Talking it up: Writers, artists, historians converge for VAA’s lecture series

Award-winning author David Guterson will speak in February.  - Courtesy Photo
Award-winning author David Guterson will speak in February.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

A heaping helping of intellectual food for thought will be served up soon in Vashon Allied Arts’ popular Arts and Humanities lecture series.

The series of Sunday night talks, now in its fourth year, brings accomplished authors, journalists, visual artists and other cultural heavyweights to Vashon. This year, the series is expanding from five to six lectures, with a separate sidebar series of six Tuesday morning talks by noted art historian Rebecca Albiani.

The expansion, organizers note, came about after audience feedback and the standing-room only success of past editions of the series.

“It really says something about our audiences,” said Mike Feinstein, who organizes the series with his wife Geri Feinstein. “They are intellectually curious and inquisitive.”

For the 2012-13 season, the Feinsteins have invited speakers to examine a menu of topics, including contemporary and historical art, trends in filmmaking, the evolving news media landscape and the process of writing fiction.

The series will kick off on Oct. 7, when art historian Rebecca Albiani will preview Seattle Art Museum’s upcoming exhibition, “Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou in Paris.” The timely talk will take place just days before the show — a compendium of 125 works by 75 women artists created between 1909 and 2007 — opens at SAM.

Albiani has also been recruited to present five Tuesday morning talks about about “Masters of Color” — a closer look at the work of Paolo Veronese, Jan Vermeer, Hiroshige, Camille Pissarro and Wassily Kandinsky. Those talks start on Nov. 13.

“Rebecca’s talks are very accessible, and she has a wonderful sense of humor,” said Mike Feinstein. “Just as sheer entertainment, she is really great.”

Feinstein is also excited about a talk scheduled for Nov. 4, when best-selling author and journalist Blaine Harden will be interviewed by Islander Eugene Carlson about his work for PBS Frontline, The Economist, Time Magazine, The New York Times and The Washington Post. The pair will also discuss Blaine’s new book, “Escape from Camp 14,” an international bestseller about a prisoner’s escape from a North Korean gulag. Harden, a native Washingtonian and resident of Seattle, is also the author of the acclaimed book, “A River Lost,” an account of the Columbia River’s degradation.

On Jan. 13, veteran film critic Robert Horton will reflect on 2012 films and share perspectives on emerging filmmaking trends. Horton reviews films for the Everett Herald and KUOW, and also pens a popular blog, The Crop Duster.

The speaker on Feb. 10 — a “real coup,” according to Mike Feinstein — will be Bainbridge Island-based novelist, short story writer, poet, journalist and essayist David Guterson, winner of the prestigious PEN/Faulkner Award for his book “Snow Falling on Cedars.” Guterson will discuss the notion of purpose and value as it applies to fiction writing.

Veteran newsman Lester Crystal will share an insider’s view about how technological advances have influenced journalism and the resulting social and cultural implications in a talk scheduled for March 10. Crystal is a past president of NBC News and was also the executive producer of PBS NewsHour.

The series will conclude on March 24, when artists and world travelers Sabrina Knowles and Jenny Pohlman will discuss how they create unique sculptures inspired by their travels to developing nations.

For the Feinsteins, avid lecture-goers who have had long careers writing, editing and producing publications for businesses, associations and universities, the series is a labor of love. The treasure hunt of finding speakers, they said, is almost as exciting for them as the actual lectures.

They volunteer their services to Vashon Allied Arts to organize the series, and they both said their enthusiasm isn’t flagging after four years at the helm of the program.

“If it were a paid job, we’d say it was too much work,” said Mike. “But we think of it as a avocation — we think of it as something we do for fun.”


Tickets to Vashon Allied Arts’ Arts and Humanities series are selling fast. Prices vary for season tickets, individual tickets and Tuesday morning lecture series tickets. Call 463-5131 or visit for more information.


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