Friday, November 12, 2010

Going Bald for One's Art

Just in time for opening night, Daddy Warbucks went bald.

John Legas, pastor at Cornerstone Community Baptist Church, plays Daddy Warbucks in the Heavier Than Air production of "Annie." He joined the ranks of many famous actors when he decided to sacrifice his hair for the sake of his art. John had a fan club waiting when he arrived at rehearsal on Tuesday. Fellow cast members were there to offer support and bear witness to John's head-shaving with cameras and cell phones. Bravely, John allowed the cast of orphans to start the process.

"Anyway, he can't chicken out because it's already in the program," said one little girl.

The cast of orphans, students from local Kent, Renton, Auburn, and Covington elementary and junior high schools, took turns shaving John's head from start to finish amid giggles and words of advice. The cast of "Annie" includes members ranging in age from 8 to 68.

John joins the ranks of many other actors who have had their heads shaved for a role: Albert Finney as Daddy Warbucks in the movie "Annie," Marlon Brando in "Apocalypse Now," Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Batman and Robin," and Demi Moore in "G.I. Jane." Even Oscar, the famous golden statue, is bald.

For more information on performance dates, visit the SoCoCulture calendar.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Honoring Our Veterans

There are many ceremonies being held throughout South King County to honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans. Visit our SoCoCulture calendar to locate one near you.

On November 13, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Lieutenant Colonel Joe M. Jackson will be a featured speaker at the Veterans Day Observance in Federal Way. The event is co-sponsored by the Historical Society of Federal Way and the Noon Kiwanis of Federal Way.

Here is the citation Lt. Col. Jackson received in conjunction with his Medal of Honor:

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Lt. Col. Jackson distinguished himself as pilot of a C-123 aircraft. Lt. Col. Jackson volunteered to attempt the rescue of a 3-man USAF Combat Control Team from the special forces camp at Kham Duc. Hostile forces had overrun the forward outpost and established gun positions on the airstrip. They were raking the camp with small arms, mortars, light and heavy automatic weapons, and recoilless rifle fire. The camp was engulfed in flames and ammunition dumps were continuously exploding and littering the runway with debris. In addition, 8 aircraft had been destroyed by the intense enemy fire and 1 aircraft remained on the runway, reducing its usable length to only 2,200 feet. To further complicate the landing, the weather was deteriorating rapidly, thereby permitting only 1 air strike prior to his landing. Although fully aware of the extreme danger and likely failure of such an attempt, Lt. Col. Jackson elected to land his aircraft and attempt to rescue. Displaying superb airmanshipa nd extraordinary heroism, he landed his aircraft near the point where the combat control team was reported to be hiding. While on the ground, his aircraft was the target of intense hostile fire. A rocket landed in front of the nose of the aircraft but failed to explode. Once the combat control team was aboard, Lt. Col. Jackson succeeded in getting airborne despite the hostile fire directed across the runway in front of his aircraft. Lt. Col. Jackson's profound concern for his fellow men, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself, and the Armed Forces of his country."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Celebrate Chopin’s 200th

Linda Pratt and Jim Triller

Born in 1810 in Poland, Frederic Chopin was a great master of Romantic music. A renowned child prodigy pianist and composer, he grew up in Warsaw. After the Russian suppression of the Polish November Uprising, he settled in Paris.

Chopin seldom performed in public. Once a year he would give a concert in a venue that seated only 300. More frequently he played at small social gatherings. His favorite place to play was at his Paris apartment for small groups of friends. Income from teaching and composing allowed him to keep his performances so intimate. As a pianist, Chopin was unique in acquiring a fantastic reputation on the basis of a minimum of public appearances; just over thirty in his lifetime.

In honor of Chopin’s 200th birthday, pianist Mark Salman will be performing Chopin’s classics with personal commentary in the intimate setting of Federal Way’s Knutzen Family Theatre. This special performance will be at 2 PM on Sunday, November 7. The Knutzen Family Theatre is located at 3200 SW Dash Point Road in Federal Way. Seating is limited and reservations are recommended. Tickets for the performance are $25 Adult ($20 Senior/Military/College and $10 Youth) and can by reserved by contacting Centerstage Theatre at 253-661-1444 or online. For more information visit

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Boulding to Debut as ASO Soloist

When the Auburn Symphony Orchestra's new concertmaster, Brittany Boulding, makes her first appearance as a soloist with ASO on October 9, she may look familiar. That's because, from the age of 6, Boulding has performed with the rest of her family in the well-known group called the Magical Strings. The Olalla-based family has toured the world and recorded 16 albums. But perhaps here in the Northwest they're best known for their annual Celtic Yuletide Concerts.

For many years, Boulding also has been a soloist in her own right, performing with the New Haven Symphony the National Repertory Orchestra, the Spoleto Festival, and other groups throughout North America. Since moving back to our area, she has played in the Seattle Symphony, Bellevue Philharmonic, Seattle Opera, and Bellingham Festival of Music.

On October 9 and 10, Boulding will perform Chausson's "Poeme" for Violin and Orchestra. The concerts will take place at the Auburn Performing Arts Center. For more information, visit

Bell Chimes Again in Federal Way

When the Federal Shopping Way opened in 1955, one of the major sections to be planned was Old World Square, which was designed as a European village square with small shops and a clock tower. Heinz Ulbricht, the German designer who assisted in the development, later went on to help Leavenworth reconceive itself as a Bavarian-style village. But Federal Way came first, and he designed the yellow building with the clock tower as a replica of the city hall in his hometown of Freiburg, Germany.

The clock tower contained not only a clock, but also a 290-pound bell, cast in Holland, that chimed the musical note E at the top of every hour.

After 1970, Old World Square fell into disrepair along with the rest of Federal Shopping Way. In 1994, two thieves stripped the copper from the clock tower in broad daylight. A year later the clock tower was dismantled to make way for new construction.

Now the bell has been reinstalled in front of the Historical Society of Federal Way's office, and its familiar tone can be heard again. For more information about the bell, see the special report that was researched and written up by Historical Society member Dick Caster. Contact the Historical Society of Federal Way at 253-945-7842 or

Friday, September 10, 2010

Flow With the Glow

When it comes to annual hometown festivals, Burien hosts one of the loveliest events anywhere. Burien Arts-A-Glow is a lantern festival that encourages hands-on participation. Over the last month, the studios over at Moshier Art Center have been filled with local folks using various techniques to craft their own lanterns.

On Saturday, September 18, you’ll get to see them all as people come together for “the Glow.” For Johnny-come-latelys, there will be a Lantern Creation Station where you can fashion your own last-minute lantern. There’ll also be face-painting, live music, an art walk, and a tent hosting a Russian tea room with treats from local eateries. Then at dusk, with lanterns alight and aloft, everyone will come together in a luminous procession through the streets of Burien. For more information, visit the SoCoCulture calendar.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Museum in the Classroom

by Dorota Rahn

Knowledge about the pre-history of South King County is often limited and based on misconceptions. Changes in the way schools interact with the Renton History Museum provided us the stimulus to find new ways to reach out to students to teach them about the Native American ancestors of our region.

Until 2006 the Museum had the opportunity to educate kids about Coast Salish culture, which includes the local Duwamish people, during annual third grade field trips organized by the Renton School District. Unfortunately, the economic downturn made it impossible for the School District to continue these trips. Hoping to develop a substitute for this experience, the Museum’s Education Department applied to 4Culture and Sam’s Club for grants to design a Coast Salish/Duwamish Curriculum we could bring to classrooms. We recruited a team of specialists with backgrounds in education and Native American studies, and spent nine months working on a multi-phase program. By spring 2009 we were ready to test the curriculum with fourth grade students.

The curriculum consists of a lesson plan to guide teachers and a Cultural Education Kit including replicas of Coast Salish objects and sets of primary and secondary sources.

The curriculum’s main objective is to have students answer the essential question “How did the environment shape the economic, social, and spiritual lives of the Coast Salish/Duwamish Peoples before the arrival of Europeans?” by working through five classroom units. The curriculum fulfills requirements for Classroom-Based Assessments (CBAs), Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs), and Grade Level Expectations (GLEs) in Visual Arts, standards set by of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

In the first three units, groups of students analyze objects—cedar canoes, baskets, hat, rope, and a cattail mat—present their findings, and participate in a slide presentation exploring Coast Salish culture. Units Four and Five give them an opportunity to exercise their creativity as they make paper replicas of the objects they have analyzed.

Students also listen to Coast Salish stories on CD. Together the units immerse kids in Coast Salish culture and stress the ways in which the natural environment shaped the lives of Native Peoples. Museum docents work very hard to ensure students leave with a basic knowledge of the Coast Salish’s most important resources: cedar trees, rivers, and salmon, which were found in abundance in Puget Sound region more than 100 years ago.

To date the curriculum has been implemented at five elementary schools with positive feedback from teachers. The Coast Salish Curriculum is offered free of charge to Renton public elementary schools. Private schools and schools in other districts can rent the Cultural Education Kit for a fee. The curriculum will be available in the fall at Teachers can also contact the museum directly at 425-255-2330 or email

Dorota Rahn is the Volunteer and Education Coordinator for the Renton History Museum.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Jazzed About Summer

by Maureen Hathaway

Not all band geeks put away their instruments over summer vacation. The Federal Way Symphony's fifth annual Summer Music Camp (held July 13-17 this year at Federal Way High School) was right up some students' jazz alley. This camp offered a fun week of jazz training for music students in grades 5-12, and an opportunity to learn with professional musicians from the Federal Way Symphony.

Instructors Todd Zimberg, Lonnie Mardis and Symphony Maestro A. Brian Davenport provided innovative techniques which focused on jazz improvisation, along with music theory and history. For one intensive week, 21 students began to develop improvisational skills, along with the lifelong self-confidence and self-esteem that come hand-in-hand with acquiring that kind of knowledge. The main focus of the camp was to learn improvised jazz where musicians spontaneously create an intricate form of theme and variation. Jazz has its own language, its own grammar and its own vocabulary. There’s no right or wrong, some choices are just better than others. The young musicians were exposed to sight reading and passionate performers such as Benny Goodman, and Frank Sinatra. In addition, Maestro Davenport introduced Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Liszt, all of whom were celebrated for their ability to improvise.

Two-thirds of the attendees were supported with scholarships from the City of Federal Way, the Kiwanis Club, the Soroptimists, Linda and Jack Butcher, and patrons of the Symphony Annual Auction.

The week-long camp culminated in a standing room only Saturday morning concert for family and friends. For more information on the Federal Way Symphony Summer Camp and upcoming concerts, go to

Maureen Hathaway is a member of the Federal Way Arts Commission.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Should a History Museum Present Controversial Subjects?

The Highline Historical Society’s July 2010 exhibit at SeaTac City Hall of Pulitzer Prize-winning Herblock cartoons, along with political cartoons by local artists, provoked some complaints about content. Micki Ryan, former curator for the Society, responds.

by Micki Ryan

Should a history museum present exhibits of people and moments in history that have caused or reflected discord – or not? These questions are not new. They are questions every museum faces when its mission is to educate the public. For a history museum the question becomes, is it possible to present contemporary or historic political milieu without being interpreted as politically charged? If historical context provokes discomfort, is a museum true to its mission if withholding the historical point of view from its audience?

Answers to these questions come from many museums, and have been presented as articles in journals, blogs, forums, and publications. All agree that no matter the subject, a museum is obliged to present a variety of views and a balance between artifacts and text when representing diverse groups, recent history or popular culture. Cited were the Smithsonian exhibit of WW II’s Enola Gay bomber, an estate auction including slaves in Williamsburg, a P.T. Barnum Circus sideshow, and taking American POWs in recent wars.

A museum’s audience will include victims of wars, heroes, the disabled and the disenfranchised, whose histories are represented in the above stories. Tools used by those museums to achieve balance while presenting truthful information included the use of a media plan for conversing with the press, and opportunities for museum visitors to voice their opinions in the use of a visitor comment book.

Not surprisingly, museum visitors in the cases above were completely positive. They commented that in the case of recent history, the truth and facts were well documented and so could not be hidden or ignored. Where the museum presented multiple perspectives honestly and objectively, visitor controversy over the topic did not emerge. As one local museum visitor commented, “One of the purposes of museums is to foster learning and to encourage discussion.”

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bringing a Cemetery to Life

South King County Genealogical Society members Hilda Meryhew, Linda Van Nest and Karen Bouton at the Saar Pioneer Cemetery, photo courtesy of Sylva Coppock

by Karen Bouton

Last July I attended a Living History tour at the Tacoma Cemetery. Nine different actors dressed in period costumes portrayed a ‘character’ from Tacoma’s history. Each actor stood next to the character’s headstone and spoke alone about that person. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to these brief stories and learned a lot about my neighboring city. I had heard of this type of event being performed at cemeteries throughout our country and was glad I finally had a chance to witness one. While driving home, I thought, we need to tell the story of the residents of Saar Pioneer Cemetery!

After putting out the word about this idea, the Saar Cemetery Living History Committee was formed in October of 2009. Sylva Coppock, Hilda Meryhew, Charlene Shaw, Linda Stephens, Linda Van Nest, and I have been meeting each month since then to plan this event.

First we obtained a Site Specific grant with 4Culture. This brought about the hiring of Book-It Theatre and Living Voices. Biographical and genealogical research of the cemetery residents was provided to Rachel Atkins at Living Voices. She was able to take that massive amount of information and turn it into a script for six of the cemetery residents. It will be an interactive conversation between the actors about each character. A grant from 4Culture Heritage will provide funds for advertising, programs, refreshments at the event, floral arrangements at six gravesites, and DVD’s.

The performance will begin with Mary Anderson, born in Pennsylvania, a midwife, a member of the Salvation Army, and passing away in the White River Valley area at age 80. Second will be a Civil War veteran, Elias Clark, who passed away in 1916 at the Washington Veterans’ Home. He fought with the 74th Illinois Infantry and then with Company D, 20th Michigan Infantry. Next will be Stephen P. Willis. Willis Street in Kent is named in his honor. He opened a school in 1869 with his children among the first to attend classes. Two great-nieces of Mr. Willis, Lucy and Martha Shinn, will have the opportunity share their short lives. Fourth on the tour will be James Iddings, another Civil War Veteran. He fought for both the South and then for the North. Fifth, Mighill Maddocks will tell of his adventures arriving in Seattle around 1861. Have you ever heard of Maddocksville? Lastly, Margaret Saar will tell her story. She was the first burial in the cemetery. Her headstone was large and ornate and unfortunately, is now MISSING.

The performances will take place July 17 and 18. Reservation details are located on the South King County Genealogy Society’s website at

For her work as the Saar Cemetery Project Coordinator, Karen Bouton received the 2007 Washington State Genealogical Society award and King County's John D. Spellman Historic Preservation Award in 2008.

Monday, June 14, 2010

One Great Wilderness - in Federal Way

Story and photos by Karen Meador

Ever feel like communing with nature and/or history but don’t like getting your shoes dirty? An urban oasis consisting of a primeval bog, two lakes, tall trees, lush and varied vegetation, assorted wildlife and two historic cabins on 120 acres of natural habitat await you just one mile from I-5 … in Federal Way. Located on the south side of South 348th Street and 4th Avenue South, West Hylebos Wetlands Park is a delightful way to spend time bonding with nature – without mastering the art of backpacking.

With 1.5 miles of gravel trails and wheelchair-accessible boardwalks, the park is extremely user-friendly for all age groups and fitness levels. Toddlers, senior citizens and all ages in between can be seen enjoying this remarkable gem in the midst of suburban development. About 50 yards from the South 348th Street parking lot, the traffic noise vanishes and you find yourself in another world -- much like Ilene and Francis Marckx found the property when they purchased it in 1955. Ilene Marckx later donated 37 acres toward the park and spearheaded the effort to expand and preserve it for future generations. Mrs. Marckx liked to boast that “the West Hylebos contains every type of wetland there is” – from cedar swamp to open marsh.

With a mutual goal of preserving the natural and cultural history of Federal Way, the Friends of the Hylebos joined with the Historical Society of Federal Way to relocate two historic log cabins to the Park. Early Seattle pioneer David Denny’s original donation claim included much of what is now downtown Seattle as well as Seattle Center. In 1889 he built a cabin just west of that location for use as a real estate office with lumber logged from Queen Anne hill. The cabin remained there for many years and was used as a tavern -- among other things -- before being moved to Federal Way.

The John Barker Cabin – filled with period furnishings and artifacts -- was built on the Barker homestead in 1883 at approximately South 312th Street and 7th Avenue South. He and his wife were among the earliest settlers in the Federal Way area, which his son Claude later described as “one great wilderness.” The Barker Cabin is open for tours from 12:00 to 4:00 on the second Saturday of every month through October.

After your journey through the unique beauty and heritage of the West Hylebos Wetlands, take advantage of the best of both worlds and enjoy a meal at one of the wonderful restaurants in the Federal Way area -- all without changing your shoes.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It's 8 PM - Do You Know Where Your Kids Are?

photo courtesy of Pacific Ballroom Dance

by Maureen Hathaway

Many young people go to school and feel firsthand the effects of the current economic situation. Families are having to cope by working evening hours, second jobs, and maneuvering around schedules that leave their kids unsupervised. This can become a gray area in which students begin to receive poor grades or become involved with friends who are experimenting in unsavory activities that might include drugs, theft, violence, etc.

Fortunately the Federal Way school system offers many productive afterschool programs such as sports, music, theater, and a variety of cultural clubs .When I briefly interviewed Kurt Lauer, the principal of the Federal Way Public Academy, he said that his students have the availability to participate in after school activities such as orchestra, art, chess club, and a Knowledge Bowl and math team.

We are also very fortunate to have a city that offers a wide variety of programs at our local parks, the Community Center, the X3 Ron Sandwith Teen Center, the Boys' and Girls' Clubs, as well as scouting and church groups, etc. All of these encourage kids to realize their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens.

Our school district feels deeply about the need for parental involvement. The home is the first and most important school a child will ever have. Studies show that parent involvement in almost any form produces measurable gains in student achievement. SO, IT’S 8:00 PM- DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR KIDS ARE? The parents of Pacific Ballroom Dance know where theirs are!

Pacific Ballroom Dance (PBD) is an excellent example of parents working with an arts program. Over a decade ago, PBD was launched as a community organization to provide ballroom dance setting with an emphasis on a positive, artistic, social and athletic experience for 11-18 age youth. It enables a network of support systems with mentoring instructors, parents and peer groups to nurture interaction in a positive way. PBD feels that if kids don’t have a positive place to belong and to identify with, they will find a negative alternative. PBD students have heart, and attack their dance with gusto! They know that if they work hard they will grow into a prime example of a dancer.

If you have ever had the chance to observe a PBD performance, you’ll see music and dancing that explodes into a realm of dazzling and non-stop energy! It doesn’t come as a surprise that this atmosphere creates immense intensity in its staging, costuming, subtle dramatic lighting changes, and shimmery visual designs. Everything radiates audiences with amazement and the choreography is meticulously constructed in all dance repertoires.

I had a fascinating conversation when I interviewed Heather Longhurst, PBD development director and instructor. She spoke of life and dance as perpetually intertwined, and of the hard work and dedication of the students. About 50% of PBD members are Federal Way students. Since I work at the Public Academy, I knew we had four students who were involved with PBD. When I talked with Kendall Hutchins and Brayle Grabel for this article, I immediately understood that dance inhibits their souls. They are living proof of how parental involvement enables them to explore and fulfill their dreams. This is not an easy task as Kendall explained. Her average daily schedule begins at 6 AM, school at 8:30, a church class at 2:30, dance studio techniques (called syllabus) at 4, and lastly at 5 PM team dance. She arrives home at around 7:40 and begins her homework which can amount to up to two and a half hours a day. On Tuesdays she has a one-hour private lesson at the studio which focuses on one couple at a time in preparation for competition.

As PBD prepares for “Escalate” - their weekend June 4th and 5th program at the Auburn Performance Center, Kendall and Brayle, in addition to going to school, will be rehearsing from 4-11 each night beginning on Wednesday.

Both Kendall and Brayle say that parents are a large contribution to the organization. They sew, alter, clean and press costumes, apply make-up, pay tuition, sell tickets, advertise, organize cast parties, prepare mailings, monitor fitting rooms, provide stage manager duties, help with props and maintain concession stands. But most of all they DRIVE, DRIVE, DRIVE! To make it easier they carpool as often as they can to both small and large events which offer plenty of flash and dazzle in terms of dancing and musical nuance.

Brayle’s schedule is similar to Kendall’s and she often doesn’t get to bed until 11:00 or 11:30 due to her homework. Neither seems to blink an eye when they talk of having only six hours of sleep a night! Along with her dancing, Brayle also participates in Young Women activities at her church and journalism at the Federal Way Public Academy.

Overall, both Kendall and Brayle enjoy every second of their complicated schedules. They love not only the PBD staff support, but also their parents' dedication in assisting them with the relentless pursuit of their love of dance. And yes…it’s 8 PM and the parents of Pacific Ballroom Dance students do know where their kids are!

To find out how you can join, volunteer, or support Pacific Ballroom Dance and the June 4-5 “Escalate” performance at the Auburn Performing Arts Center, visit the web site at: or call 253-939-6524.

Maureen Hathaway teaches in the Federal Way School District. She also is a member of the Federal Way Arts Commission.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Highline Garden Tour Has Many Delights

by Barbara McMichael

Preparations are well underway for the 2010 Highline Garden Tour, which takes place June 12. The annual event, which benefits the Highline Historical Society, has been expanded this year to include five private gardens, as well as the Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden. The tour will also feature two plant sales, coupon specials from business sponsors, screening of a garden documentary, and advice from a Master Gardener. Here's a sneak preview of one of the gardens on the tour...

Peter Barton preparing for the Highline Garden Tour.

After 25 years of carefully tending their half-acre garden just above Maplewild Drive in Burien -- a garden so breathtakingly beautiful that it’s been featured on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens magazine -- Peter and Cathy Barton have every right to sit on their laurels.

Instead, they cut a hole in them -- their laurel hedge, that is -- to frame a new view of Puget Sound. They’ve also been collaborating on some whimsical rebar arbors and sculpture, situated throughout the garden. And this spring they dug up the lawn to make more space for vegetables.

“We’ve doubled our vegetable garden in the last year and a half,” Peter Barton says. “We’re turning this into the sustainability garden.”

A new greenhouse afforded them fresh carrots and cucumbers over the winter, and gave them a jump on their sunflowers this spring. Just across the path, there are a compost tumbler and a worm bin filled with red wigglers enthusiastically producing castings for the garden.

And in a spot where Barton was pushing the lawnmower last summer, this year there are rows of carrots, turnips and strawberries pushing up and ready for harvest.

But Cathy Barton wants to make certain that those who have bought tickets for the 2010 Highline Garden Tour don’t come expecting a mere vegetable patch.

“I’m just afraid that if we say all vegetables, people won’t realize that our garden is designed for all seasons,” she says.

Peter and Cathy Barton in the garden

In addition to the vegetable garden, visitors to this address can expect to enjoy multiple elevation views of the Sound, private sitting spaces, creative paving materials, lots of textures and grasses, shady areas with hostas and astilbes, “-- and the peonies and delphiniums should be in bloom if the sun comes out,” Cathy Barton adds hopefully.

The organically sustained garden is a haven for bees, butterflies, and a variety of songbirds. And later this summer, the Bartons will be welcoming another critter into the garden -- they’re planning to build a chicken coop.

All of the gardens on this year's tour do include vegetables, berry bushes, fruit trees, and other edibles to some degree, but each of the five private gardens also reflects its owner's particular interests -- from an artist's love of color and scene to a retired teacher's memories in the gifts of plants she received from students over the years.

Artist Nancy Fulton's garden will be on the Highline Garden Tour

And at the Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden, there will be an exclusive screening of the documentary that tells the remarkable story of the transfer of the historically significant Seike Garden out of the path of SeaTac Airport Expansion to its new home at the Botanical Garden.

The historic Seike Garden

The 2010 Highline Garden Tour is happening June 12. For more information, visit Tickets can be purchased in advance at Burien Bark (13258 1st Avenue S, Burien ) and Herr Backyard Garden Center (107 SW 160th, Burien ) or by telephone at 206-241-5786.

Des Moines Mural to Honor Aging

Artist Chandelle Anderson with her blank canvas

Story and photo by Nancy Wright

Following the official signing of a contract with the City of Des Moines on May 26, artist Chandelle Anderson is set to begin creating a wall mural within the next two weeks on South 219th Street between Marine View Drive and 7th Avenue South.

It is the culmination of an almost four-year effort by the Des Moines Arts Commission to secure a site for a public art project to honor aging through grants from the Legacy Foundation. The long search for a suitable site met several roadblocks, but the present site received wide approval with its southern exposure and central location. Part of the complex, which includes QFC, is owned by David Yee. The wall is currently painted white, and Anderson’s 12 x 37 foot mural will cover most of it.

The mural depicts a contemporary vision of the elderly interacting with young people in a variety of simple tasks, portraying wisdom and self fulfillment, passing from one generation to the next. The setting is a realistic outdoor scene, by the water on a summer evening. Working in high pigment acrylic resistant to UV rays and primed with two coats of primer and three coats of varnish, the mural should last many years, Anderson said. She’ll be working on scaffolding and a scissors lift during the painting, which should be complete in less than 6 weeks, weather permitting.

“If people stop by at the beginning and see lots of bright red and hot pink colors, they shouldn’t be concerned,” Anderson said. “It’s just underpainting.”

Anderson graduated summa cum laude in 2005 with a bachelor of arts degree in painting from Minnesota State University, and has won a number of awards. Her sketches and vision received unanimous approval from the arts commission in a “blind” viewing of entries, said Nic Lind, who handled the details for the Des Moines Parks and Recreation Department.

This won’t be her first mural-painting experience. Last summer she was invited back to her home town of Huron, South Dakota, where she painted a 20 x 180 mural as part of a historic restoration project. In fact, she said, she loved DesMoines at first sight. “I connected emotionally with DesMoines at once. It’s a lot like home.”

Over the past four years, The Legacy Foundation has donated $10,000 for this public art project, said Nancy Stephan, who led the project for the commission’s visual arts committee, which also included Anita Corby, Katherine Caughey, Cora Morrison and Clark Snure.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bach to the Future with the Federal Way Symphony

by Linda Pratt

I get my ticket at a table set up in St. Luke’s church, receive a program from a volunteer at the door, walk inside and take a seat. The Federal Way Symphony is about to begin it’s April 11th concert, “Spring, Piano is His Forte!” featuring Mark Salman.

There’s a large screen up high in the front of the sanctuary with information referring to the
composers we’re about to hear. The sizable crowd sits silently in anticipation. The conductor, Brian Davenport, handsomely dressed in a black tuxedo, shares with the audience some of his knowledge relevant to the composers, their music, and the times they lived in. He then turns to face the orchestra. Gracefully, his baton begins to move, the musicians play, and wonderful music fills the air.

Did you ever wonder what was involved in creating this delightful experience? Maureen Hathaway and I, both Federal Way Arts Commissioners, spent time watching set up, rehearsal, and with many gracious Federal Way Symphony employees and volunteers to find the answer. So, lets go “Bach” to the future and find out!

It all began back in mid 2009 when the music director (and conductor), Brian Davenport, decided on the music. He conferred with the pianist, Mark Salman, to select just the right pieces of music to please the audience, work together, and provide the most impact.

I interviewed Mark and found that he had 6-8 months to learn the piece and write a cadenza.
“What’s a cadenza?” I asked. (My music experience consists of listening to it!) A cadenza is a virtuoso solo passage inserted into a movement in a concerto. It gives the pianist an opportunity to improvise something in his own style and makes every performance unique. It’s the last few weeks before the concert that Mark works most intensely on the piece. He also has to learn the orchestra parts, so he can interact with them smoothly.

As soon as the music has been determined, the musicians are selected. That is done by the personnel manager, Mannfried Funk and the music director. Heather Lewis, office administrator, makessure everyone has completed the appropriate paperwork. The music is ordered from the publishers and distributed to the players a couple weeks before the rehearsal.

Once the music and musicians are determined, the stage manager (aka orchesterwart), Kirby Luther, discusses the requirements with the personnel manager and conductor. Then he creates a schematic of the stage with the exact placement of each instrument and musician. The musicians all have to fit on the stage in proper relation to each other and the conductor. His goal is to allow the musicians to concentrate on their music and not worry about their seating or music stands.

Next, plans are made to arrange stage hands for setting up and taking down chairs, stands, and platforms at rehearsals and the actual performance. But wait, there’s more! Don’t forget the sound and lighting requirements! Those are the responsibility of Tim Waisanen. One of his many jobs is to design a configuration of the sound and lighting systems appropriate for the concert. There’s also the preparation of the slides that are shown before and during the concert, and at intermission. Where do the musicians store their cases and get dressed? Ask Tim!

This year, due to budget constraints, there is only one full rehearsal before the concert. There was an additional rehearsal of just the principal players one or two days earlier. When we arrived at St. Luke’s on Tuesday afternoon for the rehearsal before Sunday’s concert, we were greeted with the sound of wobbly carts carrying stacks of chairs down the hall to the sanctuary. Before the chairs could be set up, large, carpeted platforms were put in place to create the stage. Carefully following the layout plan, the chairs and music stands were all arranged. Next, the rehearsal piano was rolled into its location.

The musicians arrived dressed like everyone else here in the northwest: jeans, casual shirts, and comfortable shoes. Some sat, some strolled, some chatted as they warmed up on their instruments. They came well prepared to play their parts. The purpose of the rehearsal is so that everyone can hear what everyone else does and experience how they fit in with the overall sound.

The day of the concert dozens of volunteers take their positions, and there are many to take! Tables need to be set up and manned for cookies, coffee, and tickets. Ushers find their place by the doors. The sound and lighting is checked and double checked. The piano, rented from Sherman Clay in Seattle, is carefully rolled in. It’s on its side covered in moving blankets, without legs. The mover screws the legs on, gets it standing up, and Kirby and Brian Ailinger roll it to its proper position on the stage. The pianist and the conductor both check its sound. A camera is set up so the audience can view the keyboard on the large overhead screen.

While this is going on, the musicians are downstairs dressing into their black suits and outfits. Some are relaxing and others are practicing. Back upstairs, the audience is arriving and purchasing tickets. Ushers are taking tickets, and people are finding their seats. The concert is about to begin. If all goes as planned, you won’t notice all the work that has gone on over the past year. All you’ll see is the Federal Way Symphony doing what they do...providing us with world class music right here in Federal Way.

The Costumes of Wonderland

by Mackenzie Bir

From the outside it is a dance studio in the heart of Maple Valley but within Dance Expressions it is another world filled with white rabbits, angry queens, dodo birds and flamingos. Colorful plaids, citrus greens, bright blues and a pair of bouncing ears swirl around a mad tea party. Flocks of birds bobble around in sunshine yellow and bright magenta tulle. A deck of cards march around on two legs preparing for a trial. It is as though you have fallen down the rabbit hole.

Wonderland comes to the stage as Ensemble Ballet Theatre prepares for their production of “Alice,” a new work staged and choreographed by Kimberly Wooten, the artistic director of EBT. But how does the magical world of Wonderland come to life?

It starts with costumes. Once the production was announced, which was roughly a year ago, De Munger, head of costumes for EBT, began the process of developing the costumes.

“It starts with a basic plan from Kim, we then have a great deal of open discussion, brainstorming and off the wall ideas,” Munger says. “There are a thousand designs that never make it beyond paper.”

In this production, which includes “Alice” and “Three Acts in Black and White,” there are approximately 220 costumes for 90 dancers. A huge undertaking, if this is your first time in the game. But EBT, although a relatively young company, has been putting on shows full of creative costumes since 2003. Their first show, "Peter and the Wolf," needed costumes for only nine dancers. The company has increased tremendously but the same care, effort and time is put into each costume, whether that costume is for Alice, or if it is for even the tiniest of jellyfish.

The costumes for “Alice” are “'Classic Alice with a dance twist'” says Wooten. “We tried to stay as close to Lewis Carroll’s sketches as possible, while modifying for ease of movement, and flow.”

Each costume helps bring the world of Lewis Carroll to life but the costume can’t dance or move on its own. “Without the input from the dancers a costume is just a pretty collection of fabric. A ballet costume must look correct for the part, move correctly and be comfortable while dancing,” says Munger.

When a dancer feels uncomfortable in a costume, it is reflected in their dancing. But when the right costume and the dancing come together it is an unbeatable combination. “One of my most favorite rehearsals is the first time costumes are worn” says Wooten. “It is amazing to see how a good dance, with a talented dancer, can be truly transformed into a character when they put a costume on.”

Although costumes play a large part in the creation of Wonderland, they are only a piece in the puzzle. Both Wooten and Munger know from experience that it is a unique moment when set, props, costume, lighting and dancing come together on stage. “It’s a real treat,” says Munger. “In general I'm pleased with most of the costumes, but always think there are one or two I could have done better on,” she says. “Mostly I'm glad that the rush is over and I can sleep in on Monday.”

Mackenzie Bir is a journalism major at the University of Oregon. Her work has appeared in the Eugene Weekly and will soon appear at

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Auburn's ArtRageous Receives Top Award

Auburn’s ArtRageous: Artist in Action Art Fair received the top “Spotlight Award for Program Excellence” for Events, Fairs and Festivals from the Washington State Parks and Recreation (WRPA) honoring public agencies for outstanding and unique achievements. WRPA’s annual awards have become a coveted mark of distinction for parks and recreation professionals and organizations. The Spotlight Awards ceremony took place at the WRPA Annual Conference in Tacoma, Washington on the evening of April 15. Judged from entries across the state, ArtRageous was selected to receive this prestigious award based upon innovative, creative and exceptional service and benefit to the community.

ArtRageous initially was conceived of in 2009 as a one time event to recognize the 25th Anniversary of the Auburn Arts Commission. But due to popular demand, it will be offered again this year on Saturday, August 7, at Les Gove Park. The goal of ArtRageous is to offer a free fine-arts experience in an outdoor festival setting and to provide a wide breadth of art media that allow the public to have hands-on learning experiences alongside professional artists.

“We’re proud to have received this outstanding statewide recognition from the WRPA,” said Daryl Faber, City of Auburn’s Director of Parks, Arts and Recreation Department. “The arts are a key component of a healthy community and our Parks, Arts and Recreation Department continues to offer innovative programming that the Auburn community has embraced and is recognized throughout the state.”

The WRPA, an affiliate of the National Recreation and Park Association, promotes public support for parks and recreation and increasing awareness of the necessity to preserve, enhance, and utilize resources for a balanced lifestyle. The Spotlight award was established in 2005, and winners from years past include: Alternative Energy Fair - Lacey - 2009; First Night - Metro Parks Tacoma and Garden d’Lights, Bellevue - both 2008; Step Up to Health Summit, City of Kirkland Parks, Arts & Recreation Department - 2007; Battle of Idols - Metro Parks Tacoma - 2006; and Fantasy Lights - Pierce County - 2005.

In addition to the WRPA award, ArtRageous also received a Gold Medal Award for a Community Service Program through the Washington Festivals & Events Association (WFEA) in March of this year.

For more information on the ArtRageous: Artists in Action Art Fair, contact City of Auburn, Parks, Arts & Recreation at 253-804-3045, or visit

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Peek Behind the Curtains at Centerstage

by Maureen Hathaway

As I sit quietly in the theater, I hear the humming of subdued conversation. The patrons quietly thumb through their programs and eagerly await for the curtain to go up. My mind wanders. I imagine myself in the director’s shoes. I can almost sense the anticipation of the cast and crew, and their nervous excitement of the first scene. Will the audience be pleased to see actors from previous Centerstage productions? Would the director have preferred more rehearsals prior to the opening performance?

I look up into the dim lighting and try to imagine how the eventual bright lights and sound effects will cast a spell upon the audience. What is actually happening behind the scenes? Has part of the set malfunctioned? Has and actor found a torn seam in their costume? If so, how will the show go on with last minute problems and the frantic activity taking place behind the long, draping curtain?

I quickly check my program and see that all of the performers and crew have extensive theater backgrounds. The will somehow climb over any hurdles and mesh together in this magical moment with everyone beating their drum to the same cadence.

To answer some of these questions, fellow Federal Way Arts Commissioner Linda Pratt and I asked Alan Bryce, Artistic Director of Centerstage, if we could observe rehearsals, take pictures, and interview the cast and crew. Many hours were spent backstage and at performances prior to the April 11th closing of Centerstage’s wonderful production of “Enchanted April.”


The Knutzen Family Theatre at Dumas Bay is where Centerstage presents its productions. “Enchanted April” had been an Academy Award nominated film based on the best-selling 1921 novel of the same name. “Enchanted April” was director Cynthia White’s fourth play at Centerstage. What drew her to this play was knowing and working with actors she had worked with before in addition to working again with Centerstage staff. She noted “that if you know how someone works, then you can kind of cut to the chase. The ensemble has a connection with everyone and you are not spending half of the rehearsal learning about each other - it’s a bit of a coming home quality. An important part of any play is the cohesiveness of the cast.”

The casting was done at Puget Sound Theater at Seattle Center. Both Alan Bryce and Cynthia chose the ensemble, Bryce noting that there are more theatrical groups per capita in this area than the rest of the nation, so the pool of talent is deep. Eva Doak, Dean Wilson, and Rosalie Hilburn had been selected before auditions began, so they read opposite the actors who were auditioning. There were two auditions to select the rest of the cast.

Actors received the script around October/November 2009. Actor Dean Wilson said, “I had about fifty pages to memorize and each night my aim was to work on a page or two.” According to Rosalie Hilburn, “blocking the stage movement is set fairly early so the actors can memorize this with the lines. It often changes when we move into the actual theater.”

The director oversaw the members of the creative team until they all had the same artistic vision of the play. This included coordinating research, costume design, lighting, sound, acting, props and set design. In the beginning, the director was the most knowledgeable about the play but by the end of rehearsals, the actors intimately knew their characters and the director turned the play over to them.

After opening night, the director moved on to the next project and the stage manager ran the process, making sure the show maintained the director’s vision and ran smoothly. For "Enchanted April," that was Anna Blindheim. She sat up in a booth behind the audience and cued the sound effects and lighting. Other duties included calling of rehearsals, assembling and maintaining the prompt book, and the technical running of each performance.

The actors rehearsed for three weeks, six days a week, until the week before opening - tech week. This was when lights, sound effects, props, and costumes were added. It was also when the tech crew came in and practiced their part with the actors.

Ron Leamon was the costume designer. He has an extensive background in costume history, construction, art history, and fashion. In addition, he has experience in theater, film, and television. A talented designer, he gets inside the mind of a character and finds the perfect clothes that will help tell the story and assist the audience in understanding the character. All clothing, hats, shoes, ties, etc. were authentic to the period of the play. Most of the costumes were vintage 1920’s garments which came from the University of Washington costume stock as well as Ron’s own collection. They were very fragile and in selecting them he had to keep in mind which ones would survive the run of the show.

The set designer was Greg Heinzle of Seattle Scenic Studios. The set for “Enchanted April” was built at Knutzen Family Theatre and then painted. The furniture and backdrop were rented. The transformation from the bleak London set of the first half of the play, to the bright and cheery Italian castle in the second half, was breathtaking and had the audience gasping with amazement and delight.


After the performance I watch as everyone stands up and I hear the sound of appreciation in the hearty clapping of hands. The cast widely smiles as they bow in unison. Most of all, I feel proud and happy that Federal Way has a top notch professional theatrical group right here in my community. I hope that Federal Way will continue to support all of the precious arts groups that inhabit this beautiful city! Centerstage’s upcoming musical “Ain’t Misbehavin’” will be showing May 22 - June 6. For tickets or more information call (253) 661-1444 or check their web site:

Maureen Hathaway is a member of the Federal Way Arts Commission.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Through May 12 - Vote Early and Often

by Barbara McMichael

The National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express have announced that 25 Puget Sound area landmarks are eligible for restoration grants totaling $1 million. To help them decide how to allocate the money, they are inviting people to go on-line between now and May 12 and cast votes for their favorite landmark. There are many wonderful sites in the running, but only one of them is located in South King County.

Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks Park in Kent was designed a quarter of a century ago by one of the last of the Bauhaus masters, Herbert Bayer. It is internationally known as a prime example of "earth art" and it also functions as a working dam, but the sculpted forms that provide storm water detention need to be restored to preserve both their functional use and artistic value. In these challenging economic times, that grant money would be a boon!

Over the years, Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks has been a popular festival and concert site. On Thursday, April 22, from 7-8:30 PM, the Park will be the site for a celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, with music, dance and site-specific art installations. Then again on May 2, from 1-4 PM, the Park will host an Open House featuring site tours, art workshops, and performances. Mark these dates on your calendar, and plan to come explore and enjoy this fascinating park!

And here's how you can support its bid for some of the grant money being offered by American Express and the National Trust: once a day between April 15 and May 12, you can go to to cast your vote for one of the nominated landmarks -- the top on-line vote-getter will be guaranteed funding. This is a great chance to bring much-needed dollars into South King County and to support one of our local historic and artistic treasures. Let's go viral with this -- please contact any and all of your friends who care about arts and heritage in South King County and tell them about this opportunity! Let's make sure the people handing out the grant dollars hear from us!

Barbara McMichael is administrator for SoCoCulture.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Renton Pianist is a Finalist in KING Radio Contest

by Linda Petersen

Michael Messer is a Renton native and a busy high school senior. He will graduate in June from both Kentridge High School and Green River Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. He plans to major in piano performance and has many scholarship offers in consider before he enters college this fall.

Michael has studied piano for 10 years and is currently a student of Dianne Nichols of Renton. He has won awards at many piano competitions and has performed at the Washington State Music Teachers Association State Convention for the past three years. Performing, competing and serving at his church keeps him musically challenged. He says, "There is a reason they call it 'playing' the piano. Music is a gift to be shared and enjoyed!"

Michael is one of 20 finalists on "10 Grands Young Artist Awards" - you can vote for him by going to the website and then page four, number 16 where you will see and hear him play. I heard him play in person a few weeks ago and was captivated by his music. Good luck Michael!

Linda Petersen is Chair of SoCoCulture.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Camel Express: Exotic Freight Conveyance in the Pacific Northwest

by Karen Meador

“The Camels are Coming” made the headlines in more than one newspaper in the American West of the late 1850s. Under the sponsorship of Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, dromedaries (one-humped, Arabian camels) were imported to facilitate Army transportation in the surveying and exploration of the newly-acquired Southwest. Camels could carry larger loads than horses or mules, travel longer distances without food or water, and function in sand or snow.

Gold discoveries in British Columbia in the late 1850s and early 60s added a new dimension to the narrative. Word had spread of a single camel’s ability to carry over half a ton, a capacity worth “four good mules.” A British Columbia businessman imported the sturdier, two-humped, Bactrian camels from Asia for use in the Cariboo mines in 1862. Despite their superior freight-hauling ability, their feet were ill-suited to the rocky trails of the Cariboo. Some handlers made rawhide and canvas boots for their soft feet. The camels also proved difficult to manage for teamsters unaccustomed to their mercurial temperament; they panicked horses and mules along the narrow pack trails, sometimes causing stampedes and runaways. Lawsuits ensued, forcing the owner to sell off much of his herd.

Freighters on the U.S. side of the border saw potential in using the exotic animals to supply the mining districts of Eastern Washington, Northeast Oregon, Idaho and Montana. A number of them purchased Bactrians from British Columbia, as well as former Army stock. The “ships of the desert” were used to haul mail and provisions to the remote mining camps throughout the region, with the newly-completed Mullan Road, between Walla Walla and Fort Benton, Montana, carrying “a good deal of camel traffic.”

One early settler remembered observing the camel trains:

They would be loaded with sacks of flour until you couldn’t see anything of the camels except their heads. . . . They would go up and over the mountains in the roughest and steepest places and never refuse to keep moving in their slow, deliberate way.

The camel pack trains operated throughout the mining regions of the Pacific Northwest into the 1870s. Once again; however, the exotic animals proved disruptive, prompting one early settler to report that their “peculiar aroma and looks were enough to raise Cain on the [Mullan] road.” Idaho’s Stampede Lake derives its name from one such encounter.

These issues, as well as the coming of the railroad, led to much of the stock being sold to mining and freighting operations in Nevada and Arizona, as well as Sonora, Mexico.

Largely as a result of being the major supply point for regional mining operations, Walla Walla grew to become the largest town in Washington Territory by 1870. Many years later Walla Walla businessman William Kirkman reported, “I remember when Seattle boasted of being as large as Walla Walla.”

Karen Meador, a member of the Neely Mansion Association, is also an independent scholar who lives in South King County.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

100 Years of Women's Suffrage in WA

The Highline Historical Society held a program last weekend featuring actress/historian Tames Alan. In her "Soldiers in Petticoats" lecture, Alan dressed in costume as a suffragette and reviewed the long and tortuous history of women's struggle to secure voting rights in the United States. Washington State was the fifth state to allow women to vote -- this was before the passage of the 19th Amendment. In fact, 2010 marks the centennial of women's suffrage in this state.

It was a fascinating program, and when Alan concluded her presentation, she opened it up to audience members. This is when it really hit home that we are living as part of an historic continuum, and that the struggle for women's rights is ongoing. There were at least a couple of audience members who had been born before the passage of the 19th Amendment. But even those born fifty years after women had gained the right to vote spoke of other forms of discrimination they had faced. Women talked about being forced to quit their jobs as flight attendants or school teachers as soon as they became pregnant (even though they were married). One lady recalled being required to get her husband's signature in order to get a credit card. Others recalled inequities in education and sports.

The program was followed by a reception honoring women who hold elected office today. State Senator Karen Keiser (33rd District), SeaTac Mayor Terry Anderson, SeaTac councilmembers Mia Gregerson and Pam Fernald, and former Burien Mayor Kitty Milne were on-hand to talk about their experiences as public servants. Senator Keiser noted that there are fewer women in the state legislature today than when she first went to Olympia. She reiterated the plea made by Tames Alan at the conclusion of the formal presentation: that audience members make sure to share their personal stories with the youngsters in their lives, so that the generation growing up now can appreciate that history is not something merely relegated to history books, but ongoing and consequential.

Submitted by Barbara McMichael, SoCoCulture administrator

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Love Poem Contest Winner

Thanks to all who participated in our first-time-ever poetry contest - we received many wonderful poems celebrating love in South King County. Our judge had a difficult time deciding, but finally picked this entry by Marjorie Rommel as our winning poem. Happy Valentine's Day to all!

FLOWER LOVE - by Marjorie Rommel

She asked for yellow roses,

but roses were too dear,

so I sent white carnations

tied up in a yellow wire.

She stood at Cugini's window,

her disappointment clear

as water drops in the florist's case

on the roses of her desire.

I was moved to console her

--we twined in sheer delight--

and she bloomed yellow roses,

we sent up white carnation fire,

half the night.

Poet's Note: Cugini Florist is a venerable institution in Renton, destination of young men in need of orchid corsages for their girls on prom night, young girls and their mothers intent on the quintessential bridal bouquet, husbands seeking a dozen perfect long-stemmed red roses for their wives on Valentine's Day -- anyone needing anything in the way of flowers for any occasion from Mother's Day to the birth of a new baby. Women longing for their men to remember them are perennially pressing their noses to Cugini's always beautifully decorated windows.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Case of the Missing Totem Pole

by Jennifer Davis Hayes, Renton Community & Economic Development

What do the Renton Fred Meyer store, the Duwamish Tribe, the Renton Municipal Arts Commission, the West Seattle Blog,, the Renton History Museum and a small town in Oregon all have in common? Each plays a part in an amazing tale that unfolded this winter and involved the mystery of the missing Henry Moses honoring pole.

Henry Moses was the last Chief of the Duwamish Tribe and a graduate of Renton High School. In the 1970s a group of local business owners commissioned an honoring pole for him. In recent years, it has been “hidden” in clear view in a planting strip in the Renton Fred Meyer shopping center.

At the November Renton Municipal Arts Commission meeting, Commissioner Fred Lund shared his disappointment at the state of the honoring pole, which was surrounded by weeds and garbage. The Commission encouraged Fred to gather information about the pole to discuss with Fred Meyer management. After going to Liz Stewart at the Renton History Museum and gathering articles from the 1970s about the pole and dedication ceremony, Fred visited the Fred Meyer store and noticed the pole was gone. Fred Meyer Manager Eric Georgia didn’t know about any corporate actions to remove the pole. Our next thought was that perhaps the Duwamish Tribe had the pole for restoration, since a member had contacted the Arts Commission eight months earlier.

But in early December, Fred found a mention on about two totem poles found in Keizer, Oregon. One was identified as a pole stolen from West Seattle, but the other pole was of unidentified origin. The developing story first had been reported on the West Seattle Blog.

After a frantic e-mailing of the story to Duwamish Tribe members Eric Georgia and White-Bear (the member who had expressed interest in restoring it) – a sigh of relief and exclamation: “That’s our pole!”

A visit by Seattle Police officers to Fred Meyer confirmed ownership and the SPD communicated that they wanted the pole out of their secured evidence room immediately because the pole was infested with bugs! As you can imagine, 1001 calls were made in several directions to figure out what to do next. Fortunately, the original carver, Jim Ploegman, still lives in Renton. He offered his studio space to allow the Duwamish to restore the pole.

Two things down, but now how to pay for it? Luckily all those involved wanted to see a happy ending for this story and the initial meeting with Fred Meyer confirmed their interest in restoring the pole and placing it back on their property – this time in a more visible location. Store officials also committed resources to pay for the work. We don’t know the amount it will cost, so we may reach out to other resources to help ensure this pole isn’t lost to age.

It has been an amazing story to date, somewhat of a Christmas miracle. What’s even more amazing is how this theft has brought together uncommon partners (Fred Meyer, Renton Municipal Arts Commission, Renton History Museum, Duwamish Tribe, and a wood carver) to restore a community treasure. Look for updates on this blog and for the rededication
ceremony which, if timing is right, may be tied into Renton High School's centennial year activities.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Country

image by Julie Taylor

© Bob McKean 2008

Born here, raised here, probably die here
The Northwest coast, my country
Grays Harbor, it is called. Home of Grayland and no wonder.
Gray skies meet a gray sea crashing on gray sand

Temperate West Coast Marine, the geographers call it
Mild, dry summers, cool, wet winters
They don’t mention the length of those winters
But we are spared shivering in blizzards

Evergreen trees, some third generation, soaring to the sky
Douglas fir, Red cedar, hemlock, the occasional pine
Plant anything here, likely it will grow
Though some like it hot. We don’t do hot.

Salt water in my veins, webs between my toes
I could never live long away from the ocean
Emerald islands across open water
Waiting patiently for residents to return

Creeks and rivers that are gentle streams usually
But raging torrents after a Pacific storm
Occasionally flooding. The locals just rebuild
They don’t want to move anywhere else

Fish and game in such abundance
The indigenous peoples didn’t have to migrate
Unusual sea creatures, some found nowhere else
Visitors come from afar to watch the whales

Prone to earthquake, tsunami, eruption, wildfire
But not to hurricane or tornado; we give thanks
Looming volcanoes, some dormant, others not so much
Verdant valleys with rich soil left by receding water

Where else can you ski in the morning
Then golf in the afternoon of the same day
Here, I tell you, they are both right here
Less than an hour apart

Born here, live here now, likely die here
God’s country
My country

Bob McKean participates in the monthly Poetry Jam in Enumclaw.

SoCoCulture Love Poem Contest

(e-mail deadline February 10)

We're sponsoring our first-ever poetry contest! We are seeking a love poem to publish on this blog on Valentine’s Day.

1. Must be an original, previously unpublished love poem, written by a resident of South King County (anybody residing in Burien, Tukwila, Renton, Maple Valley, and all points south to the county line).
2. Must include some reference to a South King County feature (lake, hospital, street, school, etc.) If the reference would be obscure to most readers, please tell us more about it in a brief note at the end of the poem.
3. Poem must be no more than 20 lines in length.

Winner will receive:
A $10 Starbucks gift card, recognition in the March issue of SoCoCulture’s monthly E-News, and publication of the poem on this blog. Poet retains all other rights.

To submit (read this carefully, please):
1. E-mail your poem to -- no attachments, please.)
2. The subject line should read: SoCoCulture Love Poem Contest.
3. Your poem should be included in the body of the e-mail, beginning with the title.
4. Following the poem, let us know your name, city of residence (must be in South King County), e-mail address, and phone number.
5. Deadline: Wednesday, February 10.

Thanks for your interest! We look forward to hearing from you!