Artist-in-Residence Gretchen Yanover: Final Findings

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As cellist Gretchen Yanover wraps up her time as Artist-in-Residence at Town Hall, she shares her final reflections about the beauty — and sometimes discomfort — of creation. We’re delighted to have shared this time with Gretchen, and hope you’ll join us for her final Findings Night: Cello in Connection performance on 1/21.

You can read more thoughts from Gretchen on her personal web log.


Final Findings

I feel a lot more at peace than I did a month ago! I am inspired by so many people I’ve seen through Town Hall and beyond, sharing their messages in different ways. There is so much good work happening. I can accept what I do seem to do pretty well, which is to offer some beauty and some comfort. I can also offer some discomfort (but not too much, or I seem to hurt myself). I took stock of the pieces I’ve created since my last album of original music, and I now have enough pieces for a 5th album. Yay! 

What have I seen? 

One of the events I (virtually) attended in the final month of my residency was a presentation by Benjamin Hunter & Joe Seamons on re-defining protest through music. I’ve had the honor of working with Ben, and appreciate what he shares about music and our human experience. I was inspired by the themes of practice and protest and how they intertwine. I decided I wanted to present two songs which have both resonance and dissonance when combined: Lift Every Voice And Sing, and America the Beautiful

I also attended an in-person concert by Homayoun Sakhi and Salar Nader, which felt like going into another world. The audience was beautifully diverse, and being together in physical space with the sound and lights all helped draw me into another state of mind. The performance of Homayoun Sakhi and Salar Nader was absolutely astounding. There was virtuosity, incredible rhythmic interplay, as well as entrancing beauty. Almost no words were spoken the entire evening. I love that with instrumental music, I can let my mind focus on the sound, or let the sound carry my mind freely…I didn’t know what to expect, and even when I arrived, I wasn’t sure what to expect as there were no selections listed on the program. There is a certain thrill in not knowing what will happen next (in this context!) and there is for me, also a bit of anxiety of not knowing what is on a program. This final blog post is also serving as program notes for my January 21st Findings Night. The subtitle of the program is Cello in Connection, and I am with joy giving shout-outs to many connections that helped bring me to this place.

Lift Every Voice (America the Beautiful) And Sing 

Welcome into discomfort. I have been given the space to go places musically I have not gone… 

2 part untitled piece with The Willows dancing 

“The Willows” dance duo is comprised of my daughter, Willow-Anastasia, and her friend, Willow-Iris. The two met through eXit Space school of dance, and they now attend the same Seattle public high school. I was thrilled that they agreed to create choreography and perform with me. The first part of the piece grew from the introduction to Taken From Us. I told the Willows the context of the piece (of me trying to depict running from violence), and asked what they felt in the music. They felt the fearful, anxious urgency, and they created movement around it. I watched their dance, and responded to their choreography as I grew and adapted the piece. The second part of the piece is my depiction of a journey out of the aftermath of violence which grew out of music I created for LeVar Burton’s reading of Nisi Shawl’s story, Black Betty. As I watched the Willows dancing, I felt the hope and beauty of their youth and resilience, and I changed the music to add some optimism into the loop I build. They embody the “why” we persist. 

I follow the 2 part piece with a composition that represents strength. I want to venture into painful territories to express those feelings; however, I wish to stay on the path of optimism as much as possible…

New composition for Different Drummer 

Different Drummer is my band. Anna and Brandon, the core members of the quartet, are my people. It is the one project I play in just for the love and fun of it! Anna and Brandon are my colleagues in Northwest Sinfonietta, and we’ve known one other for years. Our paths converged in the classical realm, but we all have different branches to our musical lives — fiddling for Brandon, jazz for Anna, and my journey from indie rock & electronic music to looping. I love how we work and play together. 

There was no grand scheme in mind as I began to write for and perform as a soloist; however, I did eventually see that the solo path was one in which I could sustain myself financially. It is occasionally lonely. Anna and Brandon have been patient and kind with me over the years, as I navigate my level of involvement in a project that isn’t career-driven. It has been amazing to be financially supported by Town Hall in my own work, and given resources for collaboration. And so, I have now written my first composition for our ensemble, joined by our Different Drummer for this piece, Ben Thomas (who is releasing his own album of original tango music on January 27th)! I envisioned swirling bubbles, playing children, and general ease and joyousness. 

A bit of background on the band: Anna started this group as a trio of bass, violin, and tap! Mark Mendonca was the amazing tap-dancing original Different Drummer. I joined for a few tunes, and Anna and Brandon continued to create arrangements that included me until I was also a part of the ensemble. Perhaps in a foreshadowing of this chosen band name, we proceeded to have a number of “different drummers,” leading to our current Principal Percussionist, Don Dieterich. 

Greenland Man’s Tune – I’ve asked Anna and Brandon to perform one of my favorites of their arrangements. This is a traditional Irish tune, and they play it with beauty and grace. 

Sluggo ( in 3 movements) – Anna definitely has a wide expressive range in her compositions, and this one is groovy and fun! There is, of course, a story… It involves a slug that found its way onto the motherboard of an automated entry gate to Anna’s driveway… The first movement is “crawling along”, followed by “zappy”, and ending with “crawling along” once more — this time perhaps into The Great Slug Beyond… 

Be the Butterfly 

In 2021, I wrote a composition commissioned by Dr. Sarah Bassingthwaighte for her flute choir at Seattle Pacific University. I searched some of my favorite poets for inspiration and landed upon Reagan Jackson’s poem, On Being Black And A Butterfly. I incorporated looped sections (played by alto and bass flute parts) with the text of the poem spoken by the players. I visited the flute choir in rehearsal back in October, and it was lovely to meet the students working on the piece. Dr. Bassingthwaighte had herself on the bass flute part, and so the ensemble was working without a conductor. They felt like it would be very helpful to have a conductor, and so I was recruited for that position! It was fantastic to be a part of the process of bringing the piece to life this fall. We premiered the piece in November at SPU, and the ensemble was kind enough to create a recording of the piece in December, which Dr. Sarah mixed. (I edited a new version that did not involve looping pedals or spoken text.) I am thrilled to present the piece in this form at Town Hall, with Nia-Amina Minor dancing. Nia-Amina and I first connected through a virtual collaboration. Scholar and filmmaker B.J. Bullert combined my music with Nia-Amina’s dance and Jourdan Imani Keith’s poetry in her film, Space Needle — A Hidden History. I was introduced to Reagan Jackson through poet Jordan Chaney, another very inspiring human. Reagan gave her blessing for me to speak the poem. The piece is dedicated to my sister, Natasha. 

My “Duh/Aha” convergence  

I’ve been thinking a lot about naming my pieces — finding those few words that will express what I hope to articulate through my music… and it didn’t occur to me until very recently that there are so many powerful phrases in poetry — phrases I may be able to utilize as titles for my compositions (with the blessing of the poets, and attribution…) I had already just done this very thing with the piece Dr. Bassingthwaighte commissioned me to write for the SPU flute choir. My boyfriend, Ben Thomas has used many lines from poems as titles for his compositions. I’m so happy to have this realization and to hopefully utilize (and hopefully also in some way amplify) poetry. I’m honored to be connected to poets such as Jordan Chaney, Abby Murray, Jordan Imani Keith, and Reagan Jackson. I hope people introduce me to more poets who have spoken on themes related to the idea of home. I feel like there was a convergence with the experiences around poetry from the Town Hall presentations (of Allison Cobb, and Ian Boyden with Shin Yu Pai), and going into the process to present Be the Butterfly, along with the continued realization/internal reassurance that I don’t have to come up with so much myself…. I will continue to read poetry, and search for phrases that resonate as potential titles for my pieces. I will joyfully point to those poems so that others can explore those words if they wish. 

Final set: 

Part 1: (a feeling of home) 

Part 2: (loss—go where…?) 

Part 3: (the spiral shell, the iridescence inside, what holds us) 

I wrote about this set of pieces in my mid-residency reflections blog post. I know that whatever feelings I have around loss of home are infinitesimally small in relation to the losses actually experienced by my ancestors, by Indigenous peoples, by people experiencing homelessness right now…  It is with all this in mind that I wrote this music. 

As a related side note: through a series of kindnesses (which involved a couple attending my Town Hall Scratch Night), I was nominated for and awarded a microgrant in December! I donated some of the money to WHEEL, the women’s shelter on the block south of Town Hall (on the other side of the large LMC apartment project). I also donated to the Tenants Union of Washington State, and Town Hall. I really appreciate the support, which I could then turn around in some support! 

With gratitude, I thank every person at Town Hall who has supported me through this residency. I have been floored by the level of care given to every aspect of my involvement with Town Hall. This has been an incredible, enriching experience, and I’m so glad for the opportunity to perform my music on the Great Hall stage, along with the gift of seeing so many fantastic presentations over the last few months. I will look to make more connections with people creating film content as a place my music can potentially enhance what is being communicated, and I know also that I’ll be back in the studio when the time is right to record my 5th album! I so appreciate this connection to Town Hall, and I look forward to attending many more events here in the future.

Artist-in-Residence Gretchen Yanover: Mid-residency Reflections

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Earlier this winter, Town Hall’s Artist-in-Residence, cellist Gretchen Yanover, reflected on the midpoint of her residency and shared some thoughts about finding inspiration at Town Hall. In an excerpt from her blog at gretchenyanover.com, she writes: 

“Since last year, I’ve been feeling this almost desperate desire to do more with my (musical?) voice, to say more, to be less ambiguous with the few words I do use. I’m so inspired by people like Julian Saporiti/No-No Boy, who share so much through stories and history. (What a great podcast talk he had with Tomo Nakayama!) I’m inspired by all of the people taking on the huge issues of our times. I was particularly struck by Howard Frumkin’s talk on Planetary Health (with all of the intersections…).” 

Gretchen goes on to describe a back-and-forth that most artists will find familiar: the dichotomy of feeling insignificant, yet knowing the worth of creative gifts; the desire to speak up, and the fear of causing harm; the discomfort and pain of the process, and the creative energy that can come from intersecting ideas. 

It’s such acts of questioning, connection, and expression that make Town Hall residencies a joy to watch unfold. We hope you’ll join us this month for Gretchen Yanover’s Findings Night (1/21) as she shares her residency explorations in a program of musical collaboration, interlaced with poetry and dance.

A Letter from Joshua Roman to the Town Music Community

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The unveiling of our exciting new season, In The Room, is bittersweet. After 15 years of serving as Artistic Director of Town Music at Town Hall Seattle, 2021-22 will be my final season. I have been blessed to bring amazing musicians and music to the stage to share with you. I’m proud of the niche carved out by Town Music, where we can hear both familiar and new music with fresh attention and appreciative ears. Our collective enthusiasm stems from the musical journey we experience together in the room.

While Town Music has never been a series dedicated solely to new music, we have commissioned and presented some of the most exciting innovations in music in the last decade. I’ll spare you the list and offer instead a playlist from our collaboration with KING FM’s Second Inversion, which has captured many of these performances in beautiful video and audio. Among the star performers, you’ll recognize players from the Seattle Symphony, the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra, and other local stages. Highlighting Seattle talent has been a key feature of Town Music, even before I took over the series. I have loved watching the incredible influx of new players, new ideas, and new energy into a city that has wowed me with its vibrant music-making since I first came to the scene.

The trust of an audience is something I cherish, and the Town Music audience is one of the best audiences I know. Over the past 15 seasons, your insight, feedback, and real-time reactions have taught me valuable lessons about continuity, growth, and thinking long-term. Thank you for being key players in our music community by showing up and by supporting Town Music financially. None of what has transpired in my time as Artistic Director would have been possible without you, and I am humbled by the faith and support you have given over the years.

From the moment Executive Director Wier Harman approached me with the gift of carte blanche freedom in programming — or in his words, “I want to hear what’s on your iPod!” (it was 2007, after all.) — the challenge to share perspectives on music that go beyond my own recital and concerto appearances has been crucial and formative in building my understanding of musicianship. It is no stretch to say that my time with Town Hall has been absolutely transformational to me as an artist and as a person. 

After this season, I will focus on new endeavors and continue exploring the world through the cello. I remain grateful for  and inspired by  the unique relationship we share through Town Hall Seattle; I look forward to seeing the next phase of Town Music, as well as the next chapter of my own Seattle story, which I hope will continue to flourish.

The Great Hall is a wonderful place for music, and what makes it truly great is all of you there, participating. I look forward to seeing you at each of our concerts as we join together again, in the room.

With deep gratitude, 

 

 

 

Joshua Roman

Artistic Director, Town Music 

Town Hall Seattle 

 

P.S. Joshua’s final season as the Artistic Director is monumental for Town Music, and this season will be filled with special moments. You’re essential to bringing Town Music to Seattle, and your support has never been more important than right now. Please consider making a gift to support this season’s work — donate here!   

An Interview with Fall ’21 Podcast Artist-in-Residence Samantha Allen

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Town Hall Seattle is pleased to introduce our Fall 2021 Podcast Artist-in-Residence, Samantha Allen. Samantha is the author of Patricia Wants to Cuddle and the Lambda Literary Award finalist Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States. She’s also a GLAAD Award-winning journalist, and her writing has been published by The New York Times, Rolling Stone, CNN, and more.

As Town Hall’s Artist-in Residence, Samantha examines the intertwined human-animal history of Western Washington through the lens of six wondrous, wild things. The result of her extensive research and interviews culminates in a fascinating 6-part podcast series, Beasts of Seattle. We took a moment to talk with Samantha to learn a little more about the series, Seattle’s unique ecosystems, and how she really feels about Bigfoot.

Town Hall: How did you start to conceptualize Beasts of Seattle? What did that process look like?

Samantha Allen: I think the seed for the series was probably planted when I saw the salmon run at Pipers Creek in Carkeek Park the very first autumn I lived here. What an incredible thing to be able to watch amid an urban environment! We’re a city that values green space, that loves nature, that takes pride in our wildlife — and yet the longer I’ve lived here, the more I’ve realized how precarious our beloved creatures are. Hence the series!

TH: The series covers six pretty iconic animals, but are there any creatures you wish could’ve been included? Which ones didn’t make the cut?

SA: Oh, gosh! I was tempted to choose either squirrels or raccoons — arguably our two most famous “nuisance animals,” as they’re sometimes called. I also thought about picking cougars because of how plentiful they are in Washington and because of how often they’re seen in residential areas. Earlier this year, people thought they saw a cougar in Discovery Park but state officials said it was probably something else. It would have been nice to have a land mammal on the list — well, besides Bigfoot, of course.

TH: How did you decide who to interview for each animal that’s discussed in the series? 

SA: While I’m sure I could have gleaned a lot from strictly interviewing conservationists, I wanted to talk to an array of folks who could each offer a unique lens on the creature in question. That’s why I’m interviewing the artist behind a steel salmon installation in Olympia, for example, and a working dog photographer. I put on my journalistic research cap and tried to assemble the most interesting and eclectic group of interviewees I could find for each episode.

TH: What do you think it is that makes Seattle’s creatures so iconic and fascinating to both locals and folks from outside the region? 

SA: Anyone who visits this city, even for a day, is blown away by its beauty — especially once they realize it’s not constantly downpouring here like it is in the movies. You’ve got the Olympics on one side, the Cascades on the other, and water all around. We’re the biggest city in the country that’s built on an isthmus. I think we’re so powerfully situated in nature, and surrounded by trees, that we’ve been able to build up this reputation as a wild, wonderful place. But unless we take care of our environment, we’ll be just another city — and I’d like for us to stay unique.

TH: What’s one of the most surprising things you’ve encountered while working on the series so far? 

SA: I knew that orca whales were threatened by a lack of salmon and by water pollution, but I didn’t know quite how badly noise pollution impacted them until I talked with Orca: Shared Waters, Shared Home author Lynda V. Mapes. Killer whales hunt with echolocation so if there are noisy propellers nearby, they can’t hunt. They’re apex predators, kings and queens of the ocean, but a loud boat can essentially ruin their ability to catch prey.

TH: What does exploring these creatures teach us about where we live and how to interact with the world around us?

A: At a minimum, it’s a valuable exercise to see the world through the eyes of the eponymous beasts. At best, though, it can encourage us to be more responsible stewards of the environment and to remember that we live in an interconnected network of animal life. There’s a selfish motivation here, too: The kind of world in which salmon thrive and the orca swim free is a better world for us, as well. We need to care for our creatures if we want a habitable planet.

TH: Which animal from the series would you like to study and learn about more?

SA: Of the animals in the series, I probably knew the most about sea otters and salmon in advance. But I’d like to learn more about crows. That’s why I’m glad Dr. John Marzluff is joining me for the live crow finale! I hadn’t really spared a thought for any corvid before I started researching for that episode. I see them everywhere and I wondered once why they were cawing so much in Leschi Park, but apart from that, I didn’t pay them much mind. Come to find out, they’re wildly smart and endlessly fascinating.

TH: If you had to get one of the animals from the series tattooed on your body, which one would you choose?

SA: Bold of you to assume I don’t already have a sea otter tattoo! But you’re right, I don’t have any animal ink yet. If I had to choose, it’d have to be the sea otter. Just look at their little faces! I wish I were goth enough to rock a crow tattoo, but I’m a big softie at heart.

TH: Who would you love to listen to this podcast?

SA: Anyone who wants to think about our region from a fresh perspective. I think in an election year, we’re going to be talking a lot about some very important and timely issues affecting Seattle, and I’m glad those conversations are happening. I think my hope is that amid that essential dialogue, Beasts of Seattle can remind us of the long view of our history and our future in this place. We’re nothing without our nature.

TH: Bigfoot believer: yes or no?

SA: To quote Fox Mulder, I want to believe.


Image with words Beasts of Seattle and drawings of animalsThe Beasts of Seattle series kicks off with a fascinating dive into the world of the iconic salmon. Listen in here!

Learn more about the Residency Program at Town Hall Seattle and explore work by past Artists-in-Residence here.

Program Director Shin Yu Pai on Highlights from our Fall Calendar

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Shin Yu Pai is no stranger to Town Hall Seattle. She began her relationship with us back in 2018 as an Inside/Out Artist in Residence for the Phinney/Greenwood neighborhood, curating programs that brought new local voices like author Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma, Kathleen Alcalá, Rex Hohlbein of Facing Homelessness, and artist Susan Robb to the Town Hall Stage. In 2020, she wrote the vital blog piece, Town Hall Land Acknowledgement: Beyond Gestures, and pitched the concept to produce what would eventually become Lyric World, her podcast series centering on poets and poetry by BIPOC writers, with an emphasis on AAPI authors.

Over the years, Shin Yu’s presence at Town Hall has brought intention and community focus to our programming; it only seems natural that she became our Program Director earlier this year. Town Hall is thrilled to have Shin Yu onboard— read on to learn about what she looks forward to the most this season.

Season notes from Program Director, Shin Yu Pai

Shin Yu Pai, Program Director

In many ways, 2021 feels brand new. As we begin to safely host in-person events, I am honored to develop programs that reflect new relationships with community partners, center conversations on racial equity, and increase the visibility of work done by BIPOC creators. (Learn more about our racial equity statement and commitments here.) Below is a small preview of what the season holds:

Our Arts & Culture series elevates the work of local artists and brings world-renowned cultural icons to Seattle audiences. This fall is no exception as we welcome national luminaries like Pixar cofounder Alvy Ray Smith and Guggenheim Fellow Dr. Farah Jasmine Griffin, along with South Seattle Emerald founder Marcus Harrison Green and illustrator Susanna Ryan of Seattle Walk Report in conversation with Crosscut‘s Knute “Mossback” Berger

The new season also offers more musical opportunities than ever before. Our five-concert Global Rhythms series (tickets on sale soon!) begins in October with Quetzal, a Los Angeles-based rock group founded by Chicano Artivista and guitarist Quetzal Flores. Further into the series, we’ll hear from master of the rubâb Homayoun Sakhi, Korean shamanic folk-pop band Ak Dan Gwang Chil (ADG7), and other exciting artists. 

 Bridging the realms of literature and music, The Bushwick Book Club Seattle will present their entire 9-concert series in The Forum, including songs inspired by Michele Zauner’s Crying in H Mart and a tribute to children’s author Beverly Cleary

Gage Academy of Arts founder Gary Faigin returns to host a series of conversations with visual artists, including Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo of Lead Pencil Studio and critically-acclaimed portraitist Rose Frantzen. Later in the season, our Short Stories Live series makes a grand return.

Town Hall’s Community Partnerships start the season strong with a mayoral candidate forum presented by Inspire Washington. Later this fall, look for several free, interactive racial equity workshops, the first of which will be led by Seattle-based MIT author and speaker Ruchika Tulshyan

Our Civics series brings New York Times best-selling author Keisha N. Blain, journalist and former White House aide Keith Boykin, youth literacy advocate Tracy Swinton Bailey, radio host Thom Hartmann, and many more thought leaders to our stages for thought-provoking discussions on social and political issues. 

 Last but not least, our Science series explores topics like longevity with Dr. Nir Barzilai and Dr. Nathan Price of the Institute for Systems Biology, the response of plants and animals to climate change with natural historian Thor Hanson, and a lifetime of musings on animals with author Susan Orlean. Town Hall and Grist will also present Dr. Rupa Marya and Raj Patel as they explore systemic racism and its impact on the human body. 

So much more awaits us as the season progresses and I’m excited to bring even more diverse events to Town Hall this year. You can see the full list of upcoming events and purchase tickets on our website; new events are being added every day so check back often. And if you have ideas for events you would love to see on our stages, let us know! 

– Shin Yu and the Town Hall Seattle Team

A More Perfect Version of Ourselves

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“To tell a story of Seattle.” “A looooong discussion about the kind of city we want to share.” These phrases don’t appear in Town Hall’s mission statement but they’ve become a shorthand for the goal of our perpetual, expansive calendar. It’s inevitable and appropriate that Town Hall should ultimately be described by what we do, and not how we do it—but it’s at odds with our DNA.

Underneath our busy calendar is an essential passivity. Town Hall was founded as a collective resource to support other non-profits. While we program some of our own events, we are at heart a tool, waiting to be picked up by other people, and other organizations. This makes us different from most cultural producers; even the events we program ourselves are designed to complement the work of our community partners.

To be maximally useful Town Hall has long prided itself on what we’ve called “an architecture of inclusivity”, designed to encourage participation and help people feel at home. Low ticket prices would mean low barriers to attendance in the pews. Low rental rates would mean low barriers to presenting from our stages. A program philosophy of saying “yes to the good ideas of others” would mean the community itself determines the defining events of the Town Hall calendar. An intentional informality would help us feel welcoming, even while high production standards elevate professional and community-based presenters alike.

It’s a great system and we’ve been justifiably proud of what we’ve created. But a system is only as good as its inputs—and if those inputs are limited, the output is inherently limited. (This is officially the end of the tech metaphors.)

Our system hasn’t created a deeply inclusive place—owing to that passivity at our heart. Town Hall itself is the product of a network of people and institutions who call it home, and that network is overwhelmingly white. Despite our desire to be welcoming, historically not enough BIPOC artists or BIPOC-led non-profits have seen Town Hall as the right place to express their ideas or creativity. Many people don’t know about Town Hall (we’ve been around for 22 years, but we’re still pretty small). Still others know about it, but don’t see themselves or their concerns represented in our calendar. Whatever the reason, if we embrace the goal of a calendar that truly reflects the full breadth and diversity of our community we have a long way to travel. And that journey begins by rejecting our passivity and embracing a more active approach to the community we want to support beyond our walls, and foster within them.

And so our four years of equity work—four years and still just beginning—is a declaration that a mere architecture of inclusion is no longer good enough. And though it might have felt sufficient, it never was. If you read the Equity Commitments accompanying this post, you can understand the concrete steps we plan to take in the coming year, and you can even hold us to account.

Town Hall isn’t a social justice organization, but we are vested in modeling a more just society; our equity journey is toward a “more perfect version of ourselves.” Becoming a place where as many as possible feel truly welcome is essential to delivering our mission; it’s essential to our vision of a story of this city told through many voices; and it’s essential to any meaningful discussion—looooong or short—about the kind of city we want to share.

 

-Wier

Looking Toward a Brighter Future Next Season

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In a typical year, June marks the end of our season. Same thing in 2021— but truly nothing else about the past year+ has been typical. Since last March we’ve produced over 250 events, only a -handful in our actual home; over 100,000 viewers tuned in to our digital stage, from Ballard and Boston, from London and Lake City. Some of the coolest events were only possible because of this remote approach, like dream discussions pairing authors from across the country with interviewers around the world (Elizabeth Lesser and Jane Fonda, Steve Davis and Chelsea Clinton, Kehinde Andrews and Russell Brand, J Mascis and Richard Thompson). Amid the darkness of the pandemic it felt like a small gift simply to do (a version of) what we do: connecting authors, ideas, artists and activists with curious, engaged Seattleites. 

Last year also allowed for exciting growth close to home, through new relationships, initiatives and clear focus on our equity goals. We fostered deeper collaborations with partners like Northwest African American Museum and Urban Native Education Alliance, found new partnerships with organizations like Young Women Empowered and YouthShallLead, launched a brand new ticketing and donation system called my.THS, and hosted three remote artist residencies, with Hailey Tayathy, Joshua Roman, and Timothy White Eagle. 

All good—even great—stuff. But all that gratitude aside, we also confess we’re weary of screens, and eager for the chance to be our truest Town Hall self, by offering shoulder to shoulder, face to face experiences in our building. (Remember that place?)

It’ll take a while to tidy up and air out the joint so plan on a customarily light summer, and a return to new normalcy in September. As we finalize work on our building flow, safety modifications, and “front-of-house” protocols, we’re aligning our approach with the latest guidance from King County Public Health and our colleagues in the regional cultural sector.

Meanwhile, in nearly every conversation we’re asked, “How is Town Hall doing financially?” Like most organizations the pandemic required creativity, and difficult choices. To survive the last 14 months, we weathered two separate staff-wide furloughs, cut three full-time positions, enacted significant pay and hour cuts on leadership, and laid off nearly all of our event staff. Together these measures reduced the budget by about 35%—but they kept the majority of our administrative staff intact. Combine this strategy with humbling generosity from our individual, foundation and corporate supporters, and sustaining commitments from our membership, and we’re in a strong position to ramp up to full operations in September. 

It was emotional to have only six months back in the renovated building before shutting our doors. Soon, just over two months, we’ll throw them wide and welcome you back into Town Hall. You can expect a blended program this fall, featuring in-person and livestream attendance at a mixed calendar of programs originating from both 8th and Seneca and the world beyond. Until then, revisit the media library to catch something extraordinary you might have missed—and take five minutes to create your account on our new ticketing system my.THS

Town Hall belongs to all of us, and we can’t wait to invite you back home…

Wier

PS: We’re Taking a Summer Break! The Town Hall administrative offices will be closed from July 2 – July 11.

Meet Timothy White Eagle, Town Hall’s Spring Artist-in-Residence

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This spring, Town Hall is thrilled to welcome performance and visual artist Timothy White Eagle as our Artist-in-Residence. He has worked extensively over the past two decades exploring Native American, Pagan, and other earth-based spiritual practices. This will be a continued focus during his residency, as he interrogates the differences between early Indigenous peoples’ handling of death and the Christian colonizer approach to death, a topic that has been heavy on his mind in the time of COVID.

One of the roots of his work is thinking about how to decolonize a room that is shaped like a crucifix. Considering that relationship becomes even more poignant when thinking about our Town Hall historic building, which was originally the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist. As with many Christian Science churches, this one is built to resemble a public building, with no religious symbolism inside or out—except the cross shape of the 860-seat sanctuary, now called the Great Hall, where White Eagle will present the culmination project of his residency on Sunday, June 20 during a six-hour durational open house performance.

White Eagle is a mixed-race, undocumented, urbanized Indigenous American artist and storyteller who was raised by adoptive white parents in working class Montesano, Washington. He was adopted at birth, and due to the circumstances of his adoption is not a registered member of any tribe. His art practices craft experiences and objects designed to heal both creator and audience, with his preferred mediums including objects, photography, performance, and installed stage. “All of my artwork stems from a ritual practice,” White Eagle said, in a video produced by The Stranger last spring. “I, with my work, am looking to heal parts of myself and parts of my community, and I have spent the last 20 years in some pretty intense environments learning about ritual and learning about traditional practice.”

This work began in the late 1990s, when White Eagle curated and performed in his landmark art/coffee house performance venue in Seattle called The Coffee Messiah, a space that is still lovingly missed by reviewers and community members. He spent his 20s exploring performance-based art, and in 1995, he began a mentor/protégé relationship with a Shoshone-Metis teacher, Clyde Hall. Around that same time, White Eagle began helping to craft personal and community rituals within his spiritual circles.

In 2006, he began collaborating with photographer Adrain Chesser, which led to the release of their book The Return in 2014.

White Eagle started working with MacArthur “Genius Grant” award winner Taylor Mac as a consultant on Native American content for Mac’s “A 24 Decade History of Popular Music,” which went on to become a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 2017. His consulting work led to a small role in the show’s NYC premiere, which further led to a job as Dandy Minion Artistic Director for the touring company of the same show.

In 2016, he returned to his interest in installed space, crafting major installations “The White Room,” followed in 2017 by “The Red Room.”

In 2019, he was the recipient of the three-year Western Arts Alliance/Advancing Indigenous Performance Launchpad Award. Native Launchpad aims to provide US-based Indigenous artists with the tools and resources needed to further their careers. That same year, he was commissioned to create a large installed space, “Songs for the Standing Still People,” as part of the yəhaw̓ show at King Street Station. (Read more about that installation here and find an article discussing it here.) He also received a commission to create temporary work for the AIDS Memorial Pathway in 2019.

In 2020, he was awarded a major Seattle CityArtist Grant for his project The Violet Symphony, which was intended to premiere at On the Boards in March and in New York in the fall of last year. White Eagle and his collaborators continue to brew and consider a performance for Fall 2021 in both Seattle and NYC.

Across the last year, he has been continuing to offer stories and spiritual practices to the community. Most especially that has happened on his Instagram. But also, a year ago now, he shared a video letter to the city, produced by The Stranger, where he offered a “simple, basic ritual that you can do all day long, many many times if you need to.”

Earlier this year, in January, he gathered us (virtually) around the campfire to share a story about the origin of our destructive consumption habits, the importance of holding each other in community, and his hopes for a reconnection with the cosmos for Seattle Neighborhoods’ Reimagine Seattle Storytelling Project. He served as artist-in-residence at legendary experimental theatre club La MaMa during winter 2021.

When asked what pieces of art have been bringing him comfort or joy over the last year, White Eagle noted, “I have been diving into the greatest hits of Indigenous writers: Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, Tracks and Four Souls by Louise Erdrich, House Made of Dawn by M. Scott Momaday. I have read most of these decades ago, it’s been great to revisit [them].”

And when asked what he’s optimistic about right now? “The young people I know give me optimism, the ones I am connected with have an ability to see the world for what it is: on the one hand, make jokes, not take anything too seriously, and then hit the streets fists raised, seeking change.”

Join Town Hall and White Eagle on May 3 for a free program exploring historical death practices in Indigenous communities, and on June 20 in our Town Hall building for an open house performance honoring the longest day of the year. the Summer Solstice.

Shankar Vedantam Shines a Light on the Hidden Brain

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Shankar Vedantam and Brian Greene will be the keynote speakers for Town Hall’s annual gala fundraiser taking place on April 9 at 7PM PDT. They’ll be discussing the meaning in an evolving universe. The event will be a real-time virtual celebration. Tickets start at just $75, and donations directly support our radically accessible ticket prices. More information can be found HERE.

Our brains are mysterious. There are as many neurons in the brain as there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy. That’s a lot of neurons. There’s much we don’t know about what goes on inside our noggins. How do neurons talk to each other? How does the brain compute? Heck, we don’t even quite know what the brain is actually made up of.

Knowing how much we don’t know, it’s no surprise there’s plenty in our brains that remain hidden. Shankar Vedantam is doing his part to shine a light on that. He joins us twice this month; first as a special guest at our virtual gala on 4/9 and then alongside KUOW’s Ross Reynolds on 4/13 for a talk about the power & paradox of the self-deceiving brain. Vedantam is a writer and correspondent who uses journalism and research to inform the public on social science issues. A lecturer at Harvard University and Columbia University, he’s most known for his Hidden Brain book published in 2010 and the subsequent podcast and radio program. It’s been on NPR since 2015. Shankar likes to focus on the effects of unconscious bias in everyday life.

Whether it be the rituals of how we eat pizza, the relative happiness of winning the bronze medal, or eating cupcakes after working out, Vedantam showcases how our mundane day-to-day activities might not be so mundane after all. Indeed, our unconscious patterns drive our human behavior and those biases shape our choices, and those choices trigger actions that change the course of our relationships with others. This is to say, Vedantam teaches a lot about our brains by using his.

Not to be partial—our hidden brains can’t help it!—but we think you should attend Town Hall’s annual gala fundraiser as Vedantam and famed astrophysicist Brian Greene talk about the universe, and don’t miss Shankar’s event with ross Reynolds on 4/13.

It’s not every man that can explain String Theory to Everyman.

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Brian Greene and Shankar Vedantam will be the keynote speakers for Town Hall’s annual gala fundraiser taking place on April 9 at 7 pm PDT. They’ll be discussing the meaning in an evolving universe. The event will be a real-time virtual celebration. Tickets start at just $75, and donations directly support our accessible ticketing strategies. More information can be found HERE.

It’s not every man that can explain String Theory to Everyman. No, most people can’t put into simple terms what a Calabi-Yau manifold is. Nor what Ricci flatness is. Most folks can’t make much sense of the multiverse, even if they did watch Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Luckily, there are some talented people out there who can take huge mind-blowing questions and concepts and make them understandable to people like, well, us here at Town Hall. Enter Brian Greene.

Brian Greene is a theoretical physicist, mathematician, and string theorist. He is coming to Town Hall to help us understand, in part, the universe. It’s actually something of his forte, synthesizing expert-level ideas in easily digestible ways. Stephen Colbert now understands General Relativity better thanks to Greene. Talking about Einstein, the man who gave us that theory of gravitation, Green, as part of his “Your Daily Equation” video series with World Science Festival briefly highlights what the big deal is with E = MC2. Also, what is String Theory, actually? Greene can answer that with citrus fruit.

A professor at Columbia University, he’s done quite a bit of research on the Calabi-Yau manifolds mentioned above. Don’t know what that is? You’re not alone. You might not know him from theoretical physics circles, but you might from his award-winning books, such as The Elegant Universe, Icarus at the Edge of Time, The Fabric of the Cosmos, and the Hidden Reality. He’s also had PBS specials and, yes, he was indeed in an episode of The Big Bang Theory.

Greene is known for his pioneering work in superstring theory and has been frequently called one of the great “science communicators” of our time. He uses analogies and thought experiences to provide a means for laypeople to learn about String Theory and other heady topics. Can there be a unification of Albert Einstein’s theory of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics? Greene thinks so. How many dimensions are there to the universe? More than ten? Green thinks so. What is reality? More specifically, what is spacetime? Greene can walk us through it. What are black holes? Did Disney get it right? Not really at all. Is space an entity? Why does time have a direction? Can we travel to the past? Is our universe the only universe?

The most important question, though, is what do the answers mean for us? How does an ever-expanding universe impact our humanity? Now, that’s a lot to unpack. Luckily, we have a premiere science communicator to help us along the way. Get Greene’s help with these big questions at Town Hall’s annual gala fundraiser. Join us!

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