ArtSEA: In Kirkland, a shower of artful raindrops

Plus, a deluge of new dance performances in Georgetown, Capitol Hill, Uptown and Tacoma.

a shelf lined with raindrop shaped cream colored ceramics

A previous installation of ‘Rain Village,’ an ongoing community art project by Bellevue artist Soo Hong, who turns participants’ drawings of raindrops into 3D-printed ceramics. (Soo Hong)

“My dream is to have millions of raindrops,” artist Soo Hong said to me earlier this week. It seems like an achievable goal, given this soggy spring. But Hong was talking about a different sort of drop: a 3D-printed ceramic variety, which she’s amassing as part of an ongoing community art project. Called Rain Village, the series takes drawings of raindrops — made by participants at school and Zoom events in Seattle, Issaquah, Bellevue and Redmond since 2018 — and turns them into tangible symbols of home.

I bumped into Hong as she was installing the latest incarnation of Rain Village at the Kirkland Arts Center, housed in the Peter Kirk Building (built in 1892 and on the National Register of Historic Places). Glistening along one long wall of the gallery is a shower of raindrops — all tear-shaped but varying in size — made by local 3D-printed ceramics studio ForanSuon using community-created designs. On the opposite wall, visitors are encouraged (now through Aug. 6) to add their own drops on Hong’s hand-drawn topographical mural of Kirkland.

ArtSEA: Notes on Northwest Culture is Crosscut’s weekly arts & culture newsletter.

For Hong, a raindrop represents more than precipitation. It also offers a sense of belonging, of “feeling safe in this bubble, like a home.” The idea of home is an ongoing query for Hong, who told me she’s always led a nomadic lifestyle, thanks in part to her father’s job. Born in Seoul and now based in Bellevue, she moved to the Pacific Northwest from Shanghai in 2018 and has lived all over the world.

3D-printing in progress. The ceramic raindrops are made to the individual specifications of participant drawings. (Soo Hong)

“I feel totally fine being alien,” Hong said. “It makes everything look fresh.” But she recognizes that you don’t have to move around a lot to feel like a stranger in a strange land. “We all have an alien feeling sometimes,” she said. “Loneliness is a human feeling. But sharing it lessens that feeling.” When individual raindrops come together, they shift shape and gain momentum.

Hong is also a painter of vibrant large-scale works — such as the riots of untamed color and rushing brush strokes recently exhibited in Metaplay at AMcE Creative Arts. These pieces feel aesthetically antithetical to the smooth symmetry of the raindrops. But she has combined the two in some cases, adding raindrop diagrams to paintings or cutting her colorful canvases into raindrop shapes (see examples upstairs at Kirkland Arts Center).

The ultimate vision is a deluge of drops. Hong can see it in her mind — a huge installation of ceramic raindrops, each contributed by an individual person, all sparkling like a river viewed from a bridge. To Hong, that feels like home.

The inimitable Cherdonna returns with a new live performance, “Goodnight Cowboy.” (Stephen Anunson)

Dancing toward the summer solstice

Along with wet weather, dancers will descend upon the recently opened Mini Mart City Park in Georgetown this weekend. The reclaimed gas station turned arts space is hosting a collaborative performance called ODE (June 11, 3-5 p.m. and 6-9 p.m., come and go as you like between those hours).

Curated by Seattle choreographer Maia Melene Durfee, the “movement installation” features local performers Alia Swersky, Ashley Menestrina, Audrey Rachelle, Cameo Lethem and b-boy and house dancer Orb, all of whom will dance through the building, garden and surrounding spaces in response to themes including connection and dependency “between the self, community and the environment.” (If it keeps raining, the connection to the environment will be especially clear.) Durfee says she created the work to emphasize the importance of arts in environmentalism, and as an antidote to the forced isolation of the pandemic.

Also emerging from pandemic isolation is Seattle’s own Cherdonna — the queen of cringe — whose progenitor, dancer Jody Kuehner, made a relatable film last year about what it’s like to be in lockdown with your own flamboyant alter ego. Now Cherdonna is back with Goodnight Cowboy (at Northwest Film Forum, June 9-12 and 16-19), a live performance and film that lassos stereotypical American masculinity and sends it to bed. As always, expect hilarity, gonzo get-ups and a surprising punch of poignance.

And one more performance experience to put on your calendar: Next weekend On the Boards presents the Fragmented Flow Festival (June 16-26), an exciting slate of experimental works probing the boundaries of identity.

Portland dancer Allie Hankins transcends the border between performer and audience; Vancouver, B.C., artist Vanessa Goodman attempts to physically embody sound; Seattle group Gender Tender explores the effect of “support and sabotage” on queer and transgender bodies; and the longtime local performance art pros of Degenerate Art Ensemble use dance, music and theater to show how folk tales can serve as a pathway to healing childhood trauma. Also on the roster: artist conversations with local poet Shin Yu Pai (Jun. 17), Seattle dancer Dani Tirrell (Jun. 23) and Erin Johnson, of Velocity Dance Center (Jun. 25). All well worth heading out into the big damp.

Dancer Kabby Mitchell teaching a boys’ ballet class at Pacific Northwest Ballet in 1989. (Fritz Dent)

And the dance goes on

Last week, we launched the Black Arts Legacies project, and this week’s Black Arts Legacies newsletter (have you signed up yet?) highlighted dancer Kabby Mitchell. In addition to being the first Black dancer in the Pacific Northwest Ballet, Mitchell was known for co-founding the Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center (TUPAC) — a program that grew from Mitchell’s belief that dance can play a crucial role in the lives of children, particularly children of color.

Mitchell died suddenly in May 2017, just two months before TUPAC opened its doors. But while thinking about Mitchell this week, I was excited to see news of TUPAC’s upcoming production: Noir Black Noir (June 11-12).

This student dance performance (free and outdoors, bring your umbrella) features works by Black choreographers (including Northwest-based Jasmine Wright-Curley and Robbi A. Moore) set to music by Black composers past and present (including 18th century composer Chevalier de Saint-Georges and Jessie Montgomery of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra). With music performed by Northwest Sinfonietta and Seattle cellist Gretchen Yanover, these up-and-coming dancers are carrying Mitchell’s legacy forward.

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