Arts and Entertainment

Lecture series is the talk of the town

Wildlife photographer and writer  Paul Bannick is among the speakers scheduled to make presentations in this year’s “Arts & Humanities” series. - Courtesy Photo
Wildlife photographer and writer Paul Bannick is among the speakers scheduled to make presentations in this year’s “Arts & Humanities” series.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

Vashon Allied Arts is gearing up to present the third installment of its popular Arts & Humanities Series, and tickets are selling fast.

The ambitious series, coordinated on a volunteer basis by Islanders Mike and Gerry Feinstein, is a can-do story of how two people, with one very good idea, can make a difference.

The series was born a few years ago, when Gerry scheduled a meeting with Molly Reed, Vashon Allied Arts’ executive director, to suggest that VAA should consider presenting lectures by writers and other esteemed figures in the arts.

For Gerry, the meeting ended on a positive but unexpected note — she was recruited by Reed to spearhead the new series.

“I went home to Mike, and told him, ‘You and I are going to develop a lecture series,’” she recalled with a laugh.

The Feinsteins, who moved to the Island in 1995 after working on the East Coast for many years, seem well suited to the task.

While living in Washington, D.C., they had been devotees of the museum lecture series presented by the Smithsonian Institution and avid fans of the PEN/Faulkner lectures held at the Folger Shakespeare Library. And after moving to Vashon, they regularly hopped on the ferry to attend talks presented by Seattle Arts and Lectures.

Both Mike and Gerry also have had long careers writing, editing and producing publications for businesses, associations and universities, so they bring well-honed logistical and communications skills to the process of presenting the lecture series.

But beyond all that, the series seems much more than a sideline or a mere volunteer stint for the Feinsteins — more like an unexpected passion in their lives that has allowed them to make connections with people they admire and simultaneously give back to their community.

“It’s a big job, but we’ve never done anything this much fun,” Gerry said.

They say they have been thrilled by Islanders’ responses to the series and the fact that it has been a sold-out success story.

“Somewhere along the way we struck a chord,” Mike said, adding that he’s been gratified by the way he and Gerry are now often approached by Islanders with ideas for the series.

“This is the way we know it’s working,” Gerry said. “It’s become self-perpetuating.”

Gerry and Mike said that their audiences are comprised of people of all ages, and the series has attracted an audience base so devoted that they have received phone calls from Islanders who want to know the schedule in advance so they can plan their vacations around the talks.

“That’s the ultimate compliment,” Gerry said.


Vashon Allied Arts’ 2011 Arts & Humanities Series lineup

This year’s series, held at the Blue Heron, boasts five Sunday evening talks and three Tuesday morning art talks by art historian Rebecca Albiani (two of the morning talks have already taken place).

A few season tickets are still available, and individual tickets for specific talks can also be purchased. Ticket prices vary; call 463-5131 or visit for more information.

Art historian Rebecca Albiani will discuss the Works Progress Administration’s effort in the 1930s to put American artists to work creating watercolor renderings of American folk art and the resulting treasure trove of images. 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Portland filmmaker Joanna Priestley will give an overview of animation as an art form and share insights about her own creative process as a director and producer of independent films. Priestley has crafted animated films about human rights, prisons, aging and many other provocative and timely subjects. 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13.

Painter, writer, teacher and art historian Kesler Woodward and wildlife photographer, lecturer and writer Paul Bannick will present “The Art of Seeing,” a talk about the art of interpreting the natural world. Woodward is a professor emeritus of art at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Bannick’s book, “The Owl and the Woodpecker,” is considered a classic, and he specializes in natural history with a focus on birds and habitat. 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 4.

Heather McHugh, a professor of creative writing at the University of Washington, and a McArthur “genius grant” winning poet, will present a talk titled “The Art of Numbers.” Find out the references behind that enigmatic title and learn more about McHugh’s own approach to poetry. 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12.

Master metalsmith Robert Ebendorf, a man Mike Feinstein described as “the father of found object jewelry” and whose work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Smithsonian Institution, will give a talk about the process and rationale behind his ingenious work.

While on Vashon, he’ll also lead a master class at Vashon High School with students of goldsmith Eric Heffelfinger. Ebendorf’s work will also be showcased in an exhibition at the Blue Heron Gallery. 7 p.m. Sunday, March 4.

Linda Hartzell, artistic director of Seattle Children’s Theatre, and Kurt Beattie, artistic director of A Contemporary Theatre, will talk about the value of theater as an art form and the cultural forces that have influenced the Northwest’s theatrical institutions. 7 p.m. Sunday, March 18.


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