Things to do in Seattle this July

Free concerts amid splendid nature, powerful pop paintings and the return of the Seattle Art Fair. 

Person in a crowd opens up their arms into the sky, trees and blue sky in the background

The Capitol Hill Block Party returns this year with a star-studded line-up. (Jen Au)

(Free) Art in the Parks

We Seattleites, survivors of Juneuary 2022, speak from experience: Moments of dry, sunny skies here are fleeting — enjoy ’em while you can. And what better way to carpe a summer diem than by enjoying art in the park? 

In Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill, a lineup of local bands commemorates the unveiling of the brand-new amphitheater (July 2), followed by a series of free outdoor concerts and dance performances throughout the summer, as arts editor Brangien Davis covers in this week’s newsletter.

Theseus and Hippolyta, of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will also be making an appearance on the new Volunteer Park stage (July 9) as part of the summer series of outdoor Wooden O performances by the Seattle Shakespeare Company in parks throughout the region (July 7-Aug. 7), including Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park and Issaquah’s Confluence Park. The comedy is counterbalanced by the darker romance Cymbeline, believed to be one of Shakespeare's final plays, which director Makaela Milburn and artist Meme García have turned into “a modern, queer-forward view of Shakespeare’s folktale of forbidden love, mistaken identities, banishment, and reconciliation.” 

At the Olympic Sculpture ParkSummer at SAM — a well-attended series of free outdoor events organized by the Seattle Art Museum — is making its return from a pandemic hiatus this month (July 14-Aug. 20, every Thursday evening 6-8 pm and Saturday morning 9 am-2 pm). With Richard Serra’s acid-washed steel “Wake” sculpture — along with the Space Needle, Olympic Mountains, and Puget Sound — as a breathtaking backdrop, musicians will be playing live music every Thursday evening. Watch for interactive art-making with local artists, plus yoga and dance classes and, of course, food trucks. Kicking things off July 14 is local band The Pazific, playing “West Coast Latin soul.”

Girl dances during powwow
A girl dances during a previous edition of the annual Seafair Indian Days Powwow in Discovery Park (courtesy of Jack Storms)

That same weekend, Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center’s Powwow Grounds in Seattle’s Discovery Park will be bustling with the annual Seafair Indian Days Powwow, hosted by the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation (July 15-17, free or $5). After two years on hold, the yearly powwow, a longstanding tradition that brings Native Americans of all tribes together in celebration, returns with Powwow dancing, stalls of arts and crafts and Indigenous foods for sale, including traditionally baked salmon. (Non-Indigenous people are welcome, but if it’s your first time, take a look at the FAQ.) 

Also featuring music and dance from a variety of cultures is the free summer concert series in Washington’s State Parks. From the Waikiki Beach Concert Series at Cape Disappointment State Park and Mountain Melodies at Lake Wenatchee State Park to the American Roots Concert Series at Deception Pass State Park, expect a wide-ranging offering of music from the Americas (including bolero, crabgrass, Brazilian Forró, Appalachian step dancing, Japanese folk tunes and much more) amid majestic Northwest views. 

Cellist Gretchen Yanover plays the American Roots Concert Series at Deception Pass State Park on August 7, 2021. (Courtesy of Ranger Nathan Anderson)

George Tsutakawa retrospective 

The first public commission by celebrated Pacific Northwest artist George Tsutakawa (1910-1997) — a fountain for Seattle’s Public Library — was, by his own admission, “almost a disaster.” Not accustomed to his groundbreaking design featuring stacked metal spheres and hemispheres, the Japanese foundries he’d contacted to make it ignored him. “They simply couldn't understand my design as being a fountain,” Tsutakawa later said. “It didn't squirt water, it had no cherubs, and it was neither stone nor baroque.” 

bronze sculpture that looks like a fish skeleton standing up
Votive #2 by George Tsutakawa, from 1977 (courtesy Tsutakawa Family Collection/John Pai)

But he persisted, and his “Fountain of Wisdom” was eventually installed in 1960 – a watershed year for the artist. It marked the start of an immensely successful international career as a sculptor and fountain designer. It was also the year he started embracing more of his Japanese roots and the country’s art forms and architecture, which he married with Pacific Northwest modernism. 

“From 1960 on, I attempted to express this relationship between man and nature in my works,” the artist and longtime University of Washington professor later said. “My sumi-e drawings are a direct response to nature; my fountain sculptures are an attempt to unify water — the life force of the universe that flows in an elusive cyclical course throughout eternity — with an immutable metal sculpture.”

The new retrospective George Tsutakawa: Language of Nature zooms in on his quest for natural rhythm in sculpture. Focusing on his work from 1950 forward, the show features wood and metal sculptures, paintings, drawings, and lamps — and one working fountain. 

If you go: George Tsutakawa: Language of Nature, Bainbridge Island Art Museum. July 1 – Oct. 9. (Free)

Reproductive rights 

For artists, it can feel like a bonus when their art coincides with current events. But the exhibit Reproductive Rights Now, opening this weekend, became even more timely than Judy Avitia-González imagined back in April. That’s when local artist Marilyn Lopez (who works with Pro-Choice Washington) reached out to Avitia-González about a potential exhibit about abortion rights at the White Center gallery Nepantla. “I felt like it was a timely event and we should host in July rather than wait, since abortion bans were happening in real time,” gallery co-director Avitia-González told me via email recently. And then, in late June, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wadeending a right to abortion upheld for nearly half a century. “With Roe v. Wade being overturned this collaboration couldn’t have come at a better time.” 

Through an open call, the gallery — which focuses on Latinx art — has curated a varied, colorful and graphic art show featuring work by Latina artists, including Seattle’s Angelina Villalobos and Esmeralda Vasquez and Tacoma-based Periko the Artist. The artists’ demographic is relevant too, because people of color will be the most impacted by the end of Roe, experts say. 

If you go: Reproductive Rights Now, Nepantla Cultural Arts, July 2-31. (Free)

Northwest music festivals 

Bikes, beer and, erm, bops — this is the elevator pitch of the Northwest Tune-Up Bike, Beer and Music Festival (July 8-10), taking place in Bellingham’s Waterfront Park and the surrounding Galbraith Mountain area. Attendees can sign up for bike races, group rides exploring the region’s trails, and riding clinics, or you can opt out and just stay for the excellent music lineup, which includes local indie darlings Black Belt Eagle Scout, Chastity Belt, and Prom Queen (plus, beer from 24 breweries). 

Also marrying outdoor adventure with music is Timber! Outdoor Music Festival, which makes its much-anticipated return July 21-23. This year the festival will take place at Tolt-Macdonald Park in Carnation, where options for hiking, biking, yoga, gravel bike riding, swimming and running abound. Some of the musicians gracing the stage: local favs Tomo Nakayama and The Moondoggies, plus Built to Spill, Deep Sea Diver and Cassandra Lewis. 

For those preferring to trek from bar to bar and stage to stage rather than through the woods, there’s the Capitol Hill Block Party (July 22-24). The festival is once again promising a rowdy pop fest with visits from (among many others) sure-to-be-crowd pleasers Charli XCX, Beach Bunny, Sudan Archives, the Black Tones, Jai Wolf and Diplo across more 11 stages.

Local band The Sons Of Rainier plays on the Campfire stage during the 2018 Timber! music festival. (Courtesy of Timber! Outdoor Music Festival)

Indie comics and small-press books 

Don’t judge a book by its cover: “Book fair” may sound a little stuffy — particularly for summer — but Hot Off the Press Book Fair is not your typical affair. First: It’s hosted outside, near the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery in Georgetown, Seattle’s most rock-’n’-roll neighborhood. Plus, more importantly, the indie fair features art, poetry, music and comix by more than 50 regional indie artists and small-press publishers. Some highlights: Author Stacey Levine will be reading from her new chapbook JFK vs. Predator, and Seattle’s dissonant dance band Student Nurse will be performing for the first time in 38 years. Plus, discover a new generation of feminist zines inspired by the Riot Grrrl movement, including “Gator Grrrl” and “Ra-Ra Rebel.” (Bonus: Sofia K of Ra-Ra Rebel will perform with their band).

If you go: Hot Off the Press Book Fair, July 9, 5 p.m. -9 p.m. (Free)

Chamber music, new and well known 

Getting people to sit indoors for music during a lovely Seattle summer (fingers crossed) can be a big ask, but the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s annual summer festival lures audiences into Benaroya Recital Hall with a roster of impressive musicians from all over and a repertory that combines the familiar with the new. The highlight of opening night (July 5, 6:30 pm) is Béla Bartók’s Quartet no. 6, the Hungarian composer’s tragedy-laden farewell to Europe, written just before World War II drove him to America in 1940 (OK, we didn’t say opening night would be festive). Also of note: pieces for violin and piano by Clara Schumann, Lili Boulanger and Amy Beach (it’s not all about dead white men!), and on July 25, the festival’s most welcome tradition, a world premiere commission: an octet for strings and winds by pianist/composer Stewart Goodyear. - Gavin Borchert 

If you go: Seattle Chamber Music Festival, Benaroya Recital Hall, July 5-31. ($20-$55)

Powerful pop paintings 

Person in front of six colorful paintings
Artist Nikita Ares poses with new work (Courtesy of Nikita Ares) 

It’s hard not to mix metaphors when describing the vivid paintings of Seattle artist Nikita Ares, where rainbows explode into energy, like a piñata bursting with candy-colored shapes and squiggly lines into an ever-expanding Big Bang of joy. Since graduating from Cornish College of the Arts in 2018, Ares has bootstrapped a successful local career. Many of the paintings on view during her solo show “Miss U” at The Factory last spring had sold by the end of the show, and she’s been steadily painting murals across the region as well.

Now Ares debuts a series of brand-new paintings at Georgetown’s Mini Mart City Park in a show titled Attention Seeker. Her work has always aimed to catch people’s attention, to “put them in the present moment of their feelings and with their perceptions,” Ares told me recently. The large mural she painted on a piece of wood displayed outside — abstract shapes spreading out horizontally on a sky-blue background — and her new works are indeed attention-grabbers. Go give them yours. 

If you go: Attention Seeker is open this Saturday, July 2 from 12-5 p.m. and July 9 from 3-9 p.m. (when there will be a reception) at Mini Mart City Park. (Free) 

Alberto Giacometti in his studio in 1951, photographed by Gordon Parks (Courtesy of Gordon Parks Foundation/Fondation Giacometti).

An existential blockbuster 

Few visual artists have become as synonymous with existentialism as Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966), sculptor of slender anguish. His famished bronze figures — stretching toward the sky but inescapably bogged down by heavy pedestals — have become quintessential avatars of postwar malaise (and, more generally, the Sisyphean business of being alive). But his work’s bleakness has not gotten in the way of commercial success, both on the auction market and as a draw for big-ticket museum shows. 

Case in point: The Seattle Art Museum is dedicating its summer blockbuster slot to the artist with an exhibit focused on work he made in the aftermath of World War II. Alberto Giacometti: Toward the Ultimate Figure, the show — the only West Coast stop on a North American tour — is co-organized by the Fondation Giacometti in Paris, where the Swiss artist worked out of a cramped, plaster-dust-covered studio. 

At SAM, photographs of the artist in his studio (by photographers like Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Gordon Parks) accompany dozens of Giacometti’s paintings and sculptures. Among a thicket of his elongated bronze sculptures and busts, expect some of his greatest hits, such as “The Nose,” a bronze depicting a tormented Pinocchio-from-your-nightmares stuck in a cage, or the iconic, life-sized “Walking Man I.” A symbol of mankind, the figure seems to want to get somewhere, but his feet are too heavy – mired in the mud of the human condition​​.

If you go: Alberto Giacometti: Toward the Ultimate Figure July 14-Oct 9. (Free-$29.99)

Seattle Art Fair returns 

Since its inception in 2015, Seattle Art Fair weekend has become a staple of the city’s cultural summer. Founded by the late Microsoft co-founder, art collector and philanthropist Paul Allen, the fair traditionally touched down in Seattle during Seafair weekend and always brought with it a sort of electrified buzz deafened only by the Blue Angels. Artists, collectors and art lovers poured in to discover all the paintings and sculptures that galleries and dealers from across the city, country and world brought to white-walled booths set up in the Lumen (formerly CenturyLink) Field Event Center. At the same time, independent artists and galleries staged their own, more locally focused exhibits (and parties!) at the margins of the fair, amplifying the feeling of an endless cornucopia of art. 

After a pandemic hiatus of two years — and under new ownership after Allen’s death and subsequent sunset of his Vulcan Arts + Entertainment endeavor — the fair is back, this time carving out its own time slot in the weekend before SeaFair starts. This year, the expo has shifted to more local fare, with fewer blue-chip New York galleries and a slightly more affordable price point. Artistic Director Nato Thompson also returns, with a fascinating-sounding slate of installations by local and international artists, including Clyde Petersen, Preston Singletary, Inye Wokoma and Humaira Abid. Can you feel the buzz building? 

If you go: Seattle Art Fair, Lumen Field Event Center, July 22-24, opening preview July 21, 6 p.m. ($25-$50) 

Arts shopping on the Eastside 

During the 32nd Annual Bellevue Downtown Arts Market (July 30-31), an annual (juried) outdoor showcase, more than a hundred local artists and crafters will line the downtown streets, alongside live flamenco and folk-music showcases. The market coincides with this year’s Bellevue Arts Museum (BAM) ARTSfair (July 29-31) at Bellevue Square and Bellevue Arts Museum. Expect crafts and art by more than 300 artists from around the country, free admission into the Bellevue Arts Museum, a performance stage with local music and craft activities for kids. 

If you go: Bellevue Downtown Arts Market, July 30, 10 a.m. -6 p.m.; July 31, 10 a.m. -5 p.m. 106th Ave. NE & NE Sixth St. 
Bellevue Arts Museum (BAM) ARTSfair, July 29 and 30, 10 a.m. -9 p.m.; July 31, 11 a.m. -7 p.m. Bellevue Square & Bellevue Arts Museum. 

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