Arts and Entertainment

A lecture series starts with a tale of madness

Tom Kizzia is the first speaker in VAA’s new Arts & Humanities Series.  - Courtesy Photo
Tom Kizzia is the first speaker in VAA’s new Arts & Humanities Series.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

Vashon Allied Arts will launch a new season of its popular Arts & Humanities Series at 7 p.m. Sunday with a talk by award-winning Anchorage Daily News journalist Tom Kizzia.

Kizzia will discuss his new book, “Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier.”

The book tells the fascinating and harrowing tale of a charismatic Alaskan settler named Papa Pilgrim, who in 2002 arrived with his wife and 15 children to settle deep in Alaska’s backcountry,  bulldozing through 13 miles of pristine wilderness to set up a homestead on protected land.

For Kizzia, what began as a newspaper chronicle of one family’s fight against the National Park Service soon morphed into an epic book about a cult-like family, led by an abusive and duplicitous man who presented himself as a God-fearing Christian, old-timey musician and self-sufficient mountain man. Papa Pilgrim, as it turned out, was actually a man named Robert Hale, who grew up the son of wealthy man in Texas, in a life threaded with strange connections to J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, Texas governor John Connolly, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Denver and the movie star Jack Nicholson.

Tickets to Kizzia’s talk are $18 and $22. Call 463-5131 to purchase them. There are also some tickets left for the entire Arts & Humanities series, costing $90 and $115.

Upcoming talks are “Dwelling in Words,” presented by Tree Swenson, director of the Richard Hugo House in Seattle and co-founder of the Copper Canyon Press, at 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10; “Traveling in the Wild,” presented by Joe Van Os, founder of Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris and TravelWild Expeditions, at 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 12; “Transforming Health Care,” presented by Gerry Greaney, a senior designer/researcher at the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation, at 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26; “The Visual Poetics of Joan Miró,” by art historian Rebecca Albiani, at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9; and “The Power of Story,” by Charles Johnson, emeritus professor of English at the University of Washington, on Sunday, March 9.

A sidebar series of art history talks by Rebecca Albiani will explore trailblazers in different art movements, including Gianlorenzo Bernini, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Dorothea Lange, Marion Post Wolcott and Isamu Noguchi. Those talks will take place at 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays, Nov. 5, Jan. 14, Feb. 4 and March 4.

Individual and series tickets are also available for Albiani’s series. For more information and to purchase tickets, call 463-5131 or visit

All the talks take place at the Blue Heron.



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