Arts and Entertainment

Islander wins prize for arts innovation

Eyvind Kang - Enrique Perez Photo
Eyvind Kang
— image credit: Enrique Perez Photo

Eyvind Kang, an Island-based composer and multi-instrumentalist, has won this year’s prestigious Arts Innovator Award, given by the Seattle non-profit, Artist Trust.

The award comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize.

Kang, a Vashon resident since 2003, was one of two recipients of the award; the other prize went to Seattle choreographer Pat Graney. The awards program is funded by The Dale and Leslie Chihuly Foundation and is meant to recognize Washington artists who originate new work, experiment with new ideas, take risks and push the boundaries in their respective fields.

Kang’s work seems a perfect fit for those criteria.

A classically trained musician, Kang creates music that is defined on his Wikipedia page as “a classical approach to jazz with punk, ambient and folk influences.” His ecumenical embrace of many different genres has led him to collaborate with musicians in Seattle, New York, Reykjavik, Bologna, Vienna and the Bay Area and pushed him to continue to hone his skills on the viola, violin, tuba, erhu, setar and all manner of other stringed instruments.

Along the way, he has worked with the likes of Laurie Anderson, Beck, Bill Frisell and many other noted musicians. He has also performed and recorded with his wife, composer and vocal artist Jessika Kenney, and worked on many film, theater and dance pieces.

Kang most recently performed on Vashon as part of “The Mystical Life of Rumi,” a concert put together by Kenney, and in December, he’ll release a new album, “With Visible Breath (I am Walking),” on the Ideologic Organ label.

Kang, reached Saturday, said he was still in a state of disbelief about winning such a prestigious prize. “I didn’t expect it at all,” he said. “It was a good shock.”

For Kang, the award has provided a measure of validation for his work.

“I’m more confident that (my work) has meaning in this world, that it’s not just sophism and having fun — that it helps the soul,” he said.

He has no special plans for the award money, he said, adding that he simply wants to continue composing, playing and practicing his art.

“There’s a quickening — things are getting deeper for me, somehow,” he said. “The subject matters that I’m interested in are opening up to me more lately, and great teachers have appeared. I’ve been doing so much studying, it’s hard to think I’m a professional artist — I just feel like a student. So there is a balance between that and doing my work, because if I don’t do my work, no one else is going to do anything like it.”


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