Local Art News

HOT ART–WET CITY Presents a trio of awesome opportunities for Seattle Artists–in Canada! !

Seattle PI Arts Listings - Tue, 08/25/2015 - 10:40pm
A collaborative between Hot Art Wet City and Mark Brand’s Catalog, this show examines our relationship between art, value and cost in connection to our spending habits while dining and drinking. Receipt pairs artists’ work with actual receipts from dinners and weekend benders as sale pricing.   We’re fascinated by the disconnect between things we […]
Categories: Local Art News

COCA Presents: Composer and Sound Artist Nat Evans’ “That Summer” New Work at CoCA UN[contained]

Seattle PI Arts Listings - Tue, 08/25/2015 - 4:14pm
www.cocaseattle.org | info@cocaseattle.org | 206.728.1980   Composer and Sound Artist Nat Evans’ “That Summer” New Work at CoCA UN[contained]CONTACT: Nichole DeMent, Executive Director nichole@cocaseattle.org206.778.3157 Anna R Hurwitz, Outreach & Development Director anna@cocaseattle.org206.728.1980Seattle, Wash (August 25, 2015): Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA) is proud to present Seattle-based sound artist and composer Nat Evans’ second immersive installation, “That Summer, which is […]
Categories: Local Art News

Pacific Northwest Ballet presents: Nutcracker information! 2015!

Seattle PI Arts Listings - Tue, 08/25/2015 - 3:35pm
  Pacific Northwest Ballet presents Music: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky Choreography: George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust Scenic and Costume Design: Ian Falconer Lighting Design: James F. Ingalls   November 27 – December 28, 2015 Marion Oliver McCaw Hall 321 Mercer Street, Seattle Center Seattle, WA 98109   SEATTLE, WA – A new/old holiday tradition […]
Categories: Local Art News

The Vera Project is excited to announce The Women’s Creative Industries Forum! Experience presentations and live performances by women who design sound, produce radio shows, make films, and beyond.

Seattle PI Arts Listings - Tue, 08/25/2015 - 3:21pm
The Vera Project is excited to announce The Women’s Creative Industries Forum! Experience presentations and live performances by women who design sound, produce radio shows, make films, and beyond. Get to know other professionals and beginners in these creative industries with networking activities and a women-centric resource fair. As always at The Vera Project, all […]
Categories: Local Art News

URBAN ARTWORKS Presents: THAT’S A WRAP! Come celebrate with us this Thursday: 3-3:30pm: Youth Graduation in front of 12th Ave Arts on Capitol Hill 3:30-6pm: Happy Hour at RGB (family friendly! and fries are on us!)

Seattle PI Arts Listings - Tue, 08/25/2015 - 3:08pm
  THAT’S A WRAP! Come celebrate with us this Thursday: 3-3:30pm: Youth Graduation in front of 12th Ave Arts on Capitol Hill 3:30-6pm: Happy Hour at RGB (family friendly! and fries are on us!) This summer was challenging, crazy fun and extremely rewarding, as most of 2015 has been. In only the past 8 weeks here is *some* what our crew accomplished: […]
Categories: Local Art News

Mariners’ fans need to look to next year … again

Crosscut Arts - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 5:10pm

Local media have recently run stories featuring the 1995 Mariners, whose miracle late-season run carried them well into the American League playoffs.  This season’s Mariners are in a comparable position in the standings heading into September, but there will be no miracles this year. The team, regrettably, lacks both the talent and leadership to get there.

The 2015 Mariners entered the season with high hopes. But their hitting, then relief pitching let them down badly. They are likely to finish this year with a win-loss record in the Bottom Eight of major-league baseball. Time now to look to 2016.

The Mariners strengths and weaknesses going into 2016:

Starting pitching: Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma (a free agent likely to re-sign in the off-season), Taijuan Walker, Mike Montgomery, Vidal Nuno, Roenis Elias and James Paxton, just coming back from the injured list, form a good nucleus. Pitchers often get sidelined during a season but, from these seven, a five-man rotation should be available throughout 2016.

Relief pitching: A black hole. There is no reliable 9th-inning closer now on the roster and none coming up from the high-minor farm system. If Charlie Furbush recovers from his present sore arm, he will be a reliable left-handed middle-inning reliever. But the bullpen, so strong a year ago, needs a complete rebuild either through trades or free-agent signings.

Infield:  Second baseman Robinson Cano and third baseman Kyle Seager are fixtures. Ketel Marte is having a fine rookie season and looks to be a shortstop for the future. Behind him are Brad Miller, really a utility man, and fine-fielding Chris Taylor, soon to be called up from Tacoma. First base will be an open position, up for grabs among inconsistent slugger Mark Trumbo, still promising Jesus Montero, and incumbent Logan Morrison, a favorite of manager John McClendon’s, who has played his way to the bench and is likely to be gone by next spring training. A solid everyday first baseman might have to be acquired via trade if Trumbo and Montero do not show enough bat this September.

Outfield: The present outfield features a left-field platoon of Seth Smith and Franklin Gutierrez, both journeyman hitters and fielders, center fielder Austin Jackson, another journeyman unlikely to be resigned for 2016, and right fielder Nelson Cruz. Marte could shift from shortstop to center field to replace Jackson but it is more likely a trade or free-agent signing will bring in fresh talent. Cruz, by next year, probably will be better suited for designated hitter, forcing Trumbo or Montero to the bench. The outfield presently lacks speed and range. It could use one or even two aggressive, doubles-hitting, good-fielding newcomers in 2016.

Catching: Mike Zunino is a good defensive catcher but has struggled to stay above .185 at the plate. If he continues to struggle in September as a hitter, the team will need to find a starting-level catcher to compete with him next spring. The loser in the competition would become the backup.

Management: McClendon appears to be liked by his players. He has a fine coaching staff, headed by hitting coach Edgar Martinez, who has made a real difference during his few weeks on the job. You wonder if pitching coach Rick Waits is in trouble with McClendon. The manager, rather than Waits, goes to the mound to confer with pitchers during shaky situations. That normally would be Waits’ job.

The manager gets judged by his players’ performance on the field. By that measure, 2015 has not gone well for him. The team has made consistent baserunning gaffes, killing rallies. The Mariners, overall, have not delivered at the plate with runners in scoring position. They have not bunted well or executed hit-and-run plays. Too high a percentage of base runners have been caught stealing.  The team also at times has lacked baseball intelligence, both afield and at the plate, not making the right plays in the right situations. Too much carelessness. Periodic lapses in intensity. And McClendon has shown a tendency to stick too long with non-performing players, including notably Morrison and the recently (and finally) departed closer Fernando Rodney.

He also has stuck determinedly with the notion that there must be a 9th inning closer, even when there was none on the roster.  Thus pitchers throwing well in the seventh and eighth innings have been lifted in favor of ninth-inning relievers who, time and again, have blown up and cost games.

It certainly is true that players have under-performed. But it is part of the manager’s job to see that they perform up to their abilities. The Refuse to Lose ethic of the 1995 Mariners is not evident in this team. Too often it has been Accept Losing.

General manager Jack Zduriencik is almost certain to depart at season’s end.  He came on board with a promise to rebuild the farm system and keep major-league-ready players flowing onto the roster.  There is not a single 2015 farm player, with the exception of Marte, who appears ready to step into a 2016 starting position — or even a backup position, with the possible exception of shortstop Taylor.

The team lacks surplus talent to use in trades to fill multiple positions. Already locked into rich, long-term contracts with Cano, Cruz and Hernandez, management is not likely to bid for more than one major free agent in the off-season.

Mariners ownership and upper management have not had a truly solid general manager since Pat Gillick who, like manager Lou Piniella,  resigned in disgust. Can the leadership be trusted to hire someone who is an improvement on Zduriencik? Will that replacement, whomever he is, give McClendon another chance? Will the new general manager insist that Martinez be kept as batting coach, regardless of his choice as manager?

Lots of unanswered questions about 2016 after the disappointments of 2015. Barring wholesale brain and heart transplants among present management and  players, next season is likely to resemble this season. Let us pray.

Categories: Local Art News

“Matilda” Marred by Sound Problems

Seattle PI Arts Listings - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 9:41am
Matilda, The Musical 5th Avenue Theatre, through September 6, 2015 By Alice Kaderlan There may be a delightful musical lurking behind the current national tour of Matilda but it’s hard to discern it given the serious sound problems that have plagued the show at the 5th Avenue Theatre, at least through last Friday night when […]
Categories: Local Art News

Abbey Arts Presents: Lowland Hum, The Collection, and Kathleen Murray perform on September 11

Seattle PI Arts Listings - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 8:48pm
Lowland Hum, The Collection, and Kathleen Murray perform on September 11 Ben Chasny performs a unique solo acoustic show this Saturday! * * * * SEATTLE, WA – Praised for their “sincere lyrics, sparse arrangements and haunting harmonies,”¹ the dynamic duo, Lauren and Daniel Goans, are traveling to Seattle to perform at Fremont Abbey on […]
Categories: Local Art News

ARTSWEST — Presents: The American Idiot Experience: OBSERVATIONAL or IMMERSIVE

Seattle PI Arts Listings - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 4:14pm
The American Idiot Experience: OBSERVATIONAL or IMMERSIVE ** ** Equal parts house party, opera, rock concert, and theater, ArtWest’s immersive, environmental staging of Green Day’s American Idiot explodes beyond the traditional theatre space as a group of lost young Americans at the crossroads of their lives take over an entire building and use it to tell their story. ArtsWest’s […]
Categories: Local Art News

Robert Hardgrave is both a visual artist and a City Superhero

Crosscut Arts - Fri, 08/21/2015 - 4:50am

Our biweekly City Superheroes column highlights the powerful figures walking among us — with the help of a (usually local) illustrator. This week’s pairing: painter Robert Hardgrave and visual artist Poster Bot.

Moniker: Splash

Given Name: Robert Hardgrave

Other Aliases:
Farmer Bob

Can manipulate paint from his paint can into any shape, form or substance on the planet.

First Appearance:
Hardgrave started showing his work at Seattle’s Bemis Building in 2004. There, he shared paintings, drawings and his “transplant dolls” —he’d recently had a kidney transplant and saved some of the pants he wore in the hospital during that ordeal. He took toys from thrift stores and cut the pants apart and sewed them onto the toy forms to make the transplant dolls.

Local Haunts:
The Varsity Inn on N. 34th and Wallingford.

Archenemies: “
I think there should be a place for homeless people to get cleaned up.”

Even Heroes Have Heroes:
Jeffry Mitchell, Fernand Léger, Sally Smart

What Small Object Holds Great Meaning:
“My sketchbook. I take it with me everywhere I go so I can draw if I need to. It keeps me occupied. I got my first one years and years and years ago. I usually buy the ones that have the grid paper – composition books.”

Origin Story: Born in Oxnard, Calif., where he lived until he was 10 years old, Hardgrave and his family later moved to Arizona, where he spent most of his teenage years. In 1992, he “sold everything” and rode a motorcycle to Seattle, where he worked odd jobs, including busing tables, and drew “a lot.” Hardgrave’s art developed as he spent time on his own hanging out in his room and “working at it.”

Hardgrave says he always is having breakthroughs. One such breakthrough came when he combined paints to form a particular mixture that he quickly learned he could mold, shape, transform and manipulate into any color, size, shape or object on earth. The recipe for the paint’s magical composition is stored safely in his mind. He uses this paint concoction to fight against evil. These days, though, it is a particularly good time to be an artist in Seattle, Hardgrave says, adding that the city’s art scene “seems to be really thriving.”

His Philosophy:
“Make the best work you can. But, at the same time, you never make the best work you can because you’re always thinking of something you can do better and then you make the next piece and the next piece. You make the best work you can at that time but you can always do better.”

What’s Next: Hardgrave will be showing some new work (including pieces made from cardboard) at the “Good Neighbor Gallery” on Capitol Hill, Aug. 22nd.

About the Illustrator: Poster Bot is a Seattle-based writer and illustrator. He may be quoted as saying, “The best thing anyone can give to the world is their own view of it.” His point of view, he says, “is often intense, at times insane … possibly even wrong, but nonetheless valid.”

City Superhero Robert Hardgrave


Categories: Local Art News

The Weekend List: A Remix under the stars and a supergroup atop Pike Place Market

Crosscut Arts - Wed, 08/19/2015 - 10:47pm

* Events that are $15 or less

SAM Remix at the Olympic Sculpture Park

For the second Friday in a row, SAM makes a compelling case as the place to be for an evening of art and music. This time, it’s the always-fabulous SAM Remix thrown under the stars at the Olympic Sculpture Park. On tap: DJs, dance performances, interactive art making, cat videos (Yes, cat videos) and a chance to take in Dan Webb’s latest site-specific installation, Break It Down. Webb, the Seattle artist known for his wildly realistic wood sculptures, has spent the summer whittling down a Douglas fir that needed to come down (for thinning purposes). He’s been carving and carving and will continue to carve until there’s nothing left but sawdust. (The tree’s seeds, by the way, will be replanted into its own dusty mulch.) So this is literally one of the last times to see Webb’s work before it’s all gone.

If you go: SAM Remix at the Olympic Sculpture Park, 8 p.m. – midnight Aug. 21 ($25)—F.D.

National Radio Day’s Seattle Radio DJ Experience *

August 20 is National Radio Day (Who knew?). And the event, which has been

Radio stations across the country will be celebrating themselves (and their listeners) on National Radio Day.

celebrated since the early 1990s, is featuring the “Seattle Radio DJ Experience,” a live broadcast from a pop-up radio station on the plaza at Seattle’s Central Public Library downtown. Local youth radio hosts will do their thing, in support of the power of the medium. (That medium will soon expand to 7 new low-power neighborhood radio stations that will reach 90% of the city’s neighborhoods). Look for an 8-foot art installation: the “Seattle Neighborhood Radio Tower.” And if your schedule just doesn’t allow you to get away, at the very least, tune into your favorite radio station and give them a virtual high five.

If you go: National Radio Day’s Seattle Radio DJ Experience, 4th Avenue plaza at Central Public Library in downtown Seattle, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 20 (Free)—F.D.


Ian Bell’s Brown Derby Series: Raiders of the Lost Ark

Brendan Kiley of The Stranger says that if Dina Martina is the queen of Seattle’s ramshackle bar theater scene, then “Ian Bell’s Brown Derby Series is the crown prince.” The mere evocation of drag comedian superstar Dina Martina’s name is enough to hook me for this night of comedic theater as actors read aloud the screenplay to Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. The screenplay, which relies heavily on the sex appeal of Harrison Ford, will be performed onstage using “only duct tape, cardboard, and silly string” in homage to the film’s liberal use of special effects.

If you go: Ian Bell’s Brown Derby Series: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Re-bar, Aug. 20-22 ($20)—N.C.

14/48 & Nordo: Food Theatre Thunderdome

For years Café Nordo popped up around town, in the warehouse of Theo Chocolate and Washington Hall (among many other places), bringing delighted audiences nights of incredible cuisine and performance, a magical blend of storytelling and theater. Now Nordo has its own brick and mortar “dedicated to the convergence of food and art,” down in Pioneer Square. Each event they’ve done since opening in June has been inspiring but this one looks particularly tantalizing. The culinary geniuses behind Nordo (and other Seattle establishments) team up with 14/48, the long-running theatre event that challenges playwrights to select a theme and then, over just a few days, compose, rehearse and perform a play. In true Nordo fashion, they’ve upped the ante; not only will four separate playwrights be writing and premiering short plays but they will be showcased alongside dinner courses that each feature a randomly selected ingredient. Head to the earlier show for a four-course dinner, or a later iteration with teaser cocktails. Whatever you do, prepare yourself to become addicted to the weird and wonderful world of Nordo. If my pocketbook could sustain it, I’d go every night.

If you go: 14/48 & Nordo: Food Theatre Thunderdome, Café Nordo’s Culinarium, Aug. 20-22 and Aug. 27-29. ($55 or $20)—N.C.

An American Dream

Nina Yoshida Nelsen, mezzo-soprano; Adam Lau, bass; and Hae Ji Chang, soprano, singing in the summer 2014 workshop for Seattle Opera’s “An American Dream.”

Seattle Opera world premieres a homegrown production about a painful chapter of local history: the incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II. An American Dream draws from the personal histories of those who were interned. The opera follows the story of the Kobayashis who are forced to abandon their Puget Sound home, a house that an American vet and his German Jewish wife eventually move into. Jessica Murphy Moo wrote the libretto; Jack Perla composed the music.

The production also pulls from a community-wide “digital quilt”  that asked the public to weigh in on the one object they would take if they had to flee home. An exhibit in the lobby that assembles more personal testimonies from that period in time precedes both performances. And, following each performance, a talk back with Seattle Opera as well as those who were interned, is scheduled.

If you go: An American Dream, McCaw Hall, 7 p.m. Aug. 21 and 2 p.m. Aug. 23 (Tickets start at $50)—F.D.

KEXP Concerts at the Mural:   Sassyblack, Pillar Point, The Coup *

Typically, the shows in KEXP’s annual Concerts at the Mural series have a theme. Last week, they partnered with Decibel Festival to provide an all-electronic lineup. The week before that, the music leaned towards rock and roll. This week’s lineup is a little more eclectic, but still totally excellent. Sassyblack, a.k.a. Cat, who is one half of local neo-soul duo THEESatisfaction, opens the evening. She’ll be playing new solo material that occupies a similar genre. It will likely be a mix of instrumental material and tracks featuring her live vocals. After that the dancy, post-New Wave rock band Pillar Point—also local—will play. The live drums and heavy guitar earn this group the “rock” label, but the keyboard work, harmonies and electronic percussion elements give Pillar Point a bigger, more composed feel that transcends the genre. The Coup, one of the funkiest and most fiercely political contemporary bands, will headline. This high-energy rap/R&B/rock musical collective is overtly Communist, and frontman Boots Riley espouses anti-authoritarian rhetoric with incredible swagger.

If you go: KEXP Concerts at the Mural: Sassyblack, Pillar Point, The Coup, Mural Amphitheatre at Seattle Center, Aug. 21(Free) All ages—J.S.H.

Arts in Nature Festival*

This yearly festival is the work of the Nature Consortium, which aims to connect people, arts and nature. Two days of music, dancing, and activities take over West Seattle’s Camp Long, Seattle’s only campground and so well-kept a secret that I hadn’t heard of it until now. The festival embraces this unique space (which hosts rock climbing environmental education year-round) with each stage directly inspired by its surroundings (Lodge, Meadow, Pond, Glacier). This year, the festival hosts the Museum of Sound, with a separate interactive arts installation in each of Camp Long’s eight rustic cabins.

If you go: Arts in Nature Festival, West Seattle’s Camp Long, Aug. 22-23 ($10/day or $16 weekend pass)

 Raw Power *

Last year, local grunge pioneers Mudhoney rocked Seattle to its core when they played on top of the Space Needle. Local radio station KEXP set up this unprecedented and undeniably awesome event. There’s no topping a concert like that, but KEXP has come close this year: On Sunday, yet another rock band will play on the roof of yet another city icon.

The special supergroup is comprised of Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, Duff McKagan of Guns n’ Roses, and Barrett Martin of Screaming Trees. Mark Arm, Mudhoney’s lead singer, will also provide lead vocals for this contingent of titans scheduled for the roof of Pike Place Market. And it gets even better: The group is performing an entire set of Iggy Pop songs—for free. If you’re feeling philanthropic, go to the after party in the Corner Market Building. All proceeds benefit KEXP’s new home, currently under construction in Seattle Center.

If you go: Raw Power, Pike Place Market, Aug.23 (Free). All ages.—J.S.H.

Modest Mouse

For two decades now, Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock has given voice to the convoluted Nihilistic thoughts that lurk deep in the recesses of most people’s minds. For millennials who found his music at a younger age, he was frequently the voice of rebellion, sardonically questioning the existence of God and sincerity of man. To his older fans, Brock’s songwriting offered insights into the looming dread of mortality and the consequences of seeing life from a jaded perspective.

The Modest Mouse song “Bankrupt on Selling,” off the 1997 album “The Lonesome Crowded West,” played in the background of an episode of This American Life that analyzed the causes of 2008’s Great Recession. Brock’s lyrics—accompanied by rough-hewn modern Americana rock that goes heavy on the banjo and horns—remains astonishingly catchy while grappling with those intimidating philosophical quagmires. This is not music full of easy answers, but of harsh realities that linger on the tip of your tongue. As Brock would put it, “My brain is the cliff and my heart’s the bitter buffalo.” The lyric, also off “The Lonesome Crowded West,” is a reference to the Native American practice of herding buffalo off cliffs en masse to kill and eat them.

If you go: Modest Mouse, Paramount Theatre, Aug. 24 and 25 ($53.50). All ages. — J.S.H.

Categories: Local Art News

Paul Allen wants to save seafood

Crosscut Arts - Tue, 08/18/2015 - 5:00am


The average American eats 15 pounds of fish each year, but they don’t buy that much from the grocery. The vast majority of what they eat is in restaurants. And restaurants mainly serve four varieties: tuna, salmon, bass, and cod. Four fish whose popularity puts their very survival at risk.

The sustainability of these fish ranks among the latest causes of Paul Allen. Allen, the Seattle mogul who co-founded Microsoft, owns the Seahawks, and whose real estate company, Vulcan, has developed South Lake Union, has a keen interest in environmental stewardship. Last month, Vulcan’s philanthropic arm launched an initiative called Smart Catch to encourage restaurants to serve more sustainable seafood.

The Smart Catch program encourages a 90 percent compliance with the latest environmental standards, by training chefs on sustainable seafood sourcing and prep, and affixing decals to restaurant doors and menus, alerting consumers to restaurants and specific dishes that meet the Smart Catch goals.

This month, over 60 Seattle restaurants offered a week of Sustainable Seafood menus approved by Smart Catch. Allen’s group signed up some heavyweight chefs prior to launching. Along with several dozen other high-profile restaurants, both the Tom Douglas and Ethan Stowell restaurant groups have gone through the certification process.

“We see Smart Catch as a great opportunity to keep diners engaged, simplify their decisions around seafood, and recognize restaurants that are leading the way in supporting environmentally responsible fisheries,” Stowell says.

With the resources of Vulcan, Smart Catch put together a team of three consulting firms and half a dozen staffers. A budget that’s probably hit seven figures by now. The consulting firms (Fishchoice.com, FlipFish.com and FutureofFish.org, CplusC.com) are doing the “retail” side of the program: sending agents into restaurant kitchens to talk with owners and chefs about ways to best implement the Smart Catch program.

For some, like Duke’s and Anthony’s, it will be relatively painless, since owners Duke Moscrip and Budd Gould, respectively, have insisted on buying nothing but sustainable seafood for some time. For others, the payoff will be harder to calculate.

Also hard to calculate is how effective Smart Catch’s week-length pilot project was, the success of which will determine whether the program is rolled out nationwide. The Sustainable Seafood Week project was run through an agency in San Francisco called FlipLabs. We asked them for metrics: how many diners attended? How many seafood dinners were ordered? The group was strangely hesitant to get back to us or offer specifics, only answering that “thousands” of diners participated. With 63 restaurants and a week of orders, this doesn’t tell us much beyond the fact that at least five of these meals were ordered every night.

Despite this vagueness, Dune Ives, Vulcan’s senior director of philanthropy, pronounced herself “very encouraged by the reception we’ve received” from the Seattle chef community. Said Ives, “We will continue to work with chefs to evolve this program, while retaining its integrity, so that Smart Catch remains a trusted brand.”

By working directly with restaurants, Smart Catch attempts to change the dynamic of how Americans consume the world’s resources of shellfish and fin-fish. It’s not a question of large of small, wild or farmed, so much as pinpointing species that can maintain or increase production without jeopardizing the health of the marine ecosystem. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has been in the forefront of this effort for some time, with a campaign to raise consumer awareness of endangered species through its SeafoodWatch recommendations (avoid farmed Atlantic salmon and bluefin tuna, for example, in favor of arctic char or Pacific albacore).

Yet it’s not always clear, from a restaurant menu, where that dish of “seared tuna” comes from. It’s not always a sure thing that the server or even the chef know, either.

Hence the Smart Catch program, and the nifty SmartCatch.fish website. (Betcha ya didn’t know there even was a dot-fish top-level domain. Paul Allen knew.) Slowly, slowly, one plate at a time, one fork at a time, Allen and Vulcan hope to change the way we treat the ocean.

Categories: Local Art News

‘A quiet crisis': The rise of acidic soil in Washington

Crosscut Arts - Mon, 08/17/2015 - 5:05am

Gary Wegner first noticed the problem in 1991, when a field on his family’s farm west of Spokane produced one-fourth the usual amount of wheat. His father and grandfather attributed the problem to farming on shallow soils, but Wegner decided to dig deeper. Lab tests revealed a surprising result: the soil had become acidic.

Wheat farmers are now seeing this problem across the inland Pacific Northwest. The culprit, as far as anyone can tell, is the abundant use of synthetic nitrogen to increase crop yields, a practice that has otherwise revolutionized production over the past half century. Over time, however, it has contributed to a soil health problem that has farmers worried about the future of farming in the Palouse.

“We’re riding the edge of a crisis,” says Paul Carter, an agronomist and the director of WSU Extension in Columbia County. “We can pretty well nail it down to the addition of nitrogen to our soils for crops. In 1940 or 1950, nitrogen was applied at five pounds per acre. Now, in some areas, we’re up to 100 or more pounds per acre.”

Pullman-based USDA soil scientist David Huggins agrees with Carter, describing soil acidification as a “quiet crisis.” Quiet, because it can be masked by other types of problems and because farmers haven’t tended to look for it. Quiet also because most people aren’t aware of the soil health challenges that farmers face today as a result of increasing pressure to produce more food.

But it is nonetheless a crisis. At stake is the sustainability of wheat farming in Washington. As the state’s third largest commodity crop, wheat represents $1 billion of the state’s $10 billion agriculture sector.


A race to the bottom

Soil pH, Huggins says, is a “master variable” that affects almost everything: soil microbes, plant diseases, the ability of plants to access nutrients in the soil, the effectiveness of herbicides and how long they take to break down in soil—all of which can have an effect crop yield.

“We farmers have used lots of ammonia fertilizer and that use has increased faster than the yields have,” Wegner says. “Some farmers say it’s a race to the bottom. The more you put on to raise yields, the more you have a pH [acid] problem.”

If it gets bad enough, soil acidification can render land unsuitable for growing crops altogether. Farmers near Rockford, Wash., south of Spokane, have a hard time growing an economically sustainable crop of wheat because the soil there has become too acidic.

Thirty years ago, Bob Mahler, a soil scientist at the University of Idaho, decided to map the extent of the problem in northern Idaho and eastern Washington over time. He found that since the Green Revolution—which transformed the agricultural industry, resulting in greater wheat yields but requiring more ammonia-based nitrogen fertilizers—soil acidification had dramatically accelerated. Between 1960 and 1985, 65 percent of the soils in that region’s farmland became acidic.

Evidence unearthed by Carter in Columbia County suggests the issue has continued to get worse.

Paul Carter.

When Carter arrived in Columbia County in 2005, a handful of farmers were concerned about acidic soil locally. But he began to suspect the problem was more extensive after talking with farmers in other parts of the Palouse.

To explore the issue, he convinced the Washington Association of Conservation Districts to fund a soil sampling study. Carter collected data from 76 farm fields across different rainfall zones in Columbia County and discovered that acidic soils were far more widespread than he had thought. 97 percent of the fields were acidic, with a soil pH below 6. In 89 percent of the fields, the soil pH in the top six inches of soil where seeds take root was even worse, below 5.2.

Most plants are happiest when the soil pH is 6.5. Lentils and peas, common rotational crops for wheat growers, start to get into trouble below 5.6, and wheat below 5.2. Below a pH of 5.0, enough naturally occurring aluminum in the soil is released that it can become toxic to plants, stunting root growth and resulting in yellowing plants that don’t thrive.

Changes in soil pH are exponential. When pH drops by a point, from 7.0 to 6.0, that’s a ten-fold increase in acidity. Going from 7.0 to 5.0 is a 100-fold increase. Some of Carter’s soil samples were as low as 4.2, a nearly 1000-fold jump.


Restoring balance

Acidification is relatively easy to reverse with the addition of lime to the soil, which raises the field’s pH. In fact, Carter says, that’s just “about the only thing you can do.”

For farmers like Wegner and Chuck Schmidt of Rosalia, Wash., who have acidic soils, adding lime has been the go-to solution. But the practice comes with a downside: it’s expensive, and that presents a challenge when commodity prices are relatively low.

Depending on the quality of the lime and the amount applied, the price tag for liming a field can be over $400 an acre, according to Carter. For a typical 1,000- to 2,000-acre wheat farm, that adds up quickly.

“We don’t have a lot of options besides lime,” Huggins says. “But we haven’t quite figured out where to put it, how much, and what form to use.”

Knowing these things is critical to ensuring the liming is effective and economical. Simply broadcasting lime across a field doesn’t necessarily get it to the specific area where the soil is acidic, and any wasted effort and resources is a hit to the farmer’s bottom line.  Therefore, Carter and Huggins are exploring new methods and equipment to boost the precision of the process.


Precision agriculture

“In the future,” Mahler wrote in 1985, “an even greater percentage of agricultural soils will require amendment with lime to produce optimum yields of wheat, peas, lentils, and alfalfa.”

The future is now.

It’s possible, Carter says, that farmers didn’t heed Mahler’s warning 30 years ago because soil acidification is not easy to recognize. “Farmers and agronomist who aren’t familiar with the problem are sure it’s something else,” he says, “a chemical that didn’t work right, or tolerance to herbicides, or that certain diseases are worse now.”

Growers in the Palouse haven’t typically tested for soil pH, Huggins says. And even when they have, the results may not have shown a problem, given the way soil traditionally has been sampled.

Dave Huggins.

In response to growing issues, farmers and scientists like Carter and Huggins are now rethinking soil sampling techniques.  Accurate soil testing, sophisticated mapping, and the measurement of crop yields are the cornerstones of a new approach to farming called precision agriculture. It’s an approach that could help farmers be smarter about nitrogen use. In the long run, it could substantially lower costs, be easier on the soil ecology, and contribute to the overall sustainability of farming. Aided by technology like satellite mapping and remote sensing, precision agriculture allows farmers to apply inputs like fertilizer, pesticides, and lime only when and where they will have the most impact, instead of uniformly across a field.

Applying nitrogen for decades has created what ecologists call a brittle situation. Like a weakened immune system, it has decreased the capacity of the system to be resilient to stresses.

“We’ve gone through a golden age of resource use where we’ve relied on our soil’s natural capital and we’ve basically used a large portion of it up,” Huggins says. “Now, we have to pay much more attention to this resource [soil] in order to keep it functional. We really need to step up and address soil health, and get the word out that it’s important.”

Huggins believes an appreciation of soil health goes beyond farmers and soil scientists. “It goes along with people’s increasing interest and knowledge of where the food they eat comes from and how it is produced,” he says.

If the quiet crisis is to be averted, this interest is vital. lies in raising awareness about the soil we rely on for our food, and in scientists and farmers working together to rebuild resilience into our soil systems.

Categories: Local Art News

A Bit Late, Perhaps, But Nonetheless–Goodnight Gentle, Sweet, Merlin–You Will Be Missed

Seattle PI Arts Listings - Sun, 08/16/2015 - 4:05pm
      On Friday, I was standing out back, behind the Greenwood Collective amid a congregation of artists and the smokey gray haze of philosophy and cigarettes that always seems to follow these groovy cats around, when suddenly an old friend ran into my arms crying, tears running down her cheeks!  Which for me, […]
Categories: Local Art News

12 reasons the Seahawks are the world’s most interesting team

Crosscut Arts - Fri, 08/14/2015 - 5:05am

As the Seahawks open their NFL preseason Friday night at the Clink against the Denver Broncos, it occurs that after five seasons under coach Pete Carroll, Seattle has the World’s Most Interesting Team.

Why? Because the Seahawks:

-Chuckled as Marshawn Lynch bought everyone on the team Gucci ski goggles, even though none of them are allowed to ski.

-Watched agape as their field leader, QB Russell Wilson, told a preacher in front of a congregation and a video camera that he and girlfriend Ciara weren’t having sex yet, but asked everyone to “pray for them.”

-Listened worriedly as Richard Sherman told an audience in Victoria, B.C., that “half the NFL is on Adderall.”

-Dumbfounded the NFL by having Kam Chancellor jump over the offensive line in an attempt to block a field goal…two times in a row.

-Howled as they listened to Earl Thomas, the man of a thousand simultaneous thoughts but only a single mouth, explain why he was late to the press conference at the team’s Renton facility announcing his huge contract extension: “I don’t like distractions. Like today, being late to this meeting. I was like, ‘Come on, family, let’s go!’ I got pulled over by the police. I didn’t try to bulldog him and say, ‘My name is Earl Thomas.’ Because he’d be like, ‘Man, this guy is cocky,’ and give me a ticket. He let me off. That’s the moral of the story.”

-Became only the second team in NFL history to enter the playoffs with a losing record (7-9), then beat the defending champion New Orleans Saints.

-Blushed but did not stop Lynch from grabbing his junk as he flopped backward into the end zone.

-Went for it late in the NFC Championship on fourth-and-seven at the 49ers 35-yard line and passed for the game-winning touchdown.

-Smiled when DE Michael Bennett said at Super Bowl media day that his wife had the best butt in the world.

-Threw away their most heavily invested player, WR Percy Harvin, in the middle of the season and still made the Super Bowl.

-Played their crappiest first 55 minutes in any game of the 2014 season, then beat Green Bay in the NFC Championship.

-Infuriated the NFL when an impudent Lynch drew a crowd of literally hundreds of reporters at Super Bowl media day in Phoenix to his podium to hear him say, over and over again, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined,” while at the same time opening a pop-up store in a Scottsdale, AZ mall to introduce his anti-hero line of “Beast Mode” clothing. It reportedly sold out its inventory within two hours.


But finally, while the oddball stories are legion, what sealed the designation for me was the most significant single play in the history of the Super Bowl, and maybe in all of sports. At the apex moment, the best team in the NFL the past three seasons, blew it.

That is why the Seattle Seahawks are the World’s Most Interesting Team. Epic success. Epic failure. Potentially epic redemption.

Sure, they can slam a revolving door and parallel-park a train, like the Dos Equis guy. But can they slash through four fake games, 16 real hard ones, plus playoffs and get back to the Super Bowl to find The Lost Yard?

Who knows? But anyone who cares about sports, and the psychology of redemption, will not take their eyes off this team.

Bright. Reckless. Contrarian. Funny. Puzzling. Edgy. O-damn-riginal.

The 12s may not be over the agony yet, but fans of good literature know a compelling protagonist when they see one.

I get why Carroll told Sports Illustrated recently, “I’m thrilled for this.” Hey, he said much the same thing three days after the Super Bowl when Matt Lauer launched himself out of “The Today Show” studio in New York to Seattle in order to get the exclusive national TV interview. Carroll, who said, “I’m built for this,” then grudgingly admitted to the pesky Lauer that in that agonizing night . . . he cried.

Did I mention cornball, too? The Seahawks begin defense of their MITW title Sept. 13, but the Twelves may wish to begin training Friday night for staying thirsty for more preposterous drama.


Categories: Local Art News

The Weekend List: Couch Fest, theater inspired by detainees, and tons of music

Crosscut Arts - Wed, 08/12/2015 - 11:22pm

* Denotes items that are $15 or less

Paper Angels *

SIS Productions, a Seattle theater group, usually focuses on producing contemporary works that are both Asian American and women themed. Its latest production is its first historical drama and it’s chosen an especially poignant subject: the Chinese immigrants detained by the U.S. government because of this country’s Chinese Exclusion Act in the early 1900s. “Paper Angels,” written by female playwright Genny Lim, is based on the poetry written by detainees at Angel Island in San Francisco. This production is its Northwest premiere.

“Since there isn’t a single theatre in the state focused on presenting Asian American theatre classics, we knew that if we didn’t do it, it probably wouldn’t ever be done,” says Kathy Hsieh, who helped found SIS. The company is producing the play in both Tacoma and in Seattle. In Seattle, its location is especially powerful: INScape Arts, an artist studio/workspace in the International District that was once both an immigration and detention facility.

If you go: Paper Angels, Dukesbay Theater in Tacoma, Aug. 7 – 16 (and at INScape in Seattle from Aug. 20 – 31 ($14)—F.D.


Hot Cakes Capitol Hill Opening Weekend *

The fame of Autumn Martin’s little molten chocolate cakes, made with organic ingredients in old school techniques, has long made a line snake out the door of her little Ballard brick-and-mortar. I can personally say that the molten cake empire is worth the hubbub and a try of their Rye Whiskey Caramel Sauce alone justifies any wait, though I’ve never been able to stop at just that. Now, Hot Cakes comes to Capitol Hill, complete with all of the Ballard favorites, like the Peanut Butter Cup Molten Chocolate Cake and their boozy shakes, plus a few additions. Make your own s’more at the communal fire pit or treat yourself to soft serve with a selection of decadent toppings, like cocoa nib toffee and Hot Cakes’ amazing caramel sauces. For those with restricted diets, don’t despair –Hot Cakes also does an awesome job of offering gluten-free and dairy-free options.  The cakery opens at 4 p.m. everyday, with a $5 happy hour that includes Spiked Drinking Caramel (with mescal), two cookies, and a glass of house wine.

If you go: Hot Cakes, Ballard and now on Capitol Hill—N.C.  

The Furnace Presents Alan Sincic *

The Furnace Reading series, now in its fourth season, teams up with Seattle-based literary journal Big Fiction to present a performance by Alan Sincic. Sincic, a Florida-based writer whose “fiction roams the borderland between children and adults, poetry and prose, the page and the stage,” will read his story “Sugar.” The performance will be accompanied by a soundscape created by gifted filmmaker, musician, and (full disclosure) my longtime friend Stephen Anunson. Hollow Earth Radio, nominated for a Stranger Genius Award last year, is a local treasure and, if you’re not able to make it down to their cozy space on 20th and Union, tune in online!

 If you go: The Furnace Presents Alan Sinic, Hollow Earth Radio, 7 p.m. Aug 13 (Free)—N.C.


KEXP Concerts at the Mural: Natasha Kmeto, Manatee Commune,  Shaprece *

KEXP’s excellent free concert series continues on Friday, this time replete with trance-inducing electronic sounds. The local radio station/musical Godsend has partnered with Decibel Festival for this particular event. The lineup features artists who prefer making music with keyboards, computers and drum machines. Natasha Kmeto headlines this free Decibel teaser event (the festival takes place in September); her imperious R&B approach to modern EDM is a pleasure to behold. Her singing is equal parts Florence + The Machine, Beyonce and Katy Perry, but accompanied by subtle, manic club beats instead of rock or pop music. Manatee Commune, the project of Bellingham producer Grant Eadie, is also on the set list. Eadie describes his work as “bedroom electronica,” an apt term for his mellow and easygoing instrumentals. He occasionally picks up the bpm a bit, however.

If you go: KEXP Concerts at the Mural: Natasha Kmeto, Manatee Commune, Shaprece, Mural Amphitheater, (Seattle Center) Aug 14 (Free) All ages.—J.S.H.


Legendary Children: Paris is Burning & beyond *

There’s no better word than fierce to describe what Seattle Public Library and the Seattle Art Museum have planned for this evening, which is part dance party, part art exhibit stroll, part fashion show and part film screening. Said film is the terrific 1990 Paris is Burning, the documentary about drag queens, the glitzy ball scene from the late 1980s, and black and Latino queer culture that pretty much introduced vogueing to the world. SAM’s current show, Disguise: Masks and Global African Art will stay late and open for viewing. Community talk back is scheduled at 7 p.m. A DJ and live performers are scheduled. Organized by and for Seattle’s Trans, Queer People of Color communities.

If you go: Legendary Children: Paris is Burning & beyond, Seattle Art Museum, 6 to 10 p.m. Aug. 14 (Free with RSVP)—F.D.


Cairo Presents: Vibrations *

If you’re tapped into the DIY music scene around here, chances are you’ve at least heard about a peculiar, precious little venue called Cairo. It’s a hybrid boutique of sorts, doubling as a (slightly undersized) venue and a high-end vintage shop. It’s a little pricey but their collection of vintage clothes, knick knacks, baubles, records, etc. is splendidly curated. Honestly, the only thing holding Cairo back is the space’s limited carrying capacity. This week, that all goes out the window—and into the park! The venue’s annual all-day summer music bonanza takes place on Sunday at the amphitheater in the middle of Capitol HiIl’s Volunteer Park. As one might guess by the event’s ultra-public location, the concert is free and open to the public.

This year’s lineup includes the likes of surf rock patriarchy-smashers Chastity Belt, post-grunge noise machine So Pitted, local DIY fixture Mega Bog, Appendixes, Iji, Crater, Nail Polish and Versing. There are also a couple of DJs on the bill. Quite a few visual artists will also participate in the event in myriad different ways. Look out for some awesome visual projections around 8:30 p.m. This event is a heyday for one of Seattle’s hardest working independent venues. Joining the party is worth the time.

If you go: Cairo presents: Vibrations Volunteer Park, Aug. 16 (Free)— J.S.H.


Best of Couch Fest *

For the last eight years, Couch Fest film festival has been bringing film lovers together in unconventional spaces around the city to experience short films. Where the average viewing experience is about your relationship to the screen, this film fest also encourages you to form a bond with your fellow audience members while you do something you doubtlessly haven’t done much of before –settle into a stranger’s couch to watch a movie. To celebrate Couch Fest becoming part of the international Schnit.org Film Fest, the programmers will reminisce about and screen their best (and worst) films, capturing all the fun and inventiveness inherit to this little festival. I’m hoping Northwest Film Forum’s armrests are removable so each row can serve as one big couch.

 If you go: Best of Couch Fest, Northwest Film Forum, Aug. 17 ($6)— N.C.

Categories: Local Art News

“Matilda” Choreographer Peter Darling on Working with Children

Seattle PI Arts Listings - Wed, 08/12/2015 - 7:58pm
When the national touring production of the London and Broadway hit “Matilda” opens at the 5th Avenue Theatre next week there will be a cadre of children romping around the stage in musical sequences that capture both the agony and exuberance of childhood.  The success of those musical numbers is due in significant part to […]
Categories: Local Art News

The SELFID Project! Talking Issues of Gender and Identity with Yonnas Getahun!

Seattle PI Arts Listings - Tue, 08/11/2015 - 11:47am
I recently had the extreme pleasure of speaking at length with Seattle artist, community organizer and all-around great guy, Yonnas T. Getahun. You have seen his work all around the city and it has caused you to think and re-examine the things that you thought you know about life, about the city and now he […]
Categories: Local Art News