validity of a career in the arts, let young people play and explore; if you don’t know how, then connect them with resources like 4Culture who can help them grow.

Education is training for life, not only a paycheck. Challenge the young artists in your care to define how their art is relevant to the world even if you can’t. Over time, they will be able to tell you how learning to write stories and play music influenced the ingenuity they bring to everything else. We will thank them, and you, for it later.

The goal of living isn’t perfection or innumerable wealth; it’s not about avoiding failure, either. Life is about learning and art is means of reflection on that learning, a way to understand the universe and our role in it, a means of inspiring innovation in a multitude of fields.

At its best, art makes the world a bigger and more meaningful place; it connects us to each other. For projects like UGLY ME, then, the ultimate purpose of art is transformation—often in ways that we can’t foretell at the start. Like all summertime road trips, isn’t that part of the fun?

Ugly Me by Gabriela Denise Frank © 2015 Courtesy of the Artist
Ugly Me by Gabriela Denise Frank © 2015 Courtesy of the Artist

Artist talk this Friday, July 31 at 7 pm at Jack Straw Cultural Center.

UGLY ME Installation Dates

July 10 to August 14

Jack Straw Cultural Center

4261 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105

FREE

For more information, www.gabrieladenisefrank.com and www.jackstraw.org