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