Town Hall Land Acknowledgment: Beyond Gestures

As a practice of recognition, land acknowledgment has the capacity to create broader public awareness of the histories that have led to this moment. On its own, acknowledgment is a small gesture. But when combined with efforts towards cultivating authentic, equitable relationships and informed action that benefits native people, reconciliation and accompliceship become possible. As a space of knowledge and community gathering, Town Hall Seattle embarked on a journey in which we could ask ourselves as an institution, “What do we have to offer?” and “How can we make an impact?” 

In Summer 2019, Town Hall invited Urban Native Education Alliance (UNEA) to serve as artists in residence. UNEA convened an intergenerational group of native elders and youth to create a formal Land Acknowledgement for Town Hall that honors the indigenous history and celebrates the indigenous present and future of the land we occupy. UNEA’s Clear Sky Native Youth Council drew inspiration from oral and documented histories, and Land Acknowledgements created by indigenous First Nations in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and parts of the United States to write their statement. 

Clear Sky Native Youth participated in two workshops and met with Snoqualmie Tribe Chief Andy De Los Angeles. Chief Andy De Los Angeles is a direct descendant of dᶻakʷ’yus (“Doctor James Zackuse”), the Lake Union Duwamish district chief and the Healer at Licton Springs who cured David Denny’s daughter of a skin disease that Euro-American doctors could not cure. 

Town Hall’s collaboration with Clear Sky Native Youth Council resulted in this written Land Acknowledgement: 

We acknowledge that we are in the homeland of Chief Seattle’s dxw’dəwɁábš (People-of-the-Inside, the Duwamish Tribe of Indians), the First People of this land.  The Duwamish are the first Indian Tribe named in the 1855 Point Elliott Treaty’s title.  On January 22, 1855, Chief Seattle was the first signatory to the Point Elliott Treaty at Mukilteo.  Three other chiefs signed the Point Elliott Treaty on behalf of the Duwamish Tribe.  The Duwamish homeland extends from Lake Sammamish west to Elliott Bay, and from Mukilteo south to Federal Way, a total of 54,700 acres. 

The Snoqualmie, Suquamish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot Tribes are also sovereign nations indigenous to Puget Sound. Many people living at these sovereign nations and elsewhere are descendants of the Duwamish Tribe and have ancestral ties to this land. 

We raise our hands to honor Chief Seattle’s Duwamish Tribe of Indians and all descendants of the Duwamish Tribe. We thank them for their hospitality as the First People of this land, and for our continuing use of the natural resources of their Ancestral Homeland. 

Indigenous contributions and sacrifices are immense, and we acknowledge the ongoing disparities, racism, and political invisibility experienced by the Duwamish and other Indigenous Peoples of Puget Sound. 

In early 2020, we considered the possibility of creating a physical presence in our building that could make UNEA’s statement more visible. Back in our newly remodeled facilities, programming staff raised the idea of placing a sign or plaque in the building that could remind visitors of indigenous displacement. We realized that it was an opportunity to engage with the community that created the work to determine how the piece should be physically represented in the space. It wasn’t ours to interpret, especially as a gathering space committed to full participation and shared power with diverse groups and active collaboration with our community. It felt like the most authentic way to do that was to extend the collaboration with the Native community. This led us to issue a public call for proposals targeted towards Native artists.  

Hailey Tayathy (Quileute Nation) had attended Town Hall programs in the past that featured native voices and saw the public art commission as a way for us to open a path towards better supporting indigenous artists.  

Tayathy is critical of Land Acknowledgments, as they are often oversimplified euphemisms for genocide. But the Artist in Residence program presented a significant opportunity: To incorporate and uplift indigenous voices. In sharing our platform for leading cultural conversations, Town Hall went beyond gestures. We wanted to give power to our community members.  

The selection committee reviewed a pool of half a dozen eligible artists. Made up of UNEA youth Alex Escarcega (Assiniboine Sioux), UNEA board member Marcus Shriver (non native), and artist John Romero (Eastern Shoshone), the group selected Tayathy’s proposal and invited them to complete a residency over the summer. While Tayathy is known as a fiber artist and clothing maker, their work as a Native American drag queen in the Seattle community, often involves collaboration and work with performance collectives. 

Tayathy’s design takes its inspiration from Coast Salish wool blanket weaving. Instead of using traditional weaving methods, their tapestry uses wool melton squares laid out in a chevron motif to mimic a Coast Salish pattern. Each square is appliqued by hand onto a cotton quilt backing. An extremely time-intensive practice, Tayathy’s original approach represents a departure from traditional methods to innovate and reimagine craft. 

The central image of the tapestry focuses on the structure of a longhouse, where various indigenous people gather together. Symbolizing the native reclaiming of space within Town Hall itself, Tayathy’s piece depicts multiple representations of regional tribal groups.  

Town Hall Program Manager Megan Castillo expressed surprise at the development of the artwork. “Our expectations shifted and the collaboration became a huge learning opportunity. Hailey incorporated Coast Salish youth [into the project]. Going into it, we thought we’d have a conversation about the Duwamish.”  

Tayathy went into the community and asked native artists to contribute to the commission. Jac Trautman (Duwamish) contributed an abstract black-and-white photographic portrait made with a long exposure, while Tyson Simmons (Muckleshoot), created a stylized mask that complements Tayathy’s visual representation of Coast Salish people.  

Since fabrication started, Tayathy has worked each weekend for 20 to 24 hours on the project. Sewing alone has taken close to 200 hours. They experimented with a number of image transfer methods to incorporate Duwamish photographer Jac Trautman’s imagery into the tapestry. Ultimately, Trautman’s contribution will be custom printed on fabric and then sewn onto the tapestry. Currently, Tayathy is also working to identify a Suquamish artist who will contribute to the piece.  

Tayathy hopes to complete their commission by November 2020. 


Editor’s Note: 

Participants in creating this Clear Sky Land Acknowledgement included Alexander, Asia, Alex, Akichita, Chayton, Cante, Snoqualmie Tribe Chief Andy De Los Angeles, Snoqualmie Tribe member Sabeqwa De Los Angeles, past UNEA program director AJ Oguara, and UNEA Elder and Duwamish Tribe member Tom Speer. 

This document was prepared by lakwalás (Place-of-the-Fire, Tom Speer), dxw’dəwɁábš (People-of-the-Inside, the Duwamish Tribe of Indians, the Duwamish First Nation), at dzidzəlál’ič (Little-Place-Where-One-Crosses-Over, Chief Seattle City). 

 

 

Always Be… Creating

Hi friends,

Nothing about the Town Hall 20-21 calendar is normal. Coronavirus left no aspect of society untouched but perhaps nothing yielded so quickly, so uncontroversially, as our choice to gather—for art, for community, for worship, for anything.

We can choose not to gather, but artists never really choose not to create. Because music isn’t summoned by a concert. Sculpture doesn’t materialize in a museum. Fiction doesn’t assemble itself into a bound volume. A devoted artist is always singing, shaping, reaching; every finished work is the start of the next. Artists are explorers at the edge of human expression and discovery; the places and moments where we gather with them are just appointments with their life’s work in progress.

Last month you might have noticed that Town Hall’s first ever Digital Season started heavy on conversations. Our spring events showed us they translate online without much “signal loss”; they actually gain a cool informality. But figuring out what music can be online requires considerably more inspiration.

Curators Joshua Roman (Town Music) and Jon Kertzer (Global Rhythms) assured us that this moment demanded a different way of connecting for artists and audiences; all our existing shows for this year needed to be postponed or reimagined. Global Rhythms will begin its reboot after the new year, but Town Music kicks off this month with a season devoted, essentially, to what artists do in that space between concerts—space experienced by audiences as a kind of “silence” that’s, in reality, anything but.

To open the season Joshua decided to come back to Seattle, where he began his professional career. It’s the last place he truly called home, and he’s returning not for an appointment but for a 10 week performance period. This Fermata will be the busiest silence you’ve ever heard, featuring rehearsals or jam sessions, conversations or composition or concerts, all captured and shared through our Digital Stage. The programming will be whatever emerges between an artist and a producer and an audience in a period of personal and societal pause.

Joshua and Town Hall envision this event as a time to find new strength; a time to reconnect with priorities and possibilities; a time to prepare for what comes next, knowing that nothing is guaranteed. Town Music has always provided up-close access to Joshua’s artistic curiosity and we hope this will be the perfect culmination of a relationship we’ve developed over his 13 seasons as Artistic Director.

Along with the calendar’s other arts offerings this month—the return of Philharmonia Northwest; three extraordinary Earshot Jazz shows from our Forum (which converts rather nicely into an intimate online club for the 2020 Festival); the warmly hilarious Katsura Sunshine, live from Japan with a modern expression of the 400 year old tradition of Rakugo comic “standup” and storytelling; and Arts Adventure, a city-wide, all ages scavenger hunt featuring dozens of local arts partners—Joshua’s program marks a perfect kickoff for our exploration of how the internet can actually enhance our experience of art, rather than simply remind us of what we’re missing…

Because let’s be honest—none of us expected to unpack our beautiful new home, only to box it up six months later and move it all online.

We can’t wait until we are able to gather with you together again, but until then we will do everything we can to offer the sustenance of issues, ideas and inspiration, and to help make this time of exile as rich and fulfilling as possible.

 

Wier

A Five-Decade Debate as Important as Ever: James Baldwin and William F. Buckley Jr.

On February 20 at Town Hall, Nick Buccola brings to the the stage a debate about race reverberating 50 years on. 

“I knew I was black, of course, but I also knew I was smart. I didn’t know how I was going to use my mind, or even if I could, but that was the only thing I had to use.” James Baldwin grew up poor in Harlem in New York City. His stepfather treated him harshly, so from a young age Baldwin retreated to libraries where he read and started to write. By his 35th birthday, he’d become one of America’s great writers, penning such books as Go Tell It On the Mountain and Notes of a Native Son. He also came to be considered one of America’s great thinkers and human rights advocates, stepping forward to guide critical discussions in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

“Liberals claim they want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.” William F. Buckley Jr. was born in 1925, not long after Baldwin, in the same city. Privileged, his mother filled their home with servants and tutors. Buckley attended Yale, became an informant for the FBI, and worked for a time with the CIA. He also founded National Review, a publication that has become a prominent voice on the American right and has played a significant role in the development of conservatism in the United States.

These two men—diametrically opposed intellectuals—met at the University of Cambridge on February 18, 1965. There they debated the question “Has the American Dream been achieved at the expense of the American Negro?” Yes, said Baldwin. “I picked the cotton, and I carried it to market, and I built the railroads under someone else’s whip for nothing.” No, said Buckley. “The fact that your skin is black is utterly irrelevant to the arguments you raise.” Buckley positioned himself in the debate as a reasonable moderate, one that resisted social transformations Baldwin sought—in particular, desegregation. “The fundamental friend of the Negro people of the United States is the good nature and is the generosity and the good wishes…the fundamental decency,” Buckley said, “of the American people.”  

Fifty-some years later, debates on race relations are still at the fore of our country. Viewpoints on race are still in sharp contrast; in a 2018 Gallup Poll 54% of non-Hispanic whites said black and white relations are good, as opposed to 40% of blacks who said the same. This is marked drop even from 2001 where 70% of blacks said relations were good—more so, at that time, than whites (62%).

On February 20, Linfield College professor of political science Nicholas Buccola joins us to tell the full story of the Baldwin Buckley debates. His book The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William Buckley Jr, and the Debate Over Race in America explores the radically different paths of Baldwin and Buckley and the controversies that followed their fraught conversations. Buccola shows how the decades-long clash between these two men illuminates America’s racial divide today and echoes the necessary work still to be done by liberals and conservatives alike. 

Buccola delves into Baldwin and Buckley’s conversation as a remarkable story of race and the American dream that still resonates today—an unforgettable confrontation that pitted Baldwin’s call for a moral revolution in race relations against Buckley’s unabashed elitism and implicit commitment to white supremacy.


Join us on February 20 for this important talk. Tickets are on sale now ($5, and FREE for anyone under the age of 22).

The debate:

We Did It!

Our General Manager, Mary Cutler, floated into the office this morning, arms swaying and voice sing-song: “Today is a normal day. Let’s all pretend it’s a normal day.” It is, decidedly, not a normal day. But we echoed her feigned calm and did our best to think about anything other than what was happening across the street. Our final inspection was underway. If given the thumbs up, the building—after nearly two full seasons of renovation—would officially be ours again.

That calm pretense was traded for cheers as Mary shared the good news: we passed. As of 11:46 am today, May 16, Town Hall Seattle is no longer a construction site.

The staff raced over and (without hard hats!) entered through the freshly painted 8th Ave doors, explored stairwells, and marveled at the Reading Room’s bare but beautiful form. We gathered on the Great Hall stage to pop a bottle of champagne, toast one another and the community that made this possible—and also to really feel what’s on the horizon. Wier’s toast hit home: “Twenty years of Town Hall. And now, right now, we get to start it all again.”

Whether you’ve been with us since 1999, met us during Inside/Out, or are stumbling across this post because a friend happened to share a link: we are so incredibly glad you’re here. The future and possibilities of Town Hall have never been quite so bright, and each of us are necessary to manifesting its potential.

We mean that in the grand sense, and also in the practical. This summer is our soft launch; there’s still a lot of fine tuning ahead of us and we need your help–your presence and participation–to get it right. Please lend us your patience (and opinions!) as we grow into the new building, and we hope you’ll enjoy new details coming into place every time you visit this spring and summer (from smaller items like wayfinding signage to big things like bar service and commissioned artwork). With your help, the building will be the best version of itself in time for our big Homecoming festival this September!

Our very first event in the Great Hall is just days away (Tuesday, May 21), and we can’t imagine a more fitting debut for the room. Joshua Roman, our longtime friend and Town Music Artistic Director, will lend us his virtuosic talents in a solo cello concert. There are still a few tickets remaining, and we hope you’ll join us to help mark the moment.

Even as we celebrate the end of our own renovation, we should note: more than just Town Hall has been under construction. Our full block is in the midst of being developed. While the plaza and Ovation towers are being built, the Forum is accessible via our new at-grade West Entrance, reachable from the loading zone on Seneca street.

Jamming at SeaJAM

Somehow, in all the years I’ve lived in Seattle, I haven’t found my way to Mercer Island. I know it’s not that far, so it’s not like I couldn’t find the time. After all, the first week I was here I hit all the guidebook hotspots—the bridge troll, the gum wall, the Space Needle. Over the years I’ve caught up on some of the must-do spots and best kept secrets as well. I’ve hung out at KEXP’s Gathering Room and taken in a live broadcast while enjoying some coffee from La Marzocco. I’ve chased away the winter with some mead from the White Horse Tavern in Post Alley. And now, thanks to the energetic lineup of SeaJAM, I’m finally going to make it to Mercer Island in style!

SeaJAM is a weekend-long festival (December 8-9) hosted at the Stroum Jewish Community Center. They’re jamming all weekend long in celebration of Hanukkah, and they’ve put together an amazing festival of Jewish and/or Israeli dance, comedy, music, theater, and more. Saturday features performances by klezmer champion David Krakauer, legendary funk trombonist Fred Wesley, and hip-hop renegade Socalled. That’s a collision of musical styles I’m excited to see!

On Sunday morning I’ll wake up early and take in some Mercer Island scenery. I’ve heard good things about the hikes in Pioneer Park (always open to trail suggestions!), and I’ll need something to energize before the festivities start back up at noon. For all the parents out there, make sure you stop by and see indie-pop band The LeeVees at their 1:00PM performance for the “Hanukkah Rocks” Family Dance Party. There are also plenty of Hanukkah games and art (although you’ll find me by the food trucks.)

To pass the time until the shows that evening, I’ll probably check out Island Books. I’m a frequent visitor to Seattle’s wide array of bookstores, including Elliott Bay Books, Third Place Books, and of course Twice Sold Tales.

Then on Sunday night I’ll find a seat for a new dance performance from emerging choreographer/dancer Rebecca Margolick and composer/graphic artist Maxx Berkowitz, as well as an appearance by comedian Cathy Ladman. She’s been on The Tonight Show nine times, written for TV sitcoms, and appeared in Charlie Wilson’s War, Mad Men, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and most recently Modern Family.

SeaJAM has something for everyone, whether it’s comedy, food, art, a family dance party—or if you’re like me, a chance to finally explore a part of Seattle that you’ve been missing out on. See you there!

Grab your tickets in advance from SJCC.

Celebrating Harold Weeks with Some Ragtime Ditties

Harold Weeks’ name has nearly been lost to history—but Town Hall is here to reclaim it. Weeks (1893-1967) was a Seattle songwriter and a church leader. He was a trustee for Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist. That church building just so happens to be the one Town Hall owns and that we’ve been doing a massive renovation on. We’re set to re-open the historic structure in March 2019.

The building was constructed in two stages between 1916-1922, at the peak of the Christian Science movement. Built in the Roman Revival style by Portland architect George Foote Dunham, it has a large portico with six two-story columns fronting Eighth Avenue, a central dome with an oculus, large art-glass windows, and elaborate window treatments with pilasters and a balcony on the Seneca side.

It was this building that Harold Weeks would attend on Sunday mornings. And it was this time, 1916-1922, that ragtime music was all the rage across the nation. Weeks wrote plenty of ragtime ditties during this time. In fact, he’s mentioned several times in the original Town Crier, where Town Hall’s blog takes its name. In the August 14, 1915 edition it’s noted, “Harold Weeks of this city is the composer of words and music of ‘My Honolulu Bride,’ and Alec M. Malin another of our residents, has written a dance tune called ‘The Alaska Rag.’ This blending of southern seas and northern snows should result in an Elliott Bay temperature.”

In the February 12, 1916 edition the writers praise Weeks’ new tune ‘No Fair Falling in Love,’ saying, “Mr. Weeks is certainly coming to the front as a composer of popular music.” By November 26, 1921, Weeks’ popularity is cemented. In an ad for Youngstrom & Nelson’s new modern music shop, they tout their “complete line of Columbia Records and Harold Weeks’ well-known line of Popular Sheet Music.”

One particularly popular piece of music was his tune ‘Seattle Town’ which Weeks wrote around the time the art glass windows were being installed in the Fourth Church building. President Harding was coming to town with the US Navy Fleet, and Mr. Weeks wrote this piece with a swell of civic pride for Seattle. In the September 1, 1923 edition of the Town Crier, they mention “Tiny Burnett and his men furnished an acceptable music program headed by ‘Seattle Town,’ Harold Weeks’ latest.”

Weeks’ “Fuzzy Wuzzy Bird” performed by the Al Burt Dance Orchestra (1922)

Aside from his activities as a songwriter and church leader, Weeks was associated with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; Christian Science Publishing Society; and the National Temperance League. He died in 1967. His correspondence, writings, sheet music, scrapbook, and phonograph records are held at the University of Washington’s Special Collections library. Some of the sheet music they own includes such tunes as “Fuzzy Wuzzy Bird,” “My Kandy Girl in Old Ceylon,” Moonlight Makes Me Think of You,” “Mew-Mew Rag,” “Hindustan,” “Love’s Canoe,” and of course “Seattle Town.”

 

You can listen to more of Weeks music here.

Who Does Progress Look Like?

Social change isn’t just an idea. It’s people on the street forming demonstrations, rallies, and movements that prove the power of collective action. Town Hall is proud to feature two speakers whose work is tapped into that action, and who join us to introduce the people who are embodying change today.

L.A. Kauffman (11/7) has spent more than thirty years immersed in radical movements as a participant, strategist, journalist, and observer. She shares her front-line perspective, delving into the history of America’s major demonstrations to teach us how to read a protest. With insight on protestors ranging from their overall organization and makeup to the signs they carry, Kauffman explores the nuanced relationship between the way movements are made and the impact they have.

Blair Imani: Modern HERstory (November 9, 2018).

At the heart of these movements there are often individuals—and activist Blair Imani (11/9) intends to make sure they are not forgotten. She shines a light on under-celebrated individuals who have made huge contributions to critical social movements over the last century, but who are often overlooked due to their backgrounds or communities of origin. Imani offers us a radical and inclusive approach to history, celebrating women and nonbinary champions of progressive social change.

People drive progress. These speakers remind us that it’s critical to remember the individuals who’ve made social change possible. Listen in and learn about what it means to be the first one to the streets—and the kind of difference we can make when we demonstrate together.


Don’t miss Imani’s event on 11/9 at The Riveter.

“The War of the Worlds” Terrified The Nation… Or Did It?

It’s the 80th anniversary of Orson Welles’s famous radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds.” Performed in 1938 as an episode of the American radio drama series The Mercury Theatre on the Air, it allegedly caused mass panic, though, as we explore below, the scale of the panic may be overblown.

The Boston Globe, Halloween morning, 1938.

Seattle Radio Theatre, KIRO Radio, and Town Hall Seattle will present an 80th anniversary live broadcast on October 25, 7:30PM, at SIFF Cinema – Egyptian Theatre.

Before you attend and get spooked, here are a few interesting facts about the original broadcast:

The episode was an adaptation of the science fiction novel of the same name written by H.G. Wells. A futurist and prophetic social critic, Wells has been referred to as the “Shakespeare of science fiction.” His works include The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, and The Invisible Man.

H.G. Wells’ book version of the story, first published 1898.

The story of invading Martians was presented realistically, but disclaimers played throughout the episode professing its fictional nature.

The radio play featured work from several prominent Hollywood legends-to-be including Orson Welles himself, who had yet to achieve fame as a filmmaker. His first film, Citizen Kane, didn’t come out until 1941. The script’s author, Howard Koch, would go on to win an Oscar in 1944 for his screenwriting work on the Humphrey Bogart film Casablanca. The composer for the fateful night’s episode, Bernard Hermann, would go on to most famously write the movie score for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

The telephone switchboard at the studio immediately began lighting up with calls from confused or frightened listeners. By midnight, the lighted bulletin that circled the New York Times building read: ORSON WELLES CAUSES PANIC.

Thousands of people across the country called the police, newspapers, and more, asking if what they heard was real.

Amidst all that, perhaps the most terrified listeners were in Concrete, Washington. By coincidence, during the midpoint of the broadcast, the power went out throughout the town. Some listeners ran into the mountains. Others grabbed guns awaiting the attack.

Days later, a reporter asked Welles, “Were you aware of the terror such a broadcast would stir up?” He replied, “Definitely not. The technique I used was not original to me. It was not even new. I anticipated nothing unusual.

Orson Welles performs.

Was their truly mass hysteria? There’s been some debate. Snopes is on the case.


Join us at the 80th anniversary live broadcast on October 25, 7:30PM.

$5 kids 12 and under | $10 Town Hall Members | $15 General Admission

Sikh Captain America Combats Discrimination

This article was originally written and published as part of the TeenTix Press Corps, a program that promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. This piece was written and edited by members of the Teen Editorial Staff, the leadership board of the Press Corps. Town Hall is thrilled to partner with the TeenTix Press Corps to help amplify these young writers’ voices. 

Written by Lily Williamson


When I think about America, especially in our current political climate, I think about prejudice. Bigotry seems to have infected every part our nation and, as a teen, it often feels like reducing the amount of discrimination in our country is simply impossible. Many current events and happenings in the news pile on, spreading hate and contributing towards a perpetual feeling of political stagnation and ambivalence. But Vishavjit Singh, in both his exhibit, “Wham! Bam! Pow!” at the Wing Luke Museum, and talk, “Vishavjit Singh: Sikh Captain America” at Town Hall Seattle, shows that combating discrimination, while not an easy task, is something each and every one of us can and should be working towards.

Singh, a self-described “accidental cartoonist” and former software engineer, was pressured by his parents to pursue a career in the sciences. He was inspired to start drawing in the aftermath of 9/11, after experiencing and witnessing harassment and discrimination against anyone who looked similar to the perpetrating terrorists. Singh remembers finding out that the towers had been attacked—he was at work when he saw it on TV. Immediately, another employee was staring at him. Singh states that “his angry, bloodshot eyes was my first introduction of things to come.” And things only got worse—as Singh was driving home, “just about every driver on the road… took time to flip [me] off or scream at [me] in anger.” In the period directly after the attack, Singh had to work from home in order to avoid harassment.

But Singh realized that the people who were harassing him were “good people” who simply “made that decision to use…ignorance and fear and project it onto people.” So, Singh set out to confront what he calls “turbanphobia”—the “irrational fear of turbans and people who wear them”—using humor. He decided to draw cartoons that feature Sikh Americans, as well as perform on the street  by dressing up as a Sikh Captain America (he even visited Seattle as Captain America this past May) in order to start conversations about what an American really is.

Singh’s exhibit, while quite small, makes a statement. It mainly focuses on his cartoons, but also gives an introduction into his activism as Sikh Captain America and his story as a Sikh American who survived the 1984 anti-Sikh genocide. Singh’s art is simple yet bold, and its bright, eye-catching color palettes give his comics an amusing, energetic feel. However, the art’s message is what really shines. Singh’s cartoons are based around the everyday predicaments of Sikh Americans, but they also bring to light the discrimination that many Sikhs are subject to. Many of Singh’s cartoons riff on popular art pieces, such as one entitled We Are From Freaking Right Here, a take on Grant Wood’s famous painting, American Gothic. It portrays a Sikh man and woman in the same pose as the couple in American Gothic, saying “We are from freaking right here. Next question!” By taking inspiration from a well-known painting that was intended to be an example of the everyday American, Singh shows that the typical, everyday American can be anyone, not all of whom are expected.

Singh’s cartoons are so effective because they’re so personable. They tell Singh’s own story, which he believes is the most effective way to combat prejudice. When he sat down with TeenTix to do a pre-show interview, Singh told us that he believes that “sometimes the world will define us by using labels… and [those labels] don’t tell you who [someone] is.” But by “find[ing] ways to tell your story but also creat[ing] a place to listen to other people’s stories,” we can, as a society, become more empathetic towards the struggles of others and start to understand and accept people who are different than us.

The United States has an undeniable problem with unjust discrimination, but that is slowly starting to change—mostly because of activists like Singh who teach lessons about the importance of compassion. Vishavjit Singh’s exhibit shows that change is not only possible, but something each of us can contribute to.


TeenTix is a youth empowerment and arts access non-profit. For more information about TeenTix click here. To learn more about the Press Corps program, click here.

Welcome to the Town Crier

“A city’s streets to me are like the wrinkles on an old face,” wrote Margaret Bundy, the editor of Seattle’s Town Crier from 1930 to 1934. “They depict the comedy and tragedy of the life that has passed there; in short, they reflect character.” Town Hall has reflected the character of Seattle for 20 years. As a shared stage for Seattle’s cultural producers and civic groups, Town Hall is where Seattle comes together—to express our creativity, to listen and be heard, and to consider what sort of future we want to create together. And housed in a 102-year-old landmark building, we feel a deeply rooted connection to our town’s history.

That said, welcome to our new blog, the Town Crier, harkening back to our past while propelling us forward.

The original Town Crier was a weekly magazine, published between 1910 and 1938. It focused on Seattle’s news, arts, and culture. It represented a diversity of local voices, featuring artists, musicians, photographers, actors, and more, alongside reviews of local performances and discussions of local, national, and international events. The parallels to our own bustling, broad calendar are undeniable, and as we revitalize our century-old building (its set to reopen in March 2019!)—giving new life to an old name feels especially appropriate.

Town Hall strives to capture today’s voices, just as The Town Crier did a century ago, in fresh and illuminating ways. Through our blog, we’ll profile Town Hall’s speakers past and present—visionaries and thought leaders in the arts, sciences, and civics. We’ll interview Seattle’s policy makers and culture shifters. We’ll invite our community to contribute their own words and experiences. We’ll have a little fun. We’ll ask questions, and by doing so, hopefully we’ll all learn something new. Because Town Hall is a place to reflect—and inspire—our best impulses: creativity, empathy, and the belief that we all deserve a voice.

We look forward to sharing this all with you in Town Hall’s official blog, the Town Crier.

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