Next Conversation: Beauty

Event Date: Tuesday, October 14, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm

Admission is free. Tell your friends.

This roundtable conversation series happens at Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle ( For more information on the series, call John Boylan at 206-601-9848. If you want to link to this announcement, you can do so at

A history of the conversations is available at

The Summary

This time we’re looking at beauty, how it is constructed, and how redefinitions of that construction can be liberating and empowering.

Read on for the details.

The Guests (see bios below)

Kirin Bhatti

Meng Yu

Another visual artist, in the works

An aesthetician or a critic, in the works

The Story

We live in a culture where the pressure toward a narrow standard of beauty is nearly overwhelming. That conservative, conventional, constraining sense of what is beautiful is everywhere, in mass media, in our often unspoken sense of landscape and architecture, in the conventions of fashion, in the simple aesthetics that drive our everyday assumptions.

Body shapes are constrained within a norm, especially for women, while symmetry and confident grace in movement are basic metrics for success. In the popular images, even supposed ugliness is depicted as conventionally pretty, especially in content for children. One of countless examples is Beauty and the Beast. The whole point of the original story is that Beast is hideous, an outcast in love with Belle, the Beauty. But the Disney Beast is drawn as a handsome, if hairy, avuncular figure. Even in the classic 1980s television version, one of George R. R. Martin’s early projects, the Beast is a young Ron Perlman in gorgeous lion makeup. Do we have the capacity to see a conventionally hideous figure as sympathetic, beautiful, and even romantic?

Certainly, some sense of normative beauty is physiological: sounds that are more harmonious than others, colors and shapes that are naturally more pleasing. But most of what we encounter is more complex than that, and much of what we take from that complexity is constructed as part of the culture that surrounds us.

This month’s topic comes in part out of conversations with two of the guests, Kirin Bhatti and Meng Yu. Both combine a passion for social justice with a love of style, and both are moving forward on the idea that individual style can be a tool for individual empowerment. At the root of that movement is the idea that we as a society can redefine conventional, mainstream ideas of what is beautiful, even while the immersive miasma of mass media drives us to not do so.

Art does a lot toward stretching and twisting a sense of what is beautiful, and has been doing so at least since the birth of modernism, and in some cases long before that, as in Brueghel’s Triumph of Death and Goya’s Caprichos and Disasters of War. And the story of the outcast who is deemed as less than beautiful has long been a fundamental narrative; Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac comes to mind. Art can hew to convention as much as mass media, but it can also strive to force us to engage in something that is conventionally unattractive, to the point where we end up wanting to make an engagement. But can art have a mass effect in a broad-based reconsideration of beauty?

Come and have a conversation about beauty and about the potential of that engagement. I’ve been away, and I’m a little behind the curve in getting the guests together. I’m hoping to add a visual artist and an expert on aesthetics, or possibly a critic. Stay tuned.

The Guests in Detail

MissTANGQ (Meng Yu) is a multi-media synesthetic artist and first-generation mystic-nerd. She is deeply inspired by the hyphenated experience and explores this through visual art, installation, fashion and DJing to create cross-sensory and multi-disciplinary work. She is a traveler in the margins and crossroads of both identity and the terrestrial and astral experience. She believes in the fertile power of these places to remix our perceptions of and connection to the world. As a facilitator and educator she spent the last 5 years working as the Director of Youth Engagement of an arts-based food justice youth organization. She now continues to do empowerment work as a image consultant through her styling company QYRON. She loves to sing on her bike and plot what she’s going to eat next. Dancing is one of her favorite forms of space travel.

Kirin Bhatti writes: I like to have fun while doing good and looking good at the same time. Growing up in a big Punjabi family I had to be loud, experimental, and creative to get anything done—or maybe that’s just me? Whether it’s nature or nurture that made me who I am, I am addicted to making the impossible possible, all while having a great time—especially for the underdog. I spent seven years in education with the task of creating innovative programs that raise children into whole beings. I also learned how to farm for a whole year. Growing a one-pound heirloom tomato from a near weightless seed teaches you a lot about how to make things happen. My mission now is to use my business QYRON styling to help people feel really awesome about themselves inside and out. I have a blast with my other company Purna Playground helping socially conscious ideas stand out through creative marketing and strategy. All this action is made possible by ample time hanging out alone in my studio daydreaming, being lazy, and having epic hangouts with my dear friends and family. Whatever I’m doing it’s all the same to me, different iterations of myself serving the same goal—to be of service making the impossible possible.

Coming Up

Tuesday, November 18: Film

Tuesday, December 16: Startup Culture

John Boylan’s Next Conversation: “Performance”

Event Date: Tuesday, April 8, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm

Admission is free. Tell your friends.


This roundtable conversation series happens at Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle ( For more information on the series, call John Boylan at 206-601-9848. If you want to link to this announcement, you can do so at

A history of the conversations is available at


(Note: this conversation series most often takes place on the third Thursday of each month. For April we’ve moved up one week as a scheduling accommodation.)


The Summary

This time we’re looking at the idea of performance: that edge between dance, theater, music, spoken word, an edge that may be all of these things and simultaneously none of them.

Read on for the details.


The Guests (see bios below)

Lane Czaplinski, Artistic Director of On the Boards

Joshua Kohl, co-artistic director, Degenerate Art Ensemble

Haruko Nishimura, co-artistic director, Degenerate Art Ensemble

Jennifer Zeyl, theater maker (tentative)

Vanessa DeWolf, improviser, writer, and performance artist

Paige Barnes, choreographer, movement artist


The Story

I’ve been wanting to do a conversation on performance for some time, following on the subset of these conversations that have looked at genres: painting, sculpture, dance, theater, drawing.

What performance is, exactly, can be a difficult question. Maybe at this conversation, we’ll be able to tie it down, get a specific sense as to what it is. Or maybe not. So many questions: Where does it come from? How is it not dance or theater? We can track it back to Fluxus, and possibly well beyond that to Dada and the Constructivists. Or is Laurie Anderson right when she calls Jack Smith, a camp filmmaker in the 1960s, “the godfather of performance art?”

What does seem true is that performance plays a significant role in the cultural life of this city, whether in the long-running success of On the Boards, in genre-stretching efforts in Seattle’s dance venues, in unsung experiments in local theater that only a handful may end up seeing.

We’ve assembled a sterling crew of guests, a little larger number than usual. I wanted to assemble voices from a variety of vantage points: Lane Czaplinski from the city’s performance core, Jennifer Zeyl from theater, Joshua Kohl and Haruko Nishimura for their work across genres and a fascination with the interplay between music and dance and the street, Paige Barnes through the work she did last year on that dance/performance edge in NAKED, and Vanessa deWolf because of her major contribution to the city, as both a performer and as an arts producer, supporter, facilitator.

Come. This will be a truly delightful conversation.


The Guests in Detail

Lane Czaplinski is the Artistic Director of On the Boards—one of the leading centers for contemporary performance in the Western United States. In 2013, On the Boards received the William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters for sustained achievement in programming. In January 2010, Czaplinski helped launch, an online, pay-per-view platform for contemporary performance videos. Prior to moving to Seattle in 2002, Czaplinski worked as the Program Manager at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Czaplinski has worked with many organizations as a panelist/advisor including the National Endowment for the Arts, National Dance Project, Japan Foundation, National Performance Network, Creative Capital, Herb Alpert Foundation, Australia Council for the Arts, Pew Charitable Trusts, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, USArtists, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and MAP Fund.


Jennifer Zeyl (Set Designer) is a Seattle-based theatre-maker. Local designs include: Bonita, I am my Own Wife, Of Mice and Men, boom. and My Name is Rachel Corrie (Seattle Rep); Middletown, The Seagull Project, The Mojo & the Sayso and The Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in their New World (ACT); Adding Machine, The Trial (New Century Theatre Company); Art Dog, Jackie and Me, I Was a Rat, If you Give a Mouse a Cookie and The Big Friendly Giant (Seattle Childrens Theatre) Trouble in Mind, We Won’t Pay!, Stu for Silverton, Lysistrata, Hedda Gabler, Dirty Story, Miracle! Romeo & Juliet and Heartbreak House (Intiman); Antony & Cleopatra, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Winter’s Tale, Merchant of Venice and Hamlet (Seattle Shakespeare); and Trails (Village Theatre). Look for her work on Angels in America this summer at Intiman.

A Founding Co-Artistic Director of Washington Ensemble Theatre (2004-2008), Jennifer designed 17 of WET’s first shows at the Little Theatre and directed blahblahblahBANG! (A Pistolfit in One Act) for WET at On the Boards (2007). Jennifer is a Stranger Genius Award recipient in Theatre, a Gregory Falls Best Scenic Designer and the grateful recipient of funding for her generative work from the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, Artist Trust, 4Culture, The National Endowment for the Arts and private patronage. Jennifer is also is the proud proprietress of Canoe Social Club, a salon for civic-minded artists. Images at


Vanessa DeWolf is an improviser, writer, and performance artist. For nearly the last decade Vanessa has run Studio Current; a space that supports artists in their process and practice through residency in community. Each “Season” she supports 16-26 artists with space and community. She is committed to artists working together to fight the usual isolation of the creative process. PROJECT: Space Available, which she co-curated with Mônica Mata Gillam, was a performance-installation residency program that supported 35 artists over 4 years, each artist having a residency of 1-2months. She has also been seen as a performer throughout Seattle since 1992. Most recently she has been working in large unrehearsed ensemble improvisations including: “Score For an Unrehearsed Ensemble” (2012 at On the Boards) and “FORESTFLOOR is low growling in the girls bedroom” (2014 at the Good Shepherd Center). She creates solo works, ensemble works, written works and movement. She is a post-disciplinary artist whose performances grapple with the spontaneous and ephemeral in paradox with the making of objects or the residue of performance. She works with people because she is committed to autonomous and rigorous creativity.


Paige Barnes is a Seattle-based contemporary choreographer, movement artist and GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® instructor. She co-founded Open Flight Studio (2002-present), Locate Performance Group (1998-2004), and PB_TMOG (2008-2012). She was also the co-creative director and co-curator of the quarterly dance and music improvisation-based series HERE/NOW (2009-2012). Since 1996, Barnes has choreographed and performed in projects internationally in Ecuador, Mexico, and Cuba, and nationally in Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and extensively throughout Seattle. In her most recent project, she collaborated with seven musicians during a two-month residency culminating in NAKED a performance installation at Project: Space Available. She has received awards from The Bossak/Heilbron Charitable Foundation, City of Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, Artist Trust, danceWEB (Vienna, Austria), WA State Arts Commission and Pacific Northwest Dance Lab. Significant mentors are Pablo Cornejo, Vanessa DeWolf, Magali Messac, Michele Miller, KT Niehoff and Stephanie Skura. She holds a BA in Dance from the University of Washington. Currently she attends Bastyr University studying acupuncture and oriental medicine. To see her work visit:


Haruko Nishimura has artistic-directed Seattle’s Degenerate Art Ensemble along with music director Joshua Kohl since its formation in 1999, which is her primary creative outlet. The company creates performance work infused with the energy of live music and driven by her own style of visceral movement theater and dance. The group’s work has been featured in 10 countries presenting large scale experimental dance and theater projects, concerts, site-transforming spectacles and ongoing public experimentation. The group was the subject of a major exhibition at the Frye Art Museum in 2011, was commissioned by director Robert Wilson to interpret his work Einstein on the Beach and undertook a massive site-specific collaboration with Olson Kundig Architects in 2012 and a collaboration with the Kronos Quartet in 2013. DAE directors Nishimura and Kohl have been selected to be featured in the Museum of History and Industry’s Center for Innovation in a video featuring 12 Northwest innovators including Jeff Bezos, Dale Chihuly and others. In addition to her work with DAE, Haruko is constantly collaborating with both local and international artists to push the boundaries of her medium dancing in the street, creating rituals for strangers in cemeteries and performing and directing small experimental ensembles.


Joshua Kohl is co-founder, conductor, composer and co-artistic director of the Seattle based multi-art group Degenerate Art Ensemble (DAE). Under his co-direction, DAE has become a leading entity on the cutting edge of contemporary art in our region as well as an expanding presence internationally. His work with Degenerate Art Ensemble is an intensely collaborative work that sees no boundaries between the visual and performing arts. The work is presented in major dance and music venues as well as shown in galleries, and most recently exhibited in a large scale Museum exhibition at Seattle’s Frye Art Museum. Along with DAE, he has been invited by legendary theater Director Robert Wilson to create an interpretation of his and Phillip Glass’ epic work Einstein On The Beach in which DAE will work closely with Wilson and Glass on the work and present it under Wilson’s guidance at the Baryshnikov Center in New York. In February of 2012 he conducted the music of fellow DAE composer Jherek Bischoff with the Wordless Music Orchestra in New York at Lincoln Center with vocalists David Byrne, Mirah, and several rising stars of creative popular music. Also in 2012 he traveled with DAE to the Czech Republic for a headline festival performance in collaboration with legendary Czech rock band Uz Jsme Doma. DAE’s newest work, The Predator’s Songstress, has been awarded major funding from the Seattle Center Foundation. The work consists of the creation of six extremely intricate and painterly video portraits along with a series of animated films that integrate live music and interactive performance. Joshua’s work as a collaborative artist began in his days as a Cornish composition major in the 1990’s where he met and collaborated with many dance, theater and art students. Many of these artistic relationships have continued to the present. His newest work with Degenerate Art Ensemble was awarded a Creative Capital award and a Music Theatre Now award from the International Theatre Institute in Germany.

John Boylan’s Next Conversation: “Cities: a conversation with Mike McGinn”

Event Date: Tuesday, March 18, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm

Admission is free. Tell your friends.

This roundtable conversation series happens at Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle ( For more information on the series, call John Boylan at 206-601-9848. If you want to link to this announcement, you can do so at

A history of the conversations is available at

The Summary

This time we’re having a conversation with Mayor Mike McGinn about cities, and about the future of Seattle.

Read on for the details.

The Guest (see bio below)

Michael McGinn, former Mayor of Seattle

The Story

Longtime readers of these announcements know that we love to do conversations about cities, and especially about what we can do to make Seattle a more vibrant city. And sometimes we like to have only one guest rather than the traditional four, especially a guest who has played a key role in the local world.

This month, we’re doing both things, in what promises to be a fascinating conversation with Mike McGinn. McGinn has long played an active role in shaping Seattle, as Mayor over the past four years, and before that as a neighborhood activist and as director of the nonprofit Great City. I want us to draw from that experience.

Like an artist who continually shows a huge promise, Seattle has been poised on the cusp of greatness for as long as I can remember. But this time, things feel different. I think that we may be headed in wonderful directions. The problem is to understand what those directions are, and what to do with them. To the extent we look backward, it is for insight and inspiration—our primary focus must be on looking forward.

I asked Mike for a few comments about that; those are below.

Do come. And a word for the wise: I’m guessing that this one will be well attended. So come early, have a drink, and get settled in.


As many of you know, I’m on the board of directors of Arts Corps, and our spring fundraiser, La Festa del Arte, is coming up on March 21 at Showbox Sodo. It is a party like none other in Seattle, with amazing youth performances, and huge amounts of energy and beauty. The interplay between art, community, and a deep commitment to social justice is stunning. And there’s an after party, with the Love City Love Arts Collective, hosted by Grammy nominee Hollis Wong-Wear. Check it out, and come if you can.

The Guest in Detail

Mike McGinn was the Mayor of Seattle from 2009 to 2013. Prior to that, he was the founding director of the nonprofit Great City, was a leader in the Sierra Club’s Cascade Chapter, and practiced law with the Seattle firm Stokes Lawrence. He has a B.A. from Williams College, and J.D. from the University of Washington School of Law.

In terms of the city’s culture, as Mayor he prioritized film, music, nightlife, and arts and culture as key ingredients in building a successful city. He launched the Music Commission and the Seattle Nightlife Initiative, and he partnered with the Seattle School District to launch the Creative Advantage, a program to bring arts education to all Seattle students.

The Great Recession presented many challenges to artists and the arts. The McGinn administration worked to revitalize Seattle Center, reinvent Langston Hughes, and renovate Washington Hall. The city helped convert an SPD parking lot into 12th Avenue Arts, and invested in the INS building as new artist space. At the end of his term, the city was investing a record amount in arts and culture. He believes Seattle’s current success is closely tied to the city’s reputation as an innovative and creative city.

Mike comes from a family of artists, but unfortunately none of their talent rubbed off on him. Despite this, he has performed in a musical, an opera, and as an extra in three feature films. He will invite attendees to identify which ones.

Mike’s response to a question I posed:

Healthy support for the arts is only part of a vibrant city. What are the other parts? That is a really important question and goes much deeper than dollars for the arts. Dollars are one way of measuring prioritization in a pretty important way, but all too often that is the end point, not a launching point for inquiry into other questions:

  • How the money is used – who gets and does what?
  • How are dollars and programs integrated into other functions of government?

Answering those questions well requires an overall vision for the city to which the arts are contributing.  For me that vision would be an innovative, multicultural city that lifts everyone up, and that leads on the environment.

We compete in the world economy not on the basis of low cost, low environmental standards, or cheap natural resources, but rather on the basis of excellence in certain products and services based upon high standards. For that, we need to cultivate the best people, regardless of where they started in life, and to cultivate a shared sense of mission and purpose.

How does art get us there? By enhancing our quality of life and our understanding of the challenges we face, and by breaking down barriers to understanding cultural differences. It’s essential that we prepare youth for the future, so that they can contribute to a culture of creativity and innovation—even if that creativity and innovation is not “artistic,” but rather entrepreneurial or scientific.

What’s Next:

On Tuesday, April 8, we’ll have a conversation about Performance. Lane Czaplinski from On the Boards is coming, and we’ve also been in conversation with Vanessa deWolf, Jennifer Zeyl, Haruko Nishimura and Joshua Kohl of the Degenerate Art Ensemble, and Paige Barnes. Stay tuned for the final list.

John Boylan’s Next Conversation: “The Professional as Artist”

Event Date: Tuesday, February 18, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm

Admission is free. Tell your friends.

This roundtable conversation series happens at Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle ( For more information on the series, call John Boylan at 206-601-9848. If you want to link to this announcement, you can do so at

A history of the conversations is available at

The Summary

This time we’re building on November’s popular conversation “The Artist as Entrepreneur.” But now we’re coming at the subject of arts and business from the opposite direction.

Read on for the details.

The Guests (see bios below)

Cheryl dos Remedios

Cyan James

With a couple more in the works. Stay tuned.

The Story

I’ve been thinking lately about the extent to which art permeates everyday life. In this culture, we tend to think of art as something for museums and galleries, stuff done by “artists.” There is a counter view, of course, that art is integral to how we live our lives—or should be, in the best of all possible worlds. That view risks a level of reductionism: everything is art. Everything certainly is not art. But I think that it is worthwhile to recognize that the core challenges of art, the risks, the intelligence, the insights, the discomfiture and the deep pleasure, exist in unexpected places. And that the work done to create and maintain our built environment, our commerce, and our social structure can, and should, contains many components that are art.

In November we had a good, high-energy conversation about “The Artist as Entrepreneur.” Now I want to build on that, but come at it from a very different direction. Rather than looking at the entrepreneurial elements of being an artist, I want to examine the way in which art intersects professional experience. I’m using the term professional in broad terms: work based on training, work that is often complex and intense. How does art factor into everyday work, especially work that is complex and intense? Can art be better interwoven into what we do, without diluting what art is? And should it? Does such interweaving change the ways in which we think about art, make art, and educate for art?

I was just reading Buckminster Fuller’s classic book, “Critical Path.” In the foreword, he quotes e. e. cummings: “A poet is someone who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words. This may sound easy. It isn’t…the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself. To be nobody-but-yourself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

Can this fight even be seen as part of everyday life and work? Or can we afford a world where it is not part of everyday life and work? Come and talk about it.

What’s Coming Up

Cities—On March 18, we’re expecting that the conversation will have one guest: former Mayor Mike McGinn. We’ll talk about the ways in which cities work and don’t work, about Seattle as a place, a working city, a cultural center, and about visions for what Seattle can become as the 21st century unfolds.

Performance—On April ??, we’ll have a conversation about performance, as a discipline, as an art form.

The Guests in Detail

Cheryl dos Remedios has an interdisciplinary background in art, project management, public works, and landscape preservation. Known for her success in connecting communities to the designed landscape and to the environment, she is currently leading Gustafson Guthrie Nichol’s public communications and marketing endeavors. Prior to GGN, Cheryl worked as an artist and public art administrator, most recently focusing on the stewardship of the Herbert Bayer Earthwork. Active in the local art and design community, she currently serves on the Pollinator Pathway Advisory Board and the Great City Board, and she is a past member of the Port of Seattle Art Oversight Committee, Advocate4Culture, the Rainier Beach Neighborhood Advisory Committee, 4Culture Public Art Advisory Committee, and the Arboretum Foundation Board. Cheryl is also the founder of aLIVe: a Low Impact Vehicle exploration.

Cyan James was born in the Mojave Desert in southern California and still loves the feel of strange wide-open places. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan and is currently completing a PhD in public health genetics at the University of Washington. Her everyday work spans bioethics, public health, and storytelling – she is particularly interested in using art and narrative within peace-keeping and social justice approaches. She is finishing a novel and a collection of essays—after graduation she expects to work in public policy while wedging in as much art as possible.

John Boylan’s Next Conversation: “Taking Stock…”

Event Date: Tuesday, December 17, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm

Admission is free. Tell your friends.

This roundtable conversation series happens at Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle ( For more information on the series, call John Boylan at 206-601-9848. If you want to link to this announcement, you can do so at

A history of the conversations is available at


The Summary

The days are growing shorter; the year is getting older. It’s a good time to take stock of our lives, our city, our culture, our world.

Read on for the details.


The Guests

This time, you’re the guests.


The Story

I’d been thinking of doing another conversation on food, in December. It’s a great season to explore the subject. But that did not come together. Next year.

So, every so often, we do a conversation without invited guests; the whole room becomes the guests. These discussions are usually smaller and more intimate than the conversations-with-guests. Last month’s conversation, “The Artist as Entrepreneur,” was well attended and full of energy. I’m expecting that “Taking Stock” will be quieter and perhaps more contemplative. We will see.

Our goal is to take stock of any number of things. To take stock is to make an inventory, an estimation of how things are, right now. It seems like a good time, as winter comes and we draw inward. We’ve just had an election, the international situation remains desperate, as usual, and it is hard to shake the feeling that we are going to hell in a handbasket. Or are we?

What of you? How is your work, your art, your music? What about your neighborhood? Are we finding the resources we need? If we’re looking for answers in the spirit, are we finding them?

We’ve just elected a new mayor. I didn’t vote for him, but he’s doing some smart things. What do you think? President Obama’s recent speeches suggest that he’s becoming a social justice crusader. Does that signal that he’s become a lame duck? Or maybe, are there new possibilities? Is there anything that people in Seattle can do to affect the 2014 national elections? The new Creative Advantage project may well revolutionize arts educations in city’s public schools. Where will that take us? What of the city’s cultural scene? The Pike and Pine neighborhood is a good candidate for becoming the cultural center of the city. (Think about it: a university, a college, two art schools nearby, the city’s best bookstore, a film center, a writing center, a dance center, a photography center, the premier art bar, a couple of informal art spaces, and several small theaters.) But can it survive the condo onslaught? As I write this, Bertha’s stuck in her big tunnel, and the city seems especially torn up with construction projects. It’s all a slow and steady march toward something, but what, exactly?

Those are some of my “taking stock” questions. What are yours? Come and talk.

John Boylan’s Next Conversation: “The Artist as Entrepreneur”

Event Date: Tuesday, November 19, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm

Admission is free. Tell your friends.

This roundtable conversation series happens at Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle ( For more information on the series, call John Boylan at 206-601-9848. If you want to link to this announcement, you can do so at

A history of the conversations is available at

The Summary

This time we’re talking about new intersections between art and business. Read on for the details.

The Guests (see bios below)

Joselynn Engstrom, Managing Director of The Acrobatic Conundrum

Ben Kerr, attorney

Andy Fife, arts consultant

Erin Pollock, artist

Steph Kese, artist

The Story

There was a time, at least in the United States, when art and business were not supposed to mix. Artists and performers went to their day jobs and then off to their studios and stages to do their work. The business side of culture was to be left to the producers and art dealers, business managers and executive directors. Of course, it was up to the artists to promote themselves, but generally within the frame of auditioning or taking a portfolio around to a dealer, or convincing a curator to come up for a studio visit. Those who went beyond this frame were seen as self-promoters, or more, relentless self-promoters. Maybe they just weren’t good enough to make the regular cut, or in rare instances, they were too good, the misfit geniuses of this world.

That’s still true in some circles. But overall, it’s going away. The model generally began to change with the spread of percent-for-art programs. Artists found themselves working alongside architects and engineers, creating detailed budgets, getting business licenses, hiring subcontractors. And to pay for the training, tools, and workspaces needed to produce often huge-scale work, they have had to be pretty relentless in putting themselves out in the world as public artists.

The change really began to spread with declines in art funding, with the collapse of 2007-2008 that left everyone scrambling, and with increasing prevalence of social media, from crowd funding to Facebook. The rise of DIY and Maker culture has played a role, and even Burning Man has had an effect, where a team of thirty people might have to figure out how to get themselves and several tons of sculpture 1000 miles out into the desert.

Certainly, traditional support structures for art survive and even thrive. But rather than looking for a few patrons or a sugar daddy, now an artist might collect a set of 50 mini-investors. Impermanence is everywhere. Pop-up studios, galleries, theaters, restaurants, and music venues have become the norm. And projects may become so complex that they require a business plan and a budget.

So what effect do these changes have on the work produced, and on the lives of the artists producing it? Is this attention to business liberating, or can it make it harder to do good work? Could it be that art as business allows for doing things that are revolutionary?


Plug:  those of you who teach youth, especially in the arts, or have older children, look at this. On Saturday, November 17, On the Boards is presenting a youth-focused matinee performance “of ‘Cédric Andrieux,’ French choreographer Jérôme Bel’s work about the life of a contemporary dancer. Think of it as modern dance + ’The Real World.’ Andrieux danced for years with the Merce Cunningham Company and the Lyon Opera Ballet, and he speaks candidly and warmly about his life experience as a dancer – the joy, the boredom, the challenges; and he performs intricate passages from classic contemporary works (Cunningham, Trisha Brown). The show is splendid storytelling for all audiences and will speak specially to young dancers and actors lured by the stage. We recommend 9+, but mature 6+ are welcome.”édric-andrieux-0

The Guests in Detail

Joselynn Tokashiki Engstrom, a scientist by study, ran away and joined an international traveling circus in 2006.  A few years later she moved back to her hometown of Seattle, and immediately immersed herself in the circus community to study the trapeze.  She began training at the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts, where she met her artistic partner, Terry Crane.  This year she left her coaching position to pursue the creative dream of The Acrobatic Conundrum.  Joselynn has performed with many groups including Dream Science Circus, Circus Contraption, Orkestar Zirkonium, and Cafe Nordo.  She is currently juggling the art of managing a circus company and finding funds to get them to the Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival.

Ben Kerr, of the Kerr Law Firm, has been an attorney for nine years.  He has an extensive background in civil litigation, having litigated multiple six-figure cases to verdict, but when he opened his own firm in 2010 his practice expanded.   He advises clients in a wide variety of practice areas including contract drafting, negotiation and review; entertainment and art law; copyright; business law; entity formation and intellectual property.   A portion of his practice is devoted to clients in the arts and he offers reduced rates for artists, representing many well-known artists in and around the Seattle area.  He has represented individuals and businesses in state and federal courts, and arbitrations on a wide variety of commercial and civil litigation matters.  He is licensed to practice law in Washington and Pennsylvania.

Andy Fife is an independent consultant, coach, teacher, and writer in arts and nonprofit management, located in the Puget Sound region and working throughout the country.  His primary focus is on the intersection of art, civics, and commerce, helping cultural institutions and programs to bring relevant and impactful social benefit to broad and diverse communities.  He has a wide breadth of knowledge and experience in arts and nonprofit management, especially in small- to mid-sized organizations, and specializing in new initiatives, programs and businesses.

He most recently served as Executive Director of Shunpike, a nonprofit arts service organization that provides support to hundreds of arts groups and projects annually.  At Shunpike he served as the primary spokesperson, consultant, advisor and director for all programs and activities.  Prior to that, he coordinated the Publicity Office of the Seattle International Film Festival, and was Director of Operations at the former art center Consolidated Works.

Current board responsibilities include the Washington State Arts Commission, the Seattle Lake2Bay Initiative and the Seattle Arts Commission’s Facility and Economic Development committee. A musician, theater director, and writer, he received a B.S. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University and participated in the 2011 class of Leadership Tomorrow.

We don’t have bios for Kesey/Pollock (Steph Kese and Erin Pollock). Here is a link to their resume:

John Boylan’s Next Conversation: “Wildness”

Event Date: Tuesday, October 15 from 7:00 to 9:00 pm

Admission is free. Tell your friends.

This roundtable conversation series happens at Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle ( For more information on the series, call John Boylan at 206-601-9848. If you want to link to this announcement, you can do so at

A history of the conversations is available at

The Summary

This time we’re talking about wildness, in nature, in culture, in our lives.

Read on for the details.

The Guests (see the bios below)

Tessa Hulls, artist

Siolo Thompson, artist, publisher

Phil Bennett, urban forester

And possibly a fourth

The Story

The questions are simple: If Thoreau is right, and “in Wildness is the preservation of the world,” what exactly is “wildness?” And if 1920s blues singer Ida Mae Cox is correct, and “Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues,” what do the two propositions have to do with each other? Do the ecosystems that we tend to characterize as wild have much to do, say, with such human behavior as we also characterize as wild?

Our culture often tends toward seeing wildness as something else, somewhere else, something exotic: that wild dancer, that woman with the wild hair, that strange, wild place. But what if wildness is integral to our lives, appearing everywhere, deep within ourselves? How do we recognize that, and should we embrace it?

Wildness is culturally determined, and usually in ways that are often ignored or misunderstood. In the United States, it is easy to see the music of samba or African drumming as being wilder than, say, a Bach concerto or a Chopin nocturne. But what if they’re both wild, or not? How does that work? I’ve often thought that a scrubby lot behind a gas station can hold the same wildness as a piece of old growth thirty miles from human habitation. How can that be true?

For guests we have Tessa Hulls, an artist who has spent a lot of time in the woods and thinks about wildness a lot; Siolo Thompson, an artist whose book about strong women, “The Better Bombshell,” was published this year; and naturalist Phil Barnett. I met Phil a few years ago, when he was leading a workshop on building a forest shelter through the Wilderness Awareness School. We all worked hard that day building the shelter, using only knives as tools. That night, during a heavy, pounding autumn storm, we were warm and dry in the shelter. I’ll always remember crawling out through the small entrance in the darkness just before dawn. The storm had coated the forest floor with a thick layer of Big Leaf Maple leaves, looking in the early twilight like a beautiful coating of snow.

Come talk about wildness.

If you are interested in reading Thoreau’s essay, “Walking,” where the quotation above appears, it is available in three parts at You can hear “Wild Women…” in the first minutes of I believe that’s Cox, but I’m not sure. I first heard the song performed by the great Barbara Duncan (


Café Nordo returns to its roots with a restaging of “The Great American Chicken.” The Chef is back, and he is not happy.

The Guests

Tessa Hulls ( is an artist/writer/adventurer with a compulsive need to be alone in wild places. Her literally bipolar wanderings have led her to work in both Antarctica and Alaska, and to solitary bicycle rides across the United States and into the heart of Denali National Park. Tessa is currently trying to figure out how to reconcile her half-feral nature with her need for the cultural landscape of a city, and has a sneaking suspicion that atavism is a stronger force than civilization.

Tessa is a freelance artist, an embracer of tangents, and a voracious reader. She is an editor of the Off-Paper online journal at The Project Room, the kitchen manager for Sprout Seattle, the sous chef for Café Nordo, an arts writer for Redefine Magazine, and a generally restless person. She has been writing a series of essays about people who are known for going rogue and dropping out of mainstream society as part of The Project Room’s current Big Question of How Are We Remembered?, and she is—very slowly— working on a non-fiction graphic novel about Antarctica. She was recently interviewed about her restlessness as part of the Manifest NW project:

She is leaving Seattle in March to head for Alaska, Antarctica, or Africa. She also can’t resist being alliterative.

Siolo Thompson ( is a self-taught visual artist who lives and works in Seattle, WA. She uses multiple mediums and techniques in her work with a focus on draftsmanship and narrative development.   A background in comparative literature aids Thompson in her quest to translate complex ideas, stories and emotions into the language of visual art. Thompson falls most neatly into the category of figurative realism though her work often dallies at the edges of other disciplines including comic art and animation.

She is the co-publisher of The Better Bombshell (, a book that seeks “positive, multidimensional female role models.”

Phil Bennett is an arborist and urban forester for the City of Snoqualmie, where he encounters asphalt, black bears, public engineers, laminated root rot, fiber-optic cables, badly-scabbed crabapples and bio-degradable pet waste bags misused by small boys as water balloons in public restrooms.  This is called the “urban/wildland interface.”  Phil is also an environmental educator, having worked throughout the West in national parks and wilderness areas.

John Boylan’s Next Conversation: “Making Music”

Update: We’ve lost guest Hollis Wong-Wear; she inadvertently double booked.

We’ve replaced Hollis with pianist and composer Dayton Allemann, who lives to think about and make music. Bio below. Do come.

And if you were looking forward to seeing Hollis, you can see and hear her at the Love City Love fundraiser this Wednesday night, with Iska Dhaff and Kingdom Crumbs.  ( Go.

Event Date: Tuesday, September 17 from 7:00 to 9:00 pm

Admission is free. Tell your friends.

This roundtable conversation series happens at Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle ( For more information on the series, call John Boylan at 206-601-9848. If you want to link to this announcement, you can do so at

A history of the conversations is available at

The Summary

We’re back! This time we’ll be looking at making music, from a particularly cross-genre point of view. The list of guests is truly wonderful.

Read on for the details.

The Guests (see the bios below)

Hanna Benn, musician, vocalist, composer

Evan Flory-Barnes, bassist and composer

Steve Peters, musician, sound artist, producer, writer

Dayton Allemann, pianist and composer

The Story

I’ve been wanting to do a music conversation for some time now. We did three discussions about sound a while back, but never anything specifically about music. This one came out of a conversation with Hanna Benn, who seems to me to live in a cross-genre world, moving through classical composition, popular, and experimental music, and sometimes doing so in the same work. I want to look at that freedom of bending genres, but I also want go into the question as to whether or not such conventional divisions in music even exist.

I’m a perennial novice in listening to and thinking about music. It strikes me that music is a stew of frequencies and tempos, chords and harmonies, thoroughly mixed and seasoned with some amount of magic: some amazing juxtaposition, some surprise, a little play between major and minor keys. It took me a long time to realize that music comes from an interplay between physics, innate human psychology, and diverse cultural conventions that have developed over centuries.

I want to learn more about how that magic works, as seen through the lens of what working composers and performers think and do, especially in terms of a mixing of the conventions and frameworks for what music is.

We have an excellent group of guests. But I know hundreds of amazing musicians in Seattle and could have chosen another four to create a completely different conversation (which I may do down the road). For now, I hope some of them show up for this discussion; the point of a roundtable rather than a formal panel is that we draw from diverse and sometimes unexpected sources.

I’m also impressed with the amount and quality of music happening here. Last night I stopped by “LoveCityLove,” a pop-up music venue initiated by Lucien Pellegrin, where two of our guests, Evan and Hollis, were doing musical improv with the ever-excellent musician and impresario Amos Miller. For a couple of hours, it was the best place in town to be. The same happen with Steve Peters’s Nonsequitur events in the Chapel in Wallingford and numerous other corners of this town.

Do come. This will be good.

The Guests in Detail

Dayton Allemann is a pianist and composer based in Seattle. He is heavily engaged in programming and creating electronics to integrate live music with digital media; primarily real-time video.

Originally from California, Dayton graduated from Cornish College of the Arts and went from there to Germany, where he worked as accompanist and performer for the Nationaltheater Mannheim and the Hamburg Ballet. This led to commissions for ballets and other dance pieces and collaboration on experimental choreography projects.

With his company “Magpai Production Group,” he toured extensively in Europe. He was co-founder of the theater space “La Fragua” in Spain, where he led weekly experimental workshops for musicians and visual artists which gave rise to collaborative performances in several festivals including the Biennale Lyon, ImpulsTanz Vienna, Dimanches de la danse aux Halles de Schaerbeek Brussels, AlterArte Alicante, and Rencontres chorégraphiques internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis.

Returning to Seattle in 2007, Dayton played for the Pacific Northwest Ballet and collaborates on theatrical and musical projects (Cafe Nordo, The Spyrographs, DAE, LoFi) and gives solo performances (“Shoulder,” “Der Komet”).

Currently, he works extensively with Arduino and other microprocessor systems to create live performances that integrate acoustic instruments and sensor arrays.

Hanna Benn is a composer, vocalist, and musician currently residing in Seattle, WA. She is a graduate of Cornish College of the Arts, where she studied composition and sacred vocal music with Bern Herbolsheimer, Jarrad Powell, and Jessika Kenney. She is the lead singer and co-founder of Pollens (Tapete Records), a Seattle-based experimental pop band. Her works and arrangements have been performed by various ensembles including St. Marks Cathedral Choir (Seattle), Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Saint Helen’s String Quartet, Seattle Chamber Players, Opus 7, Fleet Foxes, Campfire OK, and Christ Church Cathedral Choir (Indianapolis). Hanna is currently a member of the choral ensembles The Esoterics and Plymouth Congregational Church Choir. (

Bassist and composer Evan Flory-Barnes is a Seattle native who has been composing and performing music since he attended Garfield High School. He was a member of the award winning symphony orchestra at Garfield while writing music for the hip-hop group Maroon Colony. He is purposeful in his resolve to use his music to remove the barriers imposed on music, musicians, and society – no genres. His vision is to create music that reflects beauty; stirs the emotions; and, enlightens the soul.

Evan’s work spans the depth and breadth of the musical spectrum. His unique creative and expert skills in his art are a natural gift and talent inherited from both sides of his family.  He has been blessed to have benefitted from training and wisdom from his mentors and teachers: Marcus Tsutakawa, Barry Liebermann, Doug Miller, Marc Seales, John Clayton, Rufus Reid, Ray Brown, Francois Rabbath, John Patitucci, Jovino Santos Neto,and Hadley Caliman.

Evan has performed regularly with:  Meklit Hadero, the Marc Seales Quintet, Jovino Santos Neto, Correo Aereo, Skerik’s Bandalabra, Jason Parker Quartet, and Choklate.

Evans’s own bands and orchestra:  Threat of Beauty, Industrial Revelation, The Teaching, Rubato Hug, and Thrown Together With Love. Evan’s transcendence of genres and musical limits has allowed him to collaborate with all of these groups on compositions that augment their musical styles. His peerless performances represent his talent as a composer and artist. (

Steve Peters makes music and sound for a wide range of contexts using environmental recordings, found/natural objects, electronics, various instruments, and human voices, assembled in the studio through an intuitive mix of structure, improvisation, and chance. He played in indie rock bands in Olympia and free improvisation in NYC in the 1980s; in the 90s he lived in New Mexico, where he played with Spanish folk musicians and a Javanese-American gamelan, made radio and sound art, and studied old-time fiddle. He also studied gamelan selonding in Tenganan, Bali. Now focused mainly on site-specific sound installations, he performs with the Seattle Phonographers Union and has collaborated often with visual artists, film makers, and dancers. Since 1989 he’s been Director of Nonsequitur, a non-profit org presenting experimental music and sound art, currently via the Wayward Music Series at the Good Shepherd Center Chapel in Wallingford. He also freelances as a producer, writer, and curator. His work has been released on such labels as Cold Blue, Palace of Lights, Dragon’s Eye, and 12k, and presented at art venues including (locally) Suyama Space, Anchor Art Space, Arts & Nature Festival, Jack Straw Productions, CoCA, Pt. Angeles Fine Arts Center, and Portland Art Center. His sound installation, Lições dos Antepassados (“Lessons from the Ancestors”), was created during a 2011 artist residency in Portugal and will be at Jack Straw New Media Gallery from September 20 – November 8. A collaborative project with visual artist Anna McKee will open at Francine Seders Gallery in October.

Hollis Wong-Wear is a writer, performer, and creative producer. Born in Petaluma California, she currently lives in Seattle. From her roots as a spoken word poet, she has gone on to rap in the hip-hop duo Canary Sing and sing/play keys in the groups The Flavr Blue and The Heartfelts. In 2012, she was featured as a vocalist and songwriter on albums with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Don’t Talk to the Cops, and Bocafloja. Most recently, her band The Flavr Blue appeared at SXSW, the Capitol Hill Block Party, and Bumbershoot. Recent appearances with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis include Good Morning America and Jay Leno. She is currently working on solo material.

Hollis has produced a multitude of events from youth poetry slams to all-ages hip hop shows to a panel series for Bumbershoot. She has also produced seven music videos, including Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Thrift Shop.” She currently works as the Operations Director for Blue Scholars, and performed in February in the original musical “These Streets” at ACT Theater in Seattle. (,,

The Conversations This Fall

Hi All,

I hope you all have had a wonderful summer. Autumn is fast approaching, and for me, that means a return to the bar at Vermillion, and a new season of conversations. Here is what I have in store for the coming months. Conversations are at 7 pm; details will be forthcoming. (The dates are fixed; the subjects might change, but probably not.)

As always:

This roundtable conversation series happens at Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle ( For more information on the series, call John Boylan at 206-601-9848. If you want to link to this announcement, you can do so at

A history of the conversations is available at

September 17: “Making Music.” There are many thousands of ways one might approach this topic; it is, of course, huge. For this conversation, I want to explore the passionate edge between formal composition, classical music, experimentation, and the latest trends in popular music. For guests, I currently have the impressive Hanna Benn and Evan Flory Barnes; I’m looking for two more.

October 15: “Wildness.” Thoreau’s quote is famous: “In wildness in the preservation of the world.” I think he’s right, but it does suggest a question: “What is wildness?” We tentatively have artist Susan Robb as a guest; I’m working now on formalizing the full list.

November 19: “The Artist as Entrepreneur.” I’m thinking that more and more, especially with traditional arts funding sources stretched to the bone, we are seeing artists creating projects that function a lot like small businesses. They’re entrepreneurial, risk taking. How does all that work, and how does the entrepreneurial activity affect the art? The first guest is Joselynn Engstrom, managing director of the Acrobatic Conundrum; I’m getting others.

December 17: something about food. Stay tuned.

Best Regards,


A Conversation with Julia Hensley

at the opening of “BLACKgreyWHITE”

Gage Academy of Art’s Steel Gallery

Event Date: Friday August 2, 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm (Conversation at 7 pm)

1501 10th Avenue East

The Vermillion conversations remain on hiatus until September. Bur we’re continuing with a set of one-off conversations throughout the summer. Next up is a discussion I’ll be having with Julia Hensley as part of the exhibit she put together as guest curator at Gage.

In the show, black and white works are linked by gray works in a structured installation, with new work by Amy-Ellen Flatchestedmama Trefsger, Counsel Langley, Robert Hardgrave, Troy Gua, Cable Griffith, Anne Blackburn, Sharon Arnold, and Hensley herself.

Julia and I will engage a conversation about the following:

Artist statements, curator notes, wall texts, visitor guides, and reviews each serve a purpose, but how does their presence affect how we encounter visual art? What is the relationship of written and spoken language to silent, visual language; and how do words influence both the viewer’s experience and the artist’s process?

Do come.

Julia Hensley is a visual artist and visual arts educator currently exploring themes of space, technology and trash in a range of media. Trained at Boston University, Hensley’s work has shown at galleries including Paul Thiebaud Gallery in San Francisco and Foster White Gallery in Seattle.

To link to this notice:

To link to the exhibit notice:


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