Category Archives: Arts

Beacon Rocks! returns on Sunday — with beans

Last June, a giant chicken visited Beacon Rocks! Photo by Wendi Dunlap
This Sunday, June 30, it’s “back to the bean” on Beacon Hill for this summer’s first Beacon Rocks! event at Roberto Maestas Festival Street from 1 to 5 p.m. As in previous summers, Beacon Rocks! is a free, all-ages street fair with music, dance, and vendors.

This week’s theme is “Beacon: A Hill of Beans,” a celebration of growing, eating and sharing beans as part of this year’s ongoing Hill of Beans project.

Here’s the schedule:

  • 1:00 Splinter: social justice contemporary dance
  • 1:45 Carold Nelson: drumming
  • 2:00 Molasses Theory: eclectric rock
  • 2:45 Carold Nelson: drumming
  • 3:00 Alay ng Kultura: Filipino Arts Collective
  • 3:45 Carold Nelson: drumming
  • 4:00 Mister K and the Rhythm Rockets: Je­ Bongo Busch drums, Kent Stevenson keyboard

Other activities include a bean bag toss for prizes, a haiku contest, making bean necklaces, and more.

This year, a new addition to the event is a flea market. For $25, you can rent a six-foot space to sell or trade your stuff. Find the application here.

Interview: Beacon Hill musician/playwright Gretta Harley

Gretta Harley performs with  Mitch Ebert and Fiia McGann in These Streets. Photo by Charles Peterson.
Gretta Harley performs with Mitch Ebert and Fiia McGann in These Streets. Photo by Charles Peterson.
Among many other creative lifetimes including co-founding the Home Alive organization for women’s self-defense and graduating from and then working for Cornish College Of The Arts, Beacon Hill’s Gretta Harley co-created (with Sarah Rudinoff and Elizabeth Kenny) These Streets, a rock musical derived from interviews with women on the Seattle rock scene. She graciously took a few questions over email.

Beacon Hill Blog: How is Beacon Hill like, and unlike, Long Island, where you grew up? How long have you lived on Beacon Hill and what are your impressions of the place? How, if at all, does it influence your work?

Gretta Harley: I bought my condo on Beacon Hill at the height of the market, 2006 — so I am “stuck” here. I love Beacon Hill. It is a neighborhood, with small businesses and a lot of families, and diversity. Tree-lined streets are an easy place for me to walk my dog. Fantastic views! Jefferson Park is awesome! I know a lot of my neighbors. There are block parties and neighborhood watches. Long Island was suburban, so the tree lined streets and neighborhood feel are similar in that way.

There were no good views on Long Island. It’s completely flat with lots of concrete and fewer parks, but the beach was a stone’s throw away. The Atlantic Ocean is beautiful and the beaches where I grew up were gorgeous (before Hurricane Sandy).

“I was never a fan of Ken. I thought he was a dweeb.”

Long Island is a very very different culture. Where do I begin? Long Island is a trip. The people are a little harder on the outside… very direct with their opinions (which I like), and not as PC as in Seattle. I like the liberal ideals of Seattle. Several famous hip-hop artists from my generation come from my section of Long Island, but the Island was extremely segregated when I grew up. A bit of white, macho, braggadociousness. I still have a lot of connections and love over there though. Ya know, this is a conversation over a martini…

I am not sure if I can identify specifically how the place I live influences my work, but I do believe that any environment does. I did say Beacon Hill has a neighborhood feel, but I live on the main drag, so the energy of movement and city is always right outside of my windows. It’s not quiet. I like that.

Beacon Hill Blog: You mention in your bio that your Barbie dolls gave rock concerts. What were their favorite jams?

Gretta Harley: Ha ha. When I was a little kid playing with dolls, I listened to The Beatles, Grass Roots, Argent, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Carol King, Elton John — so those were the jams those dolls’d be jammin’. I got most of the records by stealing a mailer for a Columbia Records offer. “Buy 10 Records For A Penny.” I thought that sounded good. And I had a penny. I went through the catalog and checked off my records (largely by liking band names and record artwork), and put my choices and a penny in an envelope.

When the box of records came, my mother was furious. She got on the phone immediately and chewed out the person who answered the phone from Columbia (because the deal was that you got charged every month after the first delivery for the 5-10 records they’d send you every month, at full price). My mom let me keep the records I ordered, and thus began the merging of my pastime of doll weirdness, with music.

I recall building a stage for the dolls out of spare wood blocks my dad would bring home from his shop, stored in an old refrigerator box for my using. Those blocks were a constant source of re-building “sets” I designed for my pleasure.

Ya know, back in the 60s, we weren’t scheduled like kids are today. We made our own entertainment. I spent a lot of time alone. I didn’t have a ton of toys, so I made do with what I had. I never felt like I was missing anything. My turntable was as much my joy as the “characters” I created out of my Barbies and “Little Kiddles.” I also remember making clothes for my dolls, ’cause I didn’t like the ones they came with. And I cut their hair and drew on their bodies.

I was never a fan of Ken. I thought he was a dweeb.

Continue reading Interview: Beacon Hill musician/playwright Gretta Harley

Beacon Hill animator showcased in SIFF

An image from Tess Martin's They Look Right Through You.
An image from Tess Martin’s They Look Right Through You.

Beacon Hill animator Tess Martin attracted attention last year by animating a three-minute film, The Whale Story, on a large Capitol Hill wall. This year she’s back with three new films including Barzan, which played last Sunday at the Kirkland Performance Center, and They Look Right Through You, playing with the feature Furever on Sunday, June 9, at 6:30 p.m. at the Egyptian Theatre as part of the Seattle International Film Festival. She took some questions about her new work over email.

Beacon Hill Blog: Please describe the three new projects you’re showcasing in this year’s Seattle International Film Festival. Two are shorts, one is a feature including your sand animation. Which project was the easiest and which the most difficult?

Tess Martin: The three projects I have in SIFF this year are two animated shorts directed by myself, A Walk in the Woods and They Look Right Through You, and then I have 7 minutes of sand animation in a documentary called Barzan directed by Alex Stonehill and Brad Hutchinson.

They are very different — A Walk In The Woods is a one minute short, the shortest film I’ve ever made! And it is animated with objects–sticks and leaves, etc. They Look Right Through You is a nine-minute short, and I was working on it on and off over 18 months, but was seriously animating for about 4 or 5 months. This one is marker and paint on glass with some time-lapses thrown in.

The sand animation in Barzan took me about 7 months all together. In some ways Barzan was the hardest because we picked some very challenging things to represent in sand, but the results were worth it.

Beacon Hill Blog: They Look Right Through You combines interviews with pet owners and marker-on-glass animation. Had you used this style of animation before? What are its particular challenges? How did you go about obtaining the interviews for the soundtrack? What was Susie Tennant’s contribution?

Tess Martin: I hadn’t used marker-on-glass animation before. I was playing around and discovered that it’s very nice for animation because the marker can be easily wiped away, as opposed to paint, which is often stickier. I’d say the main challenge with marker-on-glass is that is requires a lot of drawing! You’re basically re-drawing the image over and over, and erasing where it was previously, so you have to be on your drawing game so to speak when you’re animating.

In October or November 2011 I put a call out on my neighborhood listserv for people who were willing to be interviewed about their pets. I got a lot of responses and spent a few weeks traipsing to people’s homes and talking to them with an audio recorder. I read about Susie Tennant’s situation in one the Seattle weeklies, because her and her family were raising money for her medical care. The story included one sentence about how her dog alerted her to the fact she had cancer. I asked her if she would be willing to share her story for my little film. She was gracious enough to accept, and her story is so compelling that it became one of the two main stories in the film.

Beacon Hill Blog: How was A Walk In The Woods animated? How long
did you spend in East Haddam, CT, where the film was made, and what did you do there? What were your impressions of the area?

Tess Martin: The film was animated with objects I collected in a big park that makes up a lot of the grounds of the I-Park artist residency. I won a residency there in August/September of 2012, and I was mostly working on They Look Right Through You during that month.But I had hit a wall with that film and had 4 days of the residency, so I decided to do something completely different.

I traipsed around the beautiful park, brought all the material back to my studio and created a story with it. I thought it would be fun to try to make it exactly one minute. So that’s how that happened — it’s the shortest production time of all my films! I then worked with my composer, Spencer Thun, to get a beautiful score for the film that hit all the emotional points in such a short time.

Beacon Hill Blog: Your work on Barzan was integrated into the documentary film. How much contact did you have with the film’s directors, Alex Stonehill and Brad Hutchinson? How did you go about coordinating with them? What are the particular challenges of sand animation, and had you used that technique before? (Does the sand tend to go all over the place?)

Tess Martin: I was approached by the Barzan crew and they showed me the cut of the film they had so far, and where they were envisioning the animated segments going, and what the animated segments needed to contribute to the film. Once I had a clear idea about that I storyboarded the scenes as I felt they should be, and then there was a little back and forth about particulars. I’d say we met about 4 or 5 times, with a lot of email. It was a very happy relationship because to their credit they were on board with most of my ideas even though it must have been hard to picture exactly what I was talking about.

Sand is great fun and challenging of course. You’re working with a very thin layer of sand on a flat surface, and yes, I was finding sand around my desk for a long time afterwards. You just have to be really careful not to bump the table or sneeze near your work.

Beacon Hill Blog: How long have you lived on Beacon Hill? How does it compare/contrast with other places you’ve lived? How does the neighborhood/community influence your work and your attitudes?

Tess Martin: Beacon Hill is the only neighborhood I’ve lived in in Seattle since I moved here five years ago. It’s certainly one of the most residential areas of a major city I’ve lived in, even though I live right on the main road, so for me the experience is probably less quiet than most Beacon Hill residents. But I love living in a quiet friendly place with other friendly people. I’d say the best thing I get out of Beacon Hill is its diversity — it’s nice living in a neighborhood where there are residents of all ages and ethnicities — it feels like the real world.

Beacon Hill Blog: What are your plans for the future?

Tess Martin: I’m working on a few films right now and I may be moving to The Netherlands for a Masters program at the end of the year — it’s still up in the air but could be very exciting.

Chorus brings Canto to Cleveland HS

Canto General---web graphicThe Seattle Peace Chorus will perform “Canto@Cleveland,” featuring the Canto General by Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda and renowned Greek composer Mikis Teodorakis, at Cleveland High School (5511 15th Ave. S.) on Saturday, June 8, at 7:30 p.m. The event will also include a poetry reading by a Chilean Mapuche poet accompanied by an Andean pipe player.

The chorus does not normally perform at high schools, but chose Cleveland for one of their two performances of Canto General due to the school’s renovated auditorium and location in a diverse vibrant neighborhood. One hundred free tickets are available through the school for Cleveland students. Other student tickets are $5 and tickets for Cleveland parents are $10. These are available at Cleveland on the night of the concert. Advance tickets for others are $20 ($18 for students, seniors, and disabled) and can be purchased from a Seattle Peace Chorus member, online through Brown Paper Tickets, or by calling 800-838-3006. Adult tickets for $25 can be purchased at the door.

Proceeds from tickets and a free-will collection at the concert will benefit the Cleveland High School music program.

Advance tickets for either concert are $20 and $18 for seniors. They can be purchased from a Seattle Peace Chorus member or at or by calling 800-838-3006. Adult tickets for $25 can be purchased at the door at either concert.

The Seattle Peace Chorus will also perform the Canto General at Town Hall (1119 8th Ave) on Saturday, June 1 at 7:30 p.m. This show will also benefit Cleveland’s music program. As with the Cleveland show, advance tickets may be purchased from a Seattle Peace Chorus member, online through Brown Paper Tickets, or by calling 800-838-3006.

Celebrate the arts at the Franklin High School Arts Festival

Lion dancer photo courtesy of Elizabeth Lowry.
Lion dancer photo courtesy of Elizabeth Lowry.
Elizabeth Lowry, co-chair of the Franklin High School Arts Festival, sends this announcement:

Imagination. Swagger. Creativity. Culture. Intensity. Irony. Empathy. Everything comes together in the visual art and performances that Franklin High School students will present this week during the school’s yearly arts festival and talent show.

“The Mt. Baker Quakermaker Shaker” is the theme of this year’s festival, which begins with an art opening at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, May 16, at Mioposto, 3601 S. McClellan St. The FHS talent show is the main attraction Friday, May 17, starting at 7 p.m. in the school’s auditorium, 3013 S. Mount Baker Blvd. The arts festival will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 18, on the plaza in front of FHS.

The events, which are open to the public, bring together students, their families, teachers and staff and Mount Baker neighbors. The festival raises money to benefit Franklin’s art, drama and music programs and student clubs, while the talent show raises money for the senior class of 2015. Tickets to the talent show are $3 for FHS students and $5 for others. The art opening and the arts festival are free.

The festival will feature student performances, including the steel drum band, fashion club, jazz band, Quaker band and lion dancers, along with displays of visual art, ceramics and wood arts. Student clubs will sell heirloom tomato and vegetable plants, treats and handmade crafts. Also for sale are woodcrafts, such as cutting boards, created by students and notecards featuring student art. Vietnamese sandwiches, chips and soft drinks also will be for sale. 

The arts festival is sponsored by the Franklin High School PTSA and the Franklin High student body.

For details and updates, find us on Facebook, check, or email

Elnah Jordan, Eric Verlinde, and Tom McElroy perform at Garden House Blues

Elnah Jordan.
Elnah Jordan.
The Garden House Blues series returns this Friday, April 19, when Elnah Jordan, Eric Verlinde, and Tom McElroy perform at the Garden House, 2336 15th Ave. S. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the concert starts at 8 p.m.

Vocalist Elnah Jordan performed the role of the legendary Bessie Smith in San Francisco for 2-1/2 years in The Evolution of the Blues, and later starred in Street Dreams, an Off-Broadway musical drama. She has since built a reputation as a powerful singer in jazz, R&B, gospel and blues. Pianist Eric Verlinde‘s fifth CD, Firewalker, collects some of his more than 150 compositions ranging “from Latin jazz to swinging hard-bop.” Jazz guitarist Tom McElroy will open the show.

Before the show begins, Beacon Bento will be available with meals delivered to your table from Inay’s Kitchen and Travelers Thali House for $10 or less per meal.

For more info, see the website.

Beacon Hill kids to perform in Swan Lake

The Pacific Northwest Ballet production of Swan Lake starts tonight and runs through April 21 at McCaw Hall. It features 24 students from the Pacific Northwest Ballet School, including three young performers from the Beacon Hill area.

Beacon Hill kids performing in the production include:

Amanda Allen, a fifth-grader from Maple Elementary School, will play the role of Waltz Girl.
Alexis Calonge, a fifth-grader at Dearborn Park, will play a Persian Attendant.
Lucas Galvan, a fourth-grader at Dearborn Park, will play a Page.

Congratulations and best wishes to these talented Beacon Hill dancers!

See, hear, walk and create at Kimball Art Walk 4/11

Kimball Art Walk 2013This Thursday afternoon, April 11, is a great time to take a walk on Beacon Avenue for the Second Annual Kimball Elementary School Art Walk. From 3:30 to 5 p.m., businesses on Beacon Avenue between Tippe and Drague (3315 Beacon Avenue South) and Beacon Hill Dental Associates (3051 Beacon Avenue South) will display art by Kimball students. Businesses participating will be marked with bright, colorful flags.

The street will also be lined with booths featuring art activities, and the school choir and ukulele band will perform. All neighbors are invited to see, hear and make some art with the Kimball community and friends.

View Kimball Art Walk 2013 in a larger map

Beacon Hill teens: Street Stories application deadline is today!

Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 2.55.56 AMBeacon Hill 6th – 12th graders, this is your chance to participate in a free 5-week after-school digital video storytelling program, but you’ll need to work fast — the deadline to apply is today!

In the Street Stories program, Beacon Hill youths will create video stories of their experiences living and walking in the neighborhood, using provided iPod Touch devices to create and edit the videos. Students will also receive training including video technology and storytelling techniques. The finished videos will be shown at community events, displayed on local websites, and used to build a new kind of walking map for the Beacon Hill neighborhood.

Eligible students are:

  • 6th-12th graders living or going to school on Beacon Hill
  • Able to participate at Jefferson Community Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-6 p.m. from April 2 though May 9.
  • Able to do a minimum of four hours of independent research

The program is limited to 20 students, and the deadline to apply is today, March 29. To apply, fill out this application form along with this E-13 Participant Information and Authorization Form and drop both forms off today at the front desk of Jefferson Community Center, marked “attention: Jean Lee.”

Selected students will be notified on Monday, April 1 (no fooling) before the first workshop on Tuesday.

Stories for Boys at Beacon Hill Library 4/28

The Beacon Hill branch of the Seattle Public Library is hosting a free dramatic reading from Gregory Martin’s Stories for Boys: A Memoir from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 28. The reading, adapted and directed by Laura Ferri, will be performed by Book-It Repertory Theatre.

Admission is free and all are welcome; no ticket or reservation is necessary. The library is located at 2821 Beacon Ave. S. in North Beacon Hill.

Stories for Boys was chosen as this year’s Seattle Reads book. The book details author Gregory Martin’s struggle in coming to terms with revelations of his father’s homosexuality following an attempted suicide, and tells stories about his own parenting of two young sons.

For more information on the reading or Seattle Reads, call 206-386-4636.