Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gardens in Winter

Gardens are a beautiful place to visit, even in winter. In these darkest months of the year, they offer the evergreen promise of rejuvenation. The City of Tukwila was inspired when it designed a garden especially meant to be viewed in this season. If you haven't had a chance to visit the Macadam Winter Garden yet, this month is the perfect time to go. It's located at South 144th Street and Macadam Road in Tukwila, just one block east of I-5.

You'll see unexpected color and patterns in the branches of deciduous trees and shrubs, and beautiful clusters of snowberries, and even blossoms -- winter jasmine and heather are blooming right now.

Another lovely spot at any time of year is the Highline-SeaTac Botanical Garden. Push through this inviting garden gate and start exploring -- this site contains several different gardens. You'll see the Elda Behm Garden right away...

... and here are the classical "bones" of the Seattle Rose Society Garden. (Lots of weddings take place here in the summer.)

Make sure you don't miss the Seike Garden! It is to the east of the Rose Garden, tucked into a hillside and out of sight if you don't know to look for it. Both the Elda Behm and Seike Gardens originated elsewhere and would have been obliterated by the expansion of the third runway at SeaTac Airport. But thanks to the diligent efforts of many dedicated volunteers, these beautiful gardens were moved piece by piece to this site, which is directly across from the North SeaTac Community Center at 13735 24th Avenue South in SeaTac. For more about the remarkable history of the Seike Garden, check out the film by Ken Slusher called "The Seike Garden," available on DVD in the Northwest Collection at the Burien Library.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

There's Harp Music in the Air

There's music in the air this month -- and have you noticed that much of it is coming from harps? Harpists play all year 'round of course, but it seems that December programs tend to feature harp music -- after all, the harp traditionally has been considered the instrument of angels.

Harps really aren't as rare as some people think. There are plenty of local harpists, and they're playing on everything from troubador harps to pedal harps.

Here in South King County, we have several resident harpists. Maybe some of you remember the 8-piece "harpestra" that performed last summer in Burien as part of the "Pieces of Eight" event at B/IAS. Earlier this month, the Maple Valley Library hosted a holiday concert that featured an entire harp ensemble from Auburn.

At two concerts last weekend, harpist and long-time Renton resident Patty Warden performed with the Federal Way Chorale. Here's a picture of her taking a bow with Chorale Director Laird Thornton (photo credit Randy Inghram).

Patty and several other South King County harpists also participated in the harpathon at Seattle Children's Hospital last weekend -- a 12-hour harp-playing marathon that raised over $3500 for uncompensated care -- way to go! Then a couple of the younger harpists at the harpathon -- Clara M of Des Moines and Bethany E of Kent, packed up their harps and headed back to South King County to play at a party sponsored by a Renton bank. There were blisters and sore backs by the end of the day -- you have to be tough to be a harpist!

Several of the orchestras that belong to SoCoCulture have harpists on their permanent roster. In Enumclaw, Karen Reinbolt is the harpist in the Plateau Community Orchestra. Here's a photo of her performing in a duet with her daughter Cassie at an orchestra concert last spring. The Northwest Symphony Orchestra has harpist Melissa Walsh, and John Carrington regularly performs with the Auburn Symphony.

It would be fun to hear some behind-the-scenes stories from local harpists. Does anyone care to share?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Light in the Darkest Season

Your intrepid blogger headed out into the wind and the rain tonight to capture some of the light displays put up by different municipalities in South King County. Here's the scene in Kent, just across 2nd Avenue North from the Kent Regional Library (which is currently closed for remodeling). I'm sorry this shot doesn't catch the beautifully lit trees that line the perimeter -- cool blues and greens and purples make this a very serene display. And while the blustery weather made my holiday photo safari a bit damp and unpleasant, I love the reflective effect!

Next up to Des Moines. This is the display at Big Catch Plaza, right as you drive into town. This big tree is lit up every year and is a simple but nice way to welcome folks. Unfortunately, the top is not lit up properly this year. I know times are tough right now, but can't the city cough up enough money for one more string of lights at the top? I wasn't using a tripod, hence the "arty" shot. (UPDATE: As of 12/17, the top of the tree is lit, too! It looks so much better now!)

Des Moines will have another type of holiday light display this Wednesday, when the Christmas ships come into the marina. The City builds a big bonfire at Des Moines Beach Park and hands out free cocoa - it's a nice, friendly, small-town event. Details are on our SoCoCulture online events calendar.

On to Burien: the light display outside the Burien City Hall Library is tasteful but subdued -- alternating lightposts are wound round with sparkling red or white lights, and topped with lighted wreaths. It reminded me of swizzle sticks!

Finally I got onto 405 and did the stop-and-go commute to Renton. Plenty of red brakelights along the way -- but that wasn't really the type of light display I was looking for! I skipped going to Ivar's ClamLights at Gene Coulon Park tonight, because I plan to visit with my whole family sometime in the next week. If you've never visited ClamLights, make this the year -- it's fun to stroll through this delightful display!

I did, however, swing by the Renton Piazza. Check this out:

I couldn't capture it all in one shot -- there's much more to this festive scene. What a dazzling sight for all the bus commuters coming through this transit hub!

But while we're talking about lights and Renton, I have to mention the traffic light problem. I remember the bumper sticker years ago that touted Renton as the Unsynchronized Traffic Light Capital of the World. It's still true at the intersection of Logan and Third -- utter gridlock! (Maybe it's the work of the Grinch?)

Whether modest or extravagant, these light displays really do help to lift the spirits. I want to thank the cities, even in these budget-tightening times, for putting a little sparkle in our lives at this darkest time of the year.

Now I'm going to go brew myself a nice cup of tea and try to dry out!

Best wishes, Barbara McMichael/SoCoCulture administrator

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Raising Money for a New Museum

Here it is, approaching 2010, and I work for a museum that needs to be built. What a dreadful time to start looking for millions of dollars. The papers are awash with stories of needy people and desperate situations. Unemployment is at 9%. The President told us last winter after his inauguration that unemployment and housing would get worse before they got better and that we might have to wait a year and a half or more to see the economy turn around. Here we are - 10 months into these problems – and people are shouting to high heaven that they and America cannot take it anymore.

“So," I say to myself, “Apparently folks didn’t believe him and are losing patience as what he said proves true. I will simply have to be an optimist.”

I think times are going to get better. I think the economy will stay bad for a few more months but then is going to begin to improve. Layoffs will end. A few new jobs will begin to appear. Confidence will come back. For the vast majority of us the problem isn’t loss of a job or loss of money or a home. It’s loss of confidence.

After a few more months go by and their dollars are still there, and their home is still there, and their job or pension is still there, I think folks will start to believe again (at least the 91% of them with jobs) that America is OK. When that happens I will be able to raise money. So for now I am laying the groundwork for a capital campaign: Strategic Plan? Check! Project Budget? Check! City Approval? Check! Architecture Complete? Check! Good Prospect List? Check! Membership Aboard? Check! Watch out. Sooner than you think I will be knocking on your door!

Cyndi Upthegrove, Highline Historical Society

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sources of Inspiration

There are lots of great classes and workshops listed on the Classes page on our SoCoCulture web site. Check out what our members have to offer! Last weekend I mustered up the courage to attend a terrific watercolor workshop hosted by one of our members. When it comes to the visual arts, I have always placed my talents in the stick-figure category, but I must say that after an hour and a half, I came out of that workshop feeling pretty pleased with my watercolor landscape.

Our instructor was encouraging and had lots of helpful advice, but made one admission that struck a sour chord with several attending the workshop. We were practicing painting a variety of objects -- feathers, butterflies, rocks etc. -- and the artist singled out for our attention one beautiful rock picked up in a national park. "I know you're not supposed to do that," the artist conceded, "but there were lots and lots of rocks left."

Sorry, but that's no excuse. It's not just against National Park Service rules to remove natural material from a national park -- it's an offense to common sense. Think of the millions of visitors to national parks every year: if everyone felt justified in removing just one rock, picking just one flower, picking up just one ancient pottery shard, eventually there'd be nothing left. This artist clearly derived inspiration from the park -- but engaged in an action that was disrespectful toward all future visitors, including future artists.

This brings up the general notion of inspiration and where it comes from. I've been to a couple of the exhibits currently listed on SoCoCulture's Exhibits page and there are more I'd like to get to: the photographs by Jay Galvin in the Knutzen Family Theatre lobby, the abstracts by David Jayne at the Carco Theatre Gallery, the magnificent landscapes and structures featured in the "Marvels of Modernism" exhibit at Kent's Centennial Gallery. What moved these artists to work in a particular medium, to focus on a certain subject? For writers and poets, what prompts them to write about certain topics, choose certain genres? For musicians, what causes them to play the harp instead of the drums, country instead of classical?

The conductors of all of the symphony orchestras that are members of SoCoCulture are generous about giving background to the pieces they perform. Coming up, for example, conductor Stewart Kershaw will be giving an entertaining lecture immediately prior to the Auburn Symphony Orchestra's performance of Handel's Messiah on December 2 and 3.

I love having the chance to talk with artists of all sorts -- it's just plain fun to talk with creative people, and to get insight into work that otherwise, frankly, might mystify me. Many of the galleries in South King County hold free artist's receptions in conjunction with the opening of their new exhibits -- check the SoCo calendar periodically for your chance to come on out to a gallery in your area to see some interesting art and meet some interesting people!

Best wishes, Barbara McMichael/SoCoCulture administrator

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Cultural Landscape of South King County

Welcome to SoCoCulture's new blog -- a chance for us to highlight the richness and diversity of cultural activities throughout South King County, from Burien to Maple Valley, Enumclaw to Federal Way, and all points in between!

Our South County communities have long, proud traditions of sustaining arts and heritage endeavors. Earlier this autumn, for example, the Auburn Arts Commission celebrated its 25th anniversary by hosting an event that welcomed back the artists who had been commissioned to create public art for Auburn over the last quarter century. It was a wonderful evening -- a small crowd strolled around the downtown core to view some of the art that has made the area distinctive and welcoming, then 4Culture's Heather Dwyer moderated a panel in which several of the artists talked about what it was like to return to Auburn to see not only that their art had endured, but also to witness how people were interacting with it and enjoying it to this day.

This got me thinking about the public art I like in South King County -- particularly the sculpture. In Auburn, I am always tickled when I come across Garth Edwards' rustic silhouette-people who populate the downtown. And when it comes to whimsy, I like Richard Breyer's "Big Catch" in Des Moines, too. The fisherman and his big fish are a beloved focal point now -- but oh, the controversy that flared when that piece was first installed!

I love the massive scale of Dan Snider's "Logging Legacy" sculpture in Enumclaw, and of Peter Reiquam's "Big Corn" in Kent.

And I am really going to miss "The Passage," the looming but tender mother and child duo that has resided at the Burien/Interim Art Space for the past year. Originally the piece was created out of scrap metal parts by Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito for the 2005 Burning Man Festival in Nevada. But the sculpture seemed right at home here as it anchored the B/IAS, which is now shutting down as planned after its glorious year-long experiment as an "artists' pea patch." Here's a photo of the mom:

My newest favorite is "Turtle Island - Puget Sound," the sculpture that was installed just a few weeks ago at the Des Moines Library. Created by Mark Twain Stevenson (his mother was a librarian, hence the middle name), the turtle carries a map of Puget Sound on its back. The map is in relief, and rainwater captured on the turtle's back fills the major lakes and the basin of Puget Sound, while the islands and mountains rise above it all. It's a challenging piece -- I've seen adults scratch their heads as they try to determine the location of their own hometown -- but it's enticing, too -- kids love it!

I don't really have any idea as to how many public sculptures there are around South King County -- but they certainly enliven our cultural landscape. If you have a favorite you'd like to mention, we'd like to hear about it!

Warmly, Barbara McMichael/SoCoCulture Administrator