The Next Conversation: “Legacies of Racism in Seattle”

Event Date: Tuesday, November 19, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Admission is free. Tell your friends.

Location: Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle

The Summary

This time, we’re looking at a deep history of racism in Seattle and the legacies of that racism that are with us today. Read on for more details. 

The Guests (See below for bios)

Elisheba Johnson, artist, curator, arts administrator

Sharon Maeda, media manager, nonprofit manager, activist

Inye Wokoma, artist, journalist, filmmaker

And we’re working on getting a fourth guest. 

The Story

I’ve been wanting to do a conversation about the legacies of historical racism in the Seattle area. It’s a broad topic; racism has a long and sometimes forgotten history here. And the term “Seattle area” can be expansive, reaching to Bellevue and Tacoma at the least. Each example and each place may deserve a conversation in and of itself. But I’m thinking that as a start, approaching that history from a number of angles may be helpful. 

I can see us going into some or all of the following: the exclusion laws; a long history of redlining and real estate covenants against Blacks, Jews, and Asian Americans; the expulsion of the Chinese from Tacoma in 1885; the Japanese-American incarceration in World War II; and the land grabs, including those against the Duwamish people and other Coast Salish peoples, and later, Japanese-American farmers in Bellevue. And it’s especially important to look at what legacies those histories have today, across the Pacific Northwest, how they have been resisted, and how they’ve played a part in shaping today’s world.

One way to get a sense of a bit of what was done in Seattle is to look at the current free exhibit at Wing Luke Museum, “Excluded, Inside the Lines.” 

Many people know about this history, but I’m often surprised to find out how many do not, especially among otherwise informed White people. It’s a hugely important subject, representing information that remains key to understanding this place, as it stands now and as it grows into the future. Come and listen and talk about it.

Finally, take a look at the end of this message for an announcement of another event I’m putting together.

The Guests in Detail

Elisheba Johnson is curator, public artist, and administrator heavily influenced by the Fluxus movement and the accessibility of art experiences and objects. Johnson, who has a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts, was the owner of Faire Gallery Café, a multi-use art space that held art exhibitions, music shows, poetry readings and creative gatherings. For six years Johnson worked at the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture on capacity building initiatives and racial equity in public art. Johnson is currently a member of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Network advisory council and has won four Americans for the Arts Public Art Year in Review Awards for her work. She currently co-manages Wa Na Wari, a Black art center in Seattle’s Central Area.

Inye Wokoma is a visual artist with a background in journalism and filmmaking. His family has lived in the Central District since the 1940s. His work explores themes of identity, community, history, land, politics and power through the lens of personal and visual narratives. His work is informed by a deep social practice that prioritizes the utility of his art to the collective welfare of his community. Four of his most recent projects, A Central Vision, An Elegant Utility, This Is Who We Are, and Wa Na Wari represent a prismatic exploration of the history, current experience and future of Seattle’s African American Community. In addition to these projects Inye has been working in collaboration with Seattle Public Library and colleague Jill Friedberg to create a catalog of oral histories of Seattleites reflecting on community history and current changes. 

Inye completed a degree in journalism and filmmaking from Clark Atlanta University before establishing Ijo Arts Media Group in Seattle. His work as a photojournalist has appeared in USA Today, ColorsNW, Washington Law and Politics, and Chicago Wilderness, among others. In 2004 and 2006 respectively, he received two awards for editorial photography from the Society of Professional Journalists Western Washington Chapter for coverage of the communities of color in the wake of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. His collaboration with journalist Silja Talvi on Washington State’s three strikes law won a 2004 National Council on Crime and Delinquency PASS Award for criminal justice reportage. These journalism awards were earned while shooting for ColorsNW Magazine under the editorial guidance of Naomi Ishisaka. His film ‘Lost & (Puget) Sound, received a 2012 Telly Award and won best film for youth at the Colorado Environmental Film Festival. In 2017 he participated in the visual arts group show ‘Borderlands’ which went on to receive an Americans for the Arts 2018 Public Art Network Year in Review Award for its collective exploration of national identity, immigration, and belonging.   

Inye continues to live serve his community from his home in Seattle’s Central District where he currently serves as board president for LANGSTON. He was a founding board member and former board president for Got Green and also served on the board of Nature Consortium. 

Sharon Maeda was blessed to have a career that melded work and her commitment to social justice.  Sharon’s career in public, private and nonprofit sector management focused on equity and justice. She was appointed by President Clinton to be Deputy Assistant Secretary of HUD to Secretary Henry Cisneros, owned a Seattle-based management consulting firm – Spectra Communications – and managed nonprofits including Pacifica Radio and the UW Ethnic Cultural Center.  Media justice was also important when she was General Manager of KRAB-FM and Director of Community Involvement at KCTS/9. She moved to New York to work at the global mission agency of the United Methodist Church where she was Dep. General Secretary. She has also worked for one of the largest unions in Washington and founded 21 PROGRESS, to focus on building a 21st Century Movement for Equity and Justice. She also taught in the public schools and at the UW. Since 2017, she has managed KVRU 105.7 FM in SE Seattle and will be retiring later this month.

Sharon served on the advisory board of the Harvard Kennedy School Asian American Policy Review and many government, local arts, education and social justice boards. She currently is a Harborview Medical Center trustee and a board member of the National Association of Community Broadcasters.

And as for that announcement 

On Sunday, December 8, from noon to 6pm at the Northwest Film Forum, we’ll be holding a symposium, a set of lectures and discussions entitled “Futures: trends in science and technology and their implications for art and performance.” We’ll be looking at a variety of technologies and scientific insights, exploring ways in which those can be embraced by artists and performers.

I’ll be sending out a formal announcement next week, so stay tuned.


The Next Conversations: Exploring Bellevue

We’re back from the summer, with a twist.

The regular series at Vermillion will resume in October. For September, we’re doing a pair of conversations as part of the City of Bellevue’s great 10-day arts festival, Bellwether. 

This year’s Bellwether theme is “Taking Root.” To that end, the first conversation, on September 15, looks at how art and culture take root in a rapidly growing and evolving city. And the second conversation, on September 21, explores the ways in which Bellevue’s properties as a physical place have molded the culture of the city. 

Here are the details. We hope you can come.


Saturday, September 15, 3pm – 4:30pm // Bellevue Arts Museum (510 Bellevue Way NE)

Guests: Benedict Heywood, Executive Director & Chief Curator at Bellevue Arts Museum; Genevieve Tremblay, artist, curator, educator, and community catalyst; and Vania Bynum, dancer, choreographer, and teacher

How do art and culture take root in a growing city? What is the state of art and culture in Bellevue? Where has it come from and where it is going? How is it made, and can it survive and grow? And how and where does creativity manifest itself, in a city that has focused much of its energies on business and commerce?


Saturday, September 21, 3–4:30pm // Bellevue City Hall (450 110th Ave NE)

Guests: Maria Lau Hui, architect; Curtis Kukai, City of Bellevue Park Ranger & Environmental Programs Coordinator; and Raymond Cullom, CEO of Performing Arts Center Eastside

Explore Bellevue as a physical place, and look at how that place has driven the city’s culture. A number of things make Bellevue exceptional: the huge expanse of green space within the city limits, the steep ridge and valley terrain, and the proximity to water—and the city’s isolation from it as well, along with the architecture, the lack of a conventional street grid outside of the main avenues, and the city’s relationship with the surrounding megalopolis. How do these work together to mold the experience of the city?

The Next Conversation: “Coming Out Communist”


Event Date: Thursday, May 16, from 6:00 to 7:30 pm. Admission is free. Tell your friends.

Location: Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle

The Summary

This time, we’re working with Red May, the annual vacation from capitalism, in a talk about coming out as a communist, or a socialist, or an anarchist. Read on below for details. And note the Thursday day and earlier time, a departure from our regular schedule.

The Guests

You’re the guests for this one.

The Story

Every so often, we’ve collaborated with Red May to look at some cultural element around Marxism, socialism, communism. This year we’ll be talking about what it means to come of age and decide that one is a communist.

Red May is an annual “month of radical events” in Seattle, a “vacation from capitalism.” an opportunity to turn red for a month, with workshops, discussions, book readings, parades, films, parties, and more. It’s a gathering of writers, activists, Marxist scholars, students, and curious vacationers. There’s a schedule of events on the website and on facebook.

Here is what the Red May calendar says about the  “Coming Out Communist” conversation:

None of us left the womb as a Communist, a Socialist, or an Anarchist. Odds are that neither of our parents raised us in any of these traditions. The American High School doesn’t really nurture them either (to put it mildly). And yet, as we grew older, somewhere along the way we realized that our identities had reddened. Most of us maintain, or try to, some connection with parents, our high school friends, our earlier life. How do we negotiate the gap between how they remember us and what we’ve become? Red May partners with John Boylan to stage an inquiry in the form of a conversation.

To add a little to that, most of us grow up politically in a frame that contains a limited set of options: Democrat, Republican, independent, and “I don’t care.” With the exception of the old red diaper babies, few of us grow up hearing about Uncle Karl as a bedtime story, or talking about the labor theory of value around the kitchen table at dinner. Coming to embrace communism or socialism as an adult can mean a real break with family and old friends, deciding to live a life that’s beyond the pale. 

How does that happen, and how do people negotiate the break? And maybe it’s not as straightforward as all that. What happens when we make unexpected discoveries, encountering the crusty old uncle or aunt who turns out to have had their own hidden history of radicalism?

Come talk about it.

The Next Conversation: “Mass Action?”

Event Date: Tuesday, April 16, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Admission is free. Tell your friends.

Location: Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle

The Summary

This time, we’ll be looking at mass action, that time-honored urge to get people into the streets, to get tremendous numbers of people engaged. Read on below for details. 

The Guests

You’re the guests for this one.

The Story

Mass Action. The topic may seem a little abstract, but it has a huge relevance to where we’re going and is also deeply entwined with Seattle’s history. Here’s the pitch:

Mass collective action has a long history as one of the most common tools for political and social change. It is one of the initial, go-to options in the face of war, environmental disaster, or political repression. Something really bad happens on a political level, and the first reaction is to get people into the streets as a show of collective force. Or collective action might entail a withdrawal of services, from the widespread teacher walkouts that spread across the United States in the past year, to any industrial labor action, to more absurdly, the sex strike to end a war in the ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata. More often than not, mass action serves to protest something, from the millions of people in the streets of London a few weeks ago protesting Brexit to Seattle’s landmark WTO protests in 1999.

But how effective is mass action, especially in its most common form, getting people into the streets? What use does it have toward building long-term social and political change? In Serbia, concerted mass action played a large role in the overthrow of the dictator Slobodan Milošević in 2000. But the Arab Spring demonstrations in 2010 were followed by a consolidation of repressive power, as were the huge Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

If the WTO protests represent a relatively recent memory of mass action in Seattle, the ultimate Seattle mass action happened in February 1919, the Seattle General Strike. 25,000 Seattle workers from all fields walked off the job in support of 35,000 already striking shipyard workers, in a city of 315,000 people. It was huge.

This past February marked the century anniversary of that strike. The anniversary went pretty much unnoticed, except for a few lectures and panels for people who think about that sort of thing. But 100 years before, the strike shut down the whole city for about a week; it was unavoidable. And it engendered an ad hoc pop-up culture, with big neighborhood canteens feeding many thousands of people, the emergence of the city’s first food cooperatives, and emergency laundries, so that hospitals would have linens and babies would have clean diapers. There was maybe a bit of a Burning Man feel in the streets of Seattle in 1919.

Was the strike successful? That’s definitely arguable. It did not achieve its goals around helping the shipyard workers, and historians have suggested that it sparked an anti-worker backlash that lasted for decades. HistoryLink calls it a “glorious folly.” Some writers have suggested that if it didn’t achieve specific goals, it was still a success, because the strikers went back to work energized, confident that they, together, had done something amazing. In any case, by its very existence, the strike was a pivotal point in Seattle history and became a landmark in North American labor history. (See below for more background on the strike.)

Where does that leave us in the 21st century? Does mass action represent a viable option for engendering political and social change? Are there new ways to do mass action? When I was in college, the large shared house where I lived would have no-electricity Mondays, and the eight of us who lived there would forego electric lights, appliances, stereos, television, and radio for one day each week. A friend of mine wondered the other other day if something similar might be done on a city-wide scale, a massive voluntary one-day blackout. Or a one-day general strike, a shut-down of everything. What might these achieve? And what happens when mass action becomes political theater, art in the streets?

Come and talk about it.

More on the Seattle General Strike

If you want to learn more about the Seattle General Strike, there’s a guide to several resources, with an intro page from the Seattle General Strike Project at the University of Washington:

The history of the strike written by its participants, including one of Seattle’s greatest progressive voices, Anna Louise Strong, is at:

Source material on the strike, including photos, pamphlets, and newspaper clippings, is at:

HistoryLink’s take on the strike is at:

The Next Conversation: “Art That Changes People’s Lives”

Event Date: Tuesday, March 19, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Admission is free. Tell your friends.

Location: Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle

 The Summary

This time, we’re looking at two questions: Can we make art that changes people’s lives, art that actually creates new ways of living, creates new cultural structures? And if so, how? 

The Guests (See below for bios)

Janeil Engelstad, artist; founder and director, Make Art with Purpose

John Perkins, activist, innovative meeting facilitator, organizational change consultant

Tonya Lockyer, artist and educator

And we’re working on getting a fourth.

The Story

This series has been on break for a couple of months. But we’re back. With this conversation, we’ll explore these questions: Can we make art that changes people’s lives, art that actually creates new ways of living, creates new cultural structures? And if so, how?

Here is a background idea: I may walk into a museum and see a set of beautiful drawings. They might be engaging, they might be breathtaking. Perhaps they might change my life, but most likely, beyond providing some moments of powerful imagery, they won’t change much. I will leave the museum and go on with my day, and eventually the drawings, as good as they are, will be forgotten or at least pushed to the back of my consciousness. 

I see a huge amount of art as being that way, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Most art does not set out to change the world. And it shouldn’t. I do think that all art should change the artist’s life in some way, but for the audience, I wouldn’t necessarily expect that.

I’m wondering, however, whether or not there is art that can change lives on a mass scale, can deeply change ways in which large numbers of people look at the world, and possibly build whole new cultural structures. I don’t know how much art there is that does those things, and I’m not even sure that these are proper requests to make of art. But it does seem that we desperately need to create shifts in how the world works that are both radical and humane. And my question is: do artists have a role to play in creating those shifts?

Come and talk about it.

The Guests in Detail

Janeil Engelstad is an affiliate artist at the Social Practice Art Research Center at the University of California Santa Cruz and the Founding Director of Make Art with Purpose (MAP), an organization that produces interdisciplinary projects addressing social and environmental concerns around the globe. These projects have addressed and led to changes in government policy and regulations and often create a place for individuals and groups who do not have social agency or access to creative opportunities to express their identity, experiences and points of view. Her process for this work, which can be as valuable as the outcome, involves embedding herself in communities, extensive research, collaboration, and building coalitions between universities, government agencies, NGOs and others. Engelstad’s projects and art work have been exhibited and produced in partnership with ArtMargins / MIT, Aurora, California Museum of Photography, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Dallas Museum of Art, Hyde Park Art Center, New York City Department of Transportation’s Art Program, New York City Public Library, Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), International Center of Photography, Stanica Žilina-Záriečie, Whitebox and others. She has contributed essays to numerous publications including Urban Public Art: Community Involvement and Civic Engagment (Rowan & Littlefield), Transmission (Art Words Press), Dallas Morning News, Temporary Art Review and EUTOPIA. Her podcast, The MAP Radio Hour, conversations at the intersection of art, design and science is hosted by Creative Disturbances and ARTECA / MIT. A Fulbright Scholar (Slovakia 2006), Engelstad has taught at universities throughout North America and Europe.

John E. Perkins, PhD in Organizational Change, began his personal studies of social change early as a reaction to growing up in the racist, segregated South. In the fourth grade, he independently studied the people and strategies of the leaders of the abolitionist movement using the resources in his high school library. Bookmarking this lifelong curiosity about effective change, he spent a week in 2013 at the Library of Congress researching how Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson succeeded in integrating Major League Baseball. Along the way he studied for two years the strategies and tactics employed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

His personal activism has focused on changing policy and practices at many levels of the systems of this society. At the federal and international level he worked with the American Friends Service Committee to design and deliver workshops to the public on how international negotiations and agreements worked. At the federal, state, and local government levels he served for seven years on the steering committee of the Tobacco Free Washington Coalition. This coalition had multiple successes including laying the groundwork for the statewide clean indoor air referendum.

His current activism focuses on bringing certainty and stability to tenants’ rents through Rent Certainty legislation. 

Through all of this activism, Perkins places the artist within and by choice and profession at the center. Sustained activism for him is never against anything, it’s for a way of common living that at times can be only sustained by our imagining it. We need our artist selves to imagine and hold on to that vision and skilled impassioned artists to bring the vision alive for everyone.

In his essay on Egalisharianism™, Perkins shows how the poet Rainier Maria Rilke consciously used his artist imagination to stay outside the German war mania during WW I. ( , pp 9-12)

Tonya Lockyer was until this year the Executive/Artistic Director of Velocity, Seattle’s premier arts center and essential incubator dedicated to contemporary dance and movement-based art. Lockyer oversaw the significant artistic expansion of Velocity including: the development of Velocity’s first humanities programs, initiating an Artist-in-Residence program; commissioning and developing more than forty new works of performance, installation and film; and the presentation of over a hundred contemporary performances by established and emerging artists including zoe | juniper, Keith Hennessy, Faye Driscoll, Jennifer Monson, Ralph Lemon, Miguel Gutierrez, Amy O’Neal, Danielle Agami.

As an educator Lockyer has taught internationally with a focus on her research at the intersections of performance, embodiment and social action. Lockyer has been an Affiliated Faculty Member of Cornish College of the Arts since 2001. She has taught Art & Social Justice, Interdisciplinary Collaboration, Movement Analysis, Somatics; as well as Dance Technique, Choreography, Improvisation, History, and Choreographic Culture since 1960. In 2010, Lockyer coordinated Cornish’s yearlong, citywide Merce Cunningham Project. Her course “Live Art and Choreographic Culture Since 1960″ was an inaugural course of the Center for Performance Studies at The University of Washington. She is published in international journals, exhibition catalogues and the book Vu du Corps: Lisa Nelson Movement et Perception. Her essay “Quiet Riot: Modern Dance as Embodied Feminism” is required reading in the curriculums of Texas Women’s University and Cornish College of the Arts.

Lockyer is an accomplished artist with more than twenty-years experience commissioned and presenting her work internationally. She has received awards and commissions from Arts International, The Canada Council, The Banff Center, Artist Trust and On the Boards among others, for projects including inter-cultural collaborations, 24-hour improvisations, and large-scale site-specific performances. She holds an MFA from The University of Washington, is a Certified Movement Analyst, and participated in the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance/Wesleyan.

The Next Conversation: “Innovation”

Event Date: Tuesday, December 11, from 7:30 to 9:00 pm. Admission is free. Tell your friends.

Location: Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle

The Summary

This time, we’re talking about innovation, how we create and re-create the world around us. Read on below for details. And note the slight change in time, 7:30 rather than the regular 7:00.

The Guests (See below for bios)

Janet Galore, creative director, designer, artist

Demi Raven, oil painter, firmware developer, maker

Elizabeth Scallon, head of WeWork Labs, Seattle

Thomas Deuel, neuroscientist, neurologist, musician

The Story

We’re exploring innovation, the process of coming up with new tools, new products, new ways of doing and making, and often, new ways of thinking and creating. But what exactly is innovation? It’s one of those terms that cries out for definition. Is it the same thing as invention, or is it something completely different? How does the act of discovery factor in? We tend to identify innovation with positive change. Is it always so? How can innovation create a negative effect?

Jon Gertner has done a lot of thinking about innovation, especially in terms of the many products and technologies that Bell Labs developed through the 20th Century. Gertner writes: 

So how did the leadership at Bell Labs define innovation? It was not simply a discovery or an invention. On the contrary, innovation defined the lengthy and wholesale transformation of an idea into a technological product, or process, meant for widespread practical use. Almost by definition, a single person, or even a single group, could not alone create an innovation. The task was too variegated and involved. The innovation process usually involved frustration and failures. It required time, money and sometimes decades of painstaking work. But in the end, a true innovation had scale and impact. It replaced an existing technology with something that was demonstrably better, or cheaper or both.

This definition focuses on technology. But innovation also appears across a number of endeavors, from science and art to the nature of government and human social intercourse.

Seattle and King County, for example, are both widely known for being not just early adopters of public art programs, but for also pioneering new financing models and creating innovative procedures for selecting, siting, and making the art.

It’s a process that has, for better or worse, formed the city we live in. Over the past decades, Seattle has been arguably a city uniquely driven by innovation. Most of the major industries here got their boost from some level of innovation: Boeing and the development of the commercial jetliner, Microsoft and Amazon with a series of revolutions in what we do with computers, even down to such companies as REI and Nordstrom, as innovators in the ostensibly simple act of buying and selling clothing.

Then there’s the whole question of innovation in art; what does the introduction of new materials, technologies, and techniques do, or not do, for art? Are we a center for innovation in the arts? Or not?

Come and talk about it.

The Guests in Detail

Demi Raven is an oil painter, firmware developer, and maker. He has been an active part of the visual arts community in Seattle for over twenty years. Demi was an early member of the visionary SOIL Artist Cooperative, where he spent nearly six years developing, curating, exhibiting, and co-managing the gallery. In the late 1990s he was a founding editor and writer for RedHeaded StepChild (1999-2001), a local periodical devoted to the review and discussion of the emerging art community in Seattle. In 2006, Demi was a finalist in the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition and exhibited for six months at the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Demi has been a firmware developer for over 15 years, designing and prototyping a number of new consumer hardware products. He currently is a manager and lead engineer at Amazon Prime Air. You can see more about Demi’s artwork at

Janet Galore is a creative director, designer, and artist. She holds a BS degree in pure mathematics from the UW, where she continued with three years of graduate studies in mathematics. Her early career was spent in start-ups designing for emerging technologies at Zombie VR game studios and freelancing for new ventures. She animated dead fish for a few years as co-creator of the surrealistic FishBar series, producing and directing some of the first streaming media on the Internet at Honkworm International. She spent 10 years at Microsoft working in the Strategic Prototyping group at Microsoft Research, and is now a creative director at Amazon working on future user experiences. Janet has co-curated a number of art exhibitions and continues to create her own art in film, animation, and conceptual works that blend digital and physical experiences. You can see more about Janet’s work at

(Janet and Demi own a private art studio called The Grocery on North Beacon Hill in Seattle. The studio is used as a project-oriented creative space where they host occasional pop-up art exhibitions, film screenings, workshops, dance, music performances, and other creative activities. The building has deep roots in the community, born as a corner grocery store that served the neighborhood from 1929 through the late 1990s. They seek to support and incubate creative endeavors that give voice to and enrich the local community.)

Elizabeth Scallon is the Head of WeWork Labs, Northwest. WeWork Labs is a global entrepreneurship program connecting global innovation hubs, while providing fierce local support for startups and entrepreneurs.
Previously Elizabeth lead CoMotion Labs at the University of Washington, a multi-industry, multiple location incubator system hosting over 90 startups from both inside and outside the University of Washington community.
She holds a Global Executive MBA from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, Walsh School of Foreign Service, and ESADE’s Business School, along with a BS degree in biochemistry and a BA degree in humanities from Seattle University.

Thomas Deuel, the director of the DeuelingThumbs StudioLab, is a neuroscientist, musician, sound artist, and neurologist.  The creation of the StudioLab reflects his desire to combine his interests and skills in understanding brain physiology with those of music composition and sound art, to re-enable patients with motor disability to create music again for healing.

He is a staff Neurologist and Clinical Neurophysiologist at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, WA.  He is also Acting Assistant Professor at the School of Music and DXARTS at the University of Washington, where he is the Director of the Art & Brain Laboratory.  He holds both an M.D., as well as a Ph.D in Neurobiology, from Harvard Medical School and M.I.T., in addition to a certificate in Jazz Studies from New England Conservatory.

The Next Conversation: “Language”

Event Date: Tuesday, October 16, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Admission is free. Tell your friends.

Location: Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle


The Summary

This time, we’ll be going talking about the power of language. Read on below for details. 

The Guests 

You’re the guests for this one.


The Story

Every so often, we like to do a conversation without invited guests. The number of attendees is usually smaller, say 10 to 15 people rather than the 40 or so who might come of a regular conversation. 

In these smaller conversations we get a good chance for more intimate discussion, and more possibilities for drilling in on specific questions.

This time, we want to talk about language. We want to go into its power and potentials, into the ways in which a turn of phrase or a way of naming something can have huge ramifications for the ways in which we think, and conceive of who we are.

A number of people I know have been thinking a lot lately about political language, especially the propaganda potentials for naming and for repetition of lies. Trump’s arrival on the national scene, of course, has accelerated the conversation, as have the ways in which language played into the Kavanaugh hearings.

But the power of language transcends politics, becoming a foundational way in which we make culture and define ourselves. 

Lately I’ve been researching the history of thinking about the interactions between art, science, technology, and society. In looking at that, I came across historian Guy Ortolano writing about British literary critic F.R. Leavis. Leavis, who was prominent in the 1950s and 1960s, was key to discussions at the time about interactions and edges between science and literature. In Ortolano’s analysis, this stands out: For Leavis, Ortolano writes, “knowledge did not exist ‘out there’ in nature waiting to be discovered, but rather was a creative achievement realized through language.”

Come and talk about how we create knowledge, and a lot of other things, through language.

The Next Conversation: “Privilege, Power, and #MeToo”

Event Date: Tuesday, September 18, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Admission is free. Tell your friends.

Location: Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle

To link to this announcement, do so at


The Summary

This time, we’ll be going into some of the issues behind the #MeToo movement. Read on below for details. 

The Guests (see guest bios below)

Michelle de la Vega, Guest Moderator, artist, activist

Elliat Graney-Saucke, documentary filmmaker, organizer

Sarah Kavage, artist, urban planner, organizer

Tariqa Waters, artist, curator, mother, entrepreneur

Sydney Brownstone, reporter


The Story

We’re back after a summer hiatus. 

This time, we want to look at some of the issues around the #MeToo revelations: what they mean, where they come from, how people are dealing with them. This past summer, after months of revelations around the United States and beyond, these issues rose to the surface in Seattle, and especially in the art, music, and restaurant/bar worlds. They came with the story that Sydney Brownstone broke on KUOW about allegations of sexual misconduct and assault against Dave Meinart. That was followed by a second story a few weeks later, with a total of 11 women making accusations against Meinart, a prominent music producer and restauranteur in Seattle.

But that was only a small part of the story. A number of women have told me over the years about the abuse, assault, and harassment they’ve faced in Seattle, and it struck me that the subject would be a good topic for a broad conversation. I’ve asked artist and activist Michelle de la Vega to be the guest curator and moderator. I’ve been looking at whether or not this is conversation should specifically focus on the details of #MeToo, or should look at broader questions of power, privilege, and identity. We think that it needs to do both.

It’s hugely difficult and complex topic, with many facets, many gray areas, and many, many questions. Come and talk about it.

One note: at the beginning of each conversation, I usually lay out a few basic ground rules for the evening. But I almost never mention ethical action and good behavior, since the assumption is that the people in the room are mature, considerate, and engaged people. And for the most part, that has proven true. For this conversation, both Michelle and I want to ensure that the conversation be an opportunity for both women and men to ask questions, listen, make observations, and generally conduct a useful inquiry. At the same time, as the subject matter may be personally or politically triggering for those conversing and attending, we want to guarantee that the conversation be a place of safety, support, and consideration.

The Guests in Detail

Michelle de la Vega is a multidisciplinary, installation, and community engagement artist in Seattle. Her large-scale ventures endeavor to push social and aesthetic boundaries through instigating dialogue, practicing conceptually driven materiality and community investment on a wide scale. Michelle’s social engagement model deeply integrates community groups into the generative processes and exhibitions of her cross-disciplinary installations. Her work includes sculpture, immersive environmental design, video, collage, photography, choreography, text, and partnership building through project based community engagement. She was recently named one of the Artists of the Year by City Arts Magazine. She is a teaching artist at Path With Art, is creating a women’s art program at the King County Jail in collaboration with The Organization for Prostitution Survivors, serves on the King County 4Culture Public Art Advisory Committee, and is a beekeeper.

Elliat Graney-Saucke is a documentary filmmaker, cultural researcher, networker, curator and innovative organizer. Her work is focused on cultural equity and intergenerational knowledge exchange. She is currently Owner and Creative Director of Elliat Creative LLC, where she is leading video research and production for the NEA funded Knowledge Building Initiative with the National Performance Network (New Orleans). For the past two years, Elliat has been been President of Seattle Documentary Association and in 2018 she was a nominated SIFF Fly Film Challenge Filmmaker and coach with Artists Up (Office of Arts and Culture / 4Culture). Elliat is from the PNW and returned to Seattle 3 years ago after living in Berlin, Germany for 7 years, where she gained an MA in World Heritage Studies and where she also made a lot of really gay performance art.

Sarah Kavage ( is a Seattle-based visual artist, urban planner, and cultural organizer whose work explores place, ecology, and landscape. Her work in the public realm uses large scale gestures to create a platform for dialogue and interaction. In 2015, she co-created and produced Duwamish Revealed (, a summerlong site specific exhibition along Seattle’s Duwamish River. She is currently working as an artist in residence for the Sound Transit public art program. Kavage has a Masters’ Degree in Urban Planning from the University of Washington and was selected in 2015 by Seattle Magazine as one of Seattle’s Most Influential People.

Tariqa Waters is an artist, curator, mother, entrepreneur and the driving force behind the shapeshifting venue Martyr Sauce (

Sydney Brownstone is an East Coast-raised, Seattle-based reporter. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2016 for her coverage of an elaborate porn scam in Seattle, which eventually led to a police investigation, four formal rape charges, and a sexual assault conviction. Sydney’s current beat is criminal justice, but she regularly covers sexual assault and environmental issues, too. When she isn’t reporting, she enjoys playing music, hiking in the mountains, or isolating herself in her room to play several hours of Stardew Valley.

The Next Conversation: “Asking Questions for the 21st Century”


Event Date: Wednesday, June 13, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. Admission is free. Tell your friends.

Location: Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle

The Summary

This time we’re having a conversation with ten Chilean artists and scientists who are in Seattle for an inter-hemispheric and cross-disciplinary exchange. Read on below for details. (And note the different day and time from the norm for this series.)

The Guests (see guest bios below)

Marcelo Velasco, biologist, media artist and ecological economist

Marianela Camaño, architect, singer, and costume and set designer

José Manuel de la Parra, filmmaker and graphic artist

Javiera Constanzo, wildlife medical veterinary, illustrator

Thomas Kramer, agronomist, wildlife conservationist and photographer

Beatriz Buttazzoni, artist, visual communicator

Fernando Mejías, science journalist

Miguel Bolt, multidisciplinary visual artist

Nicole García, graphic designer, visual communicator

Pablo Savaria, biologist, science communicator

Faculty Team

Fernanda Oyarzún, biologist, science communicator, scientific illustrator and sculptor

Nelida Pohl,  biologist, ecologist, science communication educator

Belen Gallardo, biologist, artist, ecologist 

Fredy Diaz, biologist, educator and media artist

The Story

Usually we put the conversations to bed for the summer. But this opportunity was too good to pass up. 

Genevieve Tremblay came to me a couple of weeks ago and suggested that we do a conversation with the ten Chilean artists and scientists who are in Seattle for the pilot program of “ASKXXI: Arts + Science Knowledge-Building and Sharing in the XXI Century.” She’s the US Executive and Academic Program Director of ASKXXI, working with three Chilean organizing partners.

The project “is a pioneering exchange program fostering US-Chile cooperation and collaboration in arts, emerging digital/virtual technologies, and the ecological sciences. Our 2018 pilot program is offered as a Certificate Diploma by the UCSC, Concepción, Chile and is sponsored, in part, by the US Embassy, Chile.”

The fourteen participants from Chile are in the Pacific Northwest for three weeks. They’re spending a week at the University Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories, then they’ll have training in digital, virtual, and mixed reality technologies and data visualization in Seattle. They’ll be taking tours of science and data laboratories, tech and VR companies, and artists’ studios and cultural sites around Seattle, with ecology field trips and more.

And through these weeks, they’ll be asking a lot of questions: How do scientists and artists approach observation? How can we compare scientists’ and artists’ processes? What are the challenges of coastal environments in the Pacific Northwest…and how do they relate to these same environments of Chile? How do scientist and artists explore a changing world in the XXI century? How can we live creativity courageously in arts and science? And a lot more.

We’ll be talking with them about those questions. And we’ll be looking at other fundamental questions around art, creativity, rigorous inquiry, and the work needed to build the future.

Come. This will be fascinating.

The Guests in Detail

Marcelo Velasco: I am a biologist from the University of Chile with a master’s degree in Media Arts from the same University. I also obtained a master’s degree in Ecological Economics from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. As an experimental biologist, I worked in neurosciences, studying the visual system and magnetic perception in birds. In ecological economics I worked for 7 years in sustainability and mining. In recent years, and starting from my time in the Media Arts, I am interested in exploring critically the potential synergies between art and science. In 2015 I made a presentation with Ignacio Nieto in Montreal, Canada about the influence of second-order cybernetics in neuroscience, politics and art in Chile in the 70s. In 2016, together with Nieto, I published the book “Ciencia Abierta : “Open Science: Singularity and Irruption in the Frontiers of Artistic Practice” (Adrede editorial), a research that addresses the work done by artists who use scientific methodologies for their work. 

Marianela Camaño: I am an architect, faculty at Universidad de Concepción, Chile and singer, I have ventured into the illustration and creation of ceramic pieces, which some say, are the characters I draw but in three dimensions. The scenic is always present in my life; creation and characterization of characters, costumes, hats and masks, together with the scenic space and lighting, since I work as a set designer and costume designer for operas and musical theater, where architecture, music and design are connected. The integration of the arts and sciences is present in my work as art director of the biennial 0 – Art & Science to be held in Concepción at the end of 2018 and in other projects that I have developed by making available the architect’s ability to be an interpreter of a reality, make it visible and materialize it. Dreaming realities and building them is one of my greatest strengths, also building them in the Latin American reality, where scenarios are not always the most auspicious in terms of available economic resources. In this space, creativity emerges as a tributary and my appreciation for processes more than instantaneous ideas … I am interested in learning from science about organizations and processes that are more complex and sustained over time. 

José Manuel de la Parra: I am an audiovisual producer and graphic artist, I have worked in fiction and documentary projects and for some years I have approached the world of science, in individual projects and interdisciplinary collaborations. At a time when the image is an axis where culture orients, I study and work in different formats, between photography, illustration and video, looking for images that allow us to approach nature from different perspectives, where our heritage, our culture, find a space in common with the new ways of understanding the world that scientific research offers us. A long road that I am just beginning, one image at a time. 

I’m a filmmaker and graphic artist, I’ve worked in fiction and documentary projects and since a few years ago I’ve got closer to the world of scientific research, in my personal work and in interdisciplinary collaborations. In a time where the image is an axis in which the culture spins in, I study and work in various formats, between photography, illustration and video, searching for images that allow us to get closer to nature from different perspectives, where our heritage, our culture, could get the chance to find common ground with the new ways of understanding the world that science provides. A long way ahead, indeed. 

Javiera Constanzo: I am a professional medical veterinary dedicated to work with wildlife as an independent consultant. I am vice president of the NGO “Vida Nativa” and member of the emergency committee of AMEVEFAS. I am also an illustrator by trade, and I have dedicated the last years to the scientific illustration of fauna for various publishing projects. My objectives in this area are to support the generation of scientific work with descriptive images of fauna and, through platforms such as social networks, books, exhibitions and teaching materials disseminate scientific knowledge. I want to use illustrations as a tool to improve the communication of science towards to the general public. I have written scientific articles for magazines, collaborated in research mainly related to native herpetofauna and supported the rescue of animals as a wildlife coordinator during the massive fires that took place in Chile in 2017. Finally, I have also worked as an illustrator for video games, comics, drawings for NGOs, popular science books and for social networks. 

Thomas Kramer: I am an agronomist, from the Catholic University of Chile and a master’s degree in biodiversity, conservation and management from the University of Oxford. My PhD thesis was dedicated to determine the role of nature photographers in the protection of biodiversity, through interviews with some of the best Chilean exponents of the “Conservation Photography”, scientific – artistic discipline formally established only 13 years ago. As a disseminator of science, I have authored the photo book “Fauna Chilena” (2015) and co-author of the children’s work “Superanimals of Chile” (2015). I am currently writing 2 other books, which will focus on bringing wildlife closer to new generations, based on attractive artistic – technological proposals and rigorous scientific precision. During 2018, I will be implementing an innovative model of biological monitoring through trap cameras, supported and financed by actors linked to tourism of special interests, specifically those that offer programs of sighting of wild fauna. The project will be developed in the regions of Los Lagos and Magallanes, and so far has the support of 3 private owners willing to cooperate in its realization. 

Beatriz Buttazzoni: I am an artist and candidate for a Master’s in Communication (UDP / UPF). My ideal is to learn every day what did not come in the manual. I am director of the company “El Viento”, a company dedicated to animation and communication consultancy, with special interest in science. I have participated in research dissemination projects, aimed at the general public in the fields of astronomy, ecology and biochemistry. I have also created, directed and produced animation projects for open television and web. I am also a university professor in animation and film careers. I am interested in continuing to train in scientific communication and work in multidisciplinary groups, developing projects that contribute to the taste for science, preservation and environmental awareness and in time, hopefully, add and positively effect on public policies in these matters. 

Fernando Mejías: I am a journalist from the Universidad Austral de Chile, I have a Diploma in Political Studies and a postgraduate in Scientific Culture from the OEI and I am currently in charge of Communications at the University of Concepcion Biotechnology Center CBUdeC. I have more than 11 years of experience in Science Communication in universities, research centers and technology transfer and innovation projects. I am a member and was part of the national board of the Association of Journalists and Professionals for Science Communication ACHIPEC, who has organized scientific outreach activities in streets and squares of Concepción and surroundings, together with local organizations and young researchers from the Biobío and the country. In the educational field, the CBUdeC has generated workshops, talks and collaboration agreements with public and private educational establishments in the Biobío, which have culminated in practical activities and classroom interventions with a focus on science education and interdisciplinary intersections between art and science. Since 2009, I have coordinated the cycles of Scientific Cafes in Concepción and the Biobío Region, in conjunction with PAR Explora Biobío and the Extension Directorate of the University of Concepción. I also constantly participate in regional media, as a panelist in the “Science” section of the TVU TV Community Content program ( and also in the “Dialogue with Science” radio program of the University of Concepción; in addition to managing presence in local and national media for various research projects associated with the CBUdeC. 

Miguel Bolt: I am a multidisciplinary visual artist with training in Graphic Arts and Ceramics, environmental thematic work and observation of nature. I am a co-founder of Magma Lab, an art and design laboratory. I participate in the 7M2 collective, a multidisciplinary group of art, music and architecture, as a collective we have a contemporary art gallery that also serves as a platform for various forms of art and culture. My interests are very diverse: I have always sought to establish links with disciplines and spaces different from those of the art world, I have been part of various indigenous and peasant encounters, I participated in several versions of the indigenous art biennial in Ecuador, I have worked on projects of music, design, architecture, bio-construction, appropriate technologies and agriculture. As an artist, I am interested in communicating a holistic vision of the planet and of knowledge, raising awareness about conservation issues, biodiversity, territory and culture through an attractive and binding visual language. 

Nicole García: I’m a graphic designer, but I feel more comfortable as a “visual communicator.” Throughout my career I have developed a special interest in the visualization of data and in how to show those things that are not so quantifiable, that we would apparently say are subjective or sensitive. In this way, mapping information is rather an experience of gathering information, which makes sense with the nature of the data. I usually take analogous paths to develop visuals, and this has made my path move away from design and be closer to the arts. At the same time I have worked on museography and exhibition design and publishing, serving in some institutions and museographic agencies. 

Pablo Savaria: I’m a biologist, but often I like to see myself more as a scientific “public-information officer.” Currently I work as Head of Communications at the Millennium Nucleus of Invasive Salmonids (INVASAL). On the right hand, my job involves meeting and coordinating research and science communication activities with governmental and non-governmental agencies, municipal local authorities, community leaders, national press and other research institutions. On the other hand, I’ve worked designing, producing and executing science exhibitions and conference-like events both in rural areas and big cities of Southern Chile. I haven’t quit research and still enjoy coming along to scientific expeditions, especially those involving fishing and sampling in great lakes and rivers. In science my main experience is on freshwater fish ecology, with particular fascination on anatomy. My motivation is to facilitate the public understanding of science to empower people towards decision making in the social sphere. To do that, I’m exploring traditional and emergent technologies to allow people connect with each other and the natural world. 

ASKXXI Faculty Team (Chile)

Fernanda Oyarzún is a PhD in Biology, University of Washington (USA), Fulbright Scholar,  Fellow of the Program for Interdisciplinary Biology (UW Bothell), has a Certificate in Editorial Design from Universidad de Chile and is trained in Scientific Illustration (UW). She is a biologist, science communicator, scientific illustrator and sculptor, who works in both worlds —science and art— exploring the life, forms and evolution of marine biodiversity. Her scientific research, from which she also draws artistic inspiration, focuses on the evolution of life history strategies, larval ecology, reproduction and plasticity of marine invertebrates. She is interests on the design, development and implementation of interdisciplinary educational programs, pedagogical tools and learning environments that will increase the interaction among scientists, artists, legislators, educators and the general public. 

Nélida Pohl, Communications Advisor at 6 Senses, is a Biologist with a MSc in Ecology from Universidad de Chile, a PhD in Biology from University of California, Irvine, and a MSc in Science Communication from Imperial College, London. She is a full time science communication educator and practitioner since 2011. As an educator, she leads a Certificate Diploma in Science Communication at Universidad de Chile, teaches undergraduate courses and workshops, and seminars in Chile and abroad. She’s interested in raising awareness regarding environmental issues, the training of new science communicators, widening the appeal of science to reach new audiences, and the many interactions between science and art.

Belén Gallardo is a collaborator of the IEB, biologist with an MSc in biological sciences and PhD candidate studying at the Department of Ecology of Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, graduating in 2019. Her areas of expertise include mediterranean and temperate forest ecosystems, especially plant-soil interactions, and graduate and extension curriculum development. She has extensive experience coordinating courses on ecology, the environment and its global changes, such as Principles of Ecology, Community and Ecosystems Ecology, and Biological Invasions. She organized the Forest Ecology course at the IEB’s Estacion Biologica Senda Darwin (Chiloe Island) for three consecutive years, and the Botanical Illustration course at the same venue since 2015. She’s also part of the team that is putting together the first Marine Illustration course that will take place in October 2017.

Fredy Díaz is a biologist with an MSc in Biochemistry, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Medicine, Universidad Catolica de la Santísima Concepción, in Concepción, Chile. He is the director of the Interactive Biology (BiLab) Lab at the same institution. BiLab is a creative space where students make original cartoons, digital animations and interactive objects as tools for the teaching and learning of biological subjects.

The Next Conversation: “Artists as Activists”

Event Date: Tuesday, April 17, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Admission is free. Tell your friends.

Location: Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle


The Summary

We’re coming into the 2018 campaign season, and it’s going to be an all hands on deck scenario. It’s pretty apparent that artists may have a unique role to play in politics. And in the face of the recent King County Council power grab with 4Culture and other issues, the need to better organize locally becomes increasingly apparent.

Read on below for details.

The Guests (see guest bios below)

Julie Chang Schulman, Hip Hop artist, community organizer

Laura Dean, artist, designer, organizer

And we’re working on getting one or two more.


The Story

This time we’re revisiting the topic of art and politics (March 2016: “Art and Politics”) with a deeper focus to the actual work that artists can do in the political sphere. 

It’s key that many of us must learn the everyday skills of effective political engagement: canvassing, telephoning, fundraising, motivating. But artists, by the very nature of their training and their work in worlds of imagination, also have special powers to do things that can have outsized effects in politics. Whether by creating effective graphics, making powerful video, or doing good street theater, artists can have the ability to reach people. One of the clearest examples is Shepard Fairey’s “Obama Hope” image. It became the unofficial visual of the Obama campaign and has spawned countless spin-offs. Or Eminem’s Mosh video from 2004 comes to mind. Locally, so do ACED’s hip hop events in support of equitable development. There are countless other examples. 

While we are focused on the make-or-break nature of the 2018 national elections, it’s worth noting that any political power, even on the national scale, comes from effective local organizing. The intransigence of our county government, in issues ranging from the new youth jail to the power grab at 4Culture, makes good local organizing critically important. 

Finally, a bit of soapbox. One of the truisms about democracy, or even a state that makes any substantial claim toward being a democracy, is that the people get the government they deserve. That’s not just a matter of who gets voted into office. Instead, it’s more about how the citizens of that democracy live their lives.

I’ve heard too many people say “I need to take a break from politics,” or “I’m burned out on politics,” as if politics is something that we can leave behind, or turn off and on. There’s the old phrase, “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” (first use credited to many people, including Irish politician John Philpott Curran in 1790 and American abolitionist Wendell Phillips in 1852). But I’m afraid that the phrase is incorrect, or at least only partly accurate. Vigilance is easy, especially in a day of information overload. In fact, excessive vigilance may be what’s driving some of us to burnout. What’s more important is engagement. It’s simple: the responsibility of living in a democracy is engagement, locally and nationally, staying involved as a way of life, and maybe a way of art.

Come and talk about it.


The Guests in Detail

Laura Dean studied psychology in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she worked and volunteered with at-risk youth. In 2001, she moved to Seattle to explore how her creative interests could be used to cultivate positive social change. While a security guard at SAM and the Frye, she taught herself animation and web design and then moved to San Francisco to pursue a MA in interaction design. In 2008, she organized a rural county in Wisconsin for Obama before returning to Seattle. Since then she’s worked as an animator, illustrator, hack coder and most predominantly a User Experience Designer, on multiple projects with creative agencies and start-ups, while volunteering for progressive causes on the side. Currently she’s a Director of User Experience with MyGrove, a small start-up based out of Brooklyn. She was a volunteer organizer with the Bernie campaign. For her, it’s not about winning one election; it‘s about changing the trajectory of US politics.

Julie C, also known as Julie Chang Schulman, is an explosive lyricist, educator, and Hip Hop community organizer. Emceeing since her early teens, Julie C hails from the legendary Alpha Platoon crew of Seattle, a dynamic underground collective that has produced some of the most influential and stylistically advanced artists and groups in the Northwest. She is an organizer with the Artist Coalition for Equitable Development.