ArtSEA: Seattle Art Fair’s satellite shows are sprouting up early

Forest for the Trees kicks off in Pioneer Square. Plus, festival season is upon us with art books, bike movies and Belltown Bloom.

two brick buildings with a stairwell lit in rainbow colors in between

In 2022, the Forest for the Trees exhibit featured seven floors of art installations at the RailSpur building, including this stairwell light piece by Christopher Derek Bruno. In 2023, the group will stage several summer events. (ARTXIV)

One of the buzziest happenings during last summer’s Seattle Art Fair was the satellite exhibit Forest for the Trees, which took over Pioneer Square’s vacant RailSpur building and filled it with seven floors of art. This year, Forest for the Trees is sprouting early — staging several events leading up to the big art fair weekend (save the date: July 27 - 30), starting with tonight’s Pioneer Square art walk.

Billed as the indie alternative to the Seattle Art Fair, Forest for the Trees boasts a vibe that is more spontaneous, more risky, more local. Which is not to say that combination always guarantees success. But it does emphasize the spark of creation — let’s put on a show in the alley! — more so than rows upon rows of carefully curated cubicles on a trade-show floor. (I enjoy both takes.)

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

Working with Seattle-based art production company ARTXIV and RailSpur developers Urban Villages, the Forest for the Trees series kicks off with “May Showers” (May 4, 5 - 9 p.m.), and will also host events in June, July and August. 

With its home base at the historic RailSpur building (419 Occidental Ave. S), the festivities will spill out across the buildings and alleys between First Avenue South and Occidental Avenue South, Jackson and King Streets. The roster is an appealing lineup of West Coast artists, including Seattle’s Baso Fibonacci, Hanako O’Leary and Ric’kisha Taylor

Outside the building, look for murals by John Sarkis and Lars Bergquist and an AI sculpture by Rick Williams with locally based Future Arts Co. Plus: Live music! Tacos! Squint and it might even look like summer.

Columbia City Gallery is featuring new art by Indigenous women. At left, "Counting Coup on Curtis" by Tammie Dupuis; at right, "Pressed Flowers" by Savannah LeCornu. (Columbia City Gallery)

If you’re perambulating Pioneer Square, either for tonight’s art walk or over the next couple weekends, check out a few more shows of note: 

At Greg Kucera Gallery, the group show The Truth Is… (through May 13) features local artists whose work points out our societal tendency toward fallacy — from Humaira Amid’s carved protest signs to Juventino Aranda’s painted-over Pendleton blankets to Roger Shimomura’s barbed wire paintings signaling Japanese American incarceration camps. 

At Artxchange Gallery, the Living Lineage group show (through May 20) features work by artists digging into their own heritage, including multimedia monotypes by Fox Spears, collaged wooden wall pieces by Hai and Thanh Le and mythical ceramic creatures by Gustavo Martinez

Creative lineage also gets top billing at nearby Stonington Gallery, which is hosting its first solo show of work by longtime Northwest carver James Madison, a member of the Tulalip Tribes. In Still Alive, Not Petrified (May 4 - 27), the artist uses cut metal, hand-blown glass and carved wood to blend long-told legends with abstract influences and contemporary perspective.

Madison says he was taught in part by his grandfather, carver Frank Madison, who told him always to “keep culture alive and show that his people are not petrified.”

For more Indigenous influences, head to Columbia City Gallery for the new show arnaq, hana’ack, smɁem (through June 18; artist reception May 6, 5 - 7 p.m). The show was curated by Kari Karsten, a member of the Seneca Nation and recent graduate of the University of Washington’s Museology masters program, who impressed art-goers with her recent show of Native women printmakers at Seattle Art Museum

For this show — the title of which translates to “women” in the ancestral languages of the artists — Karsten brings together four Indigenous artists working across different mediums: Jennifer Angaiak Wood (masks); Savannah LeCornu (beadwork and illustration); Paige Pettibon (beadwork, jewelry, painting); and Tammie Dupuis (multimedia). Each reveals how heritage informs their approach to contemporary artmaking.

Seattle welcomes a new book festival this weekend. (Valerie Niemeyer for Crosscut)

A weekend of festivals

The Seattle International Film Festival is coming right up (May 11 - 21), and next week I’ll have more on the local films in the lineup. But meanwhile there are plenty of other ways to get that festival feeling. 

Seattle Center is celebrating Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a free community party (Armory Food and Event Hall, May 6, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.) featuring Mak Fai Kung Fu dragon and lion dances, the always-mesmerizing Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team, the Massive Monkeys break-dancing team, hula dance by Sunshine from Polynesia and more performances. 

The Bicycle Film Festival (Egyptian Theatre, May 6 at 7 p.m.) is an annual international celebration of the two-wheeled wonder. This year’s 90-minute lineup of short films includes true and imagined stories about massive street rides, a blind bike mechanic in Iran, a bicyclist retracing the route of the Buffalo Soldiers, a lost and found (and lost) bike, and Seattle bike messengers as a symbol of “outsourcing gone wild.” 

The inaugural Seattle Art Book Fair (May 6 - 7 at Washington Hall) caters to people with papyrophilia [raises hand and waves vigorously]. Indulge that deep love of paper with art books that just wouldn’t elicit the same oohs and ahhs if flipped through digitally. Organized by Seattle-based graphic designers Jayme Yen and Tom Eykemans (the latter of whom is also design director at local Marquand Books), the free event features 65+ international exhibitors, including Seattle’s Wave Books, Minor Matters and Chin Music Press.

If you’re itching to get behind the scenes of visual-art-in-progress, check out the Spotlight North Studio Tour (May 6 - 7). During this newish north-end event, Seattle artists bravely open their studio doors and allow us to see where the magic happens. Among the artists participating this year are glass knitter Carol Milne, painter Gala Bent and ceramicist Laura Brodax.

And for those wanting a festival that really turns it up, consider Belltown Bloom (The Crocodile, May 5 - 6). It’s the third annual edition of this indie-music festival celebrating women in rock, and topping the roster is 1980s punk/grunge band L7 (yes, I do still have them on cassette tape, thank you very much), along with Pussy Riot, Mannequin Pussy, Thunderpussy (are you getting the idea) and several bands without that word in their name, including Seattle faves La Fonda, Mt. Fog and Prom Queen. Rock on.

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