VCA: Our house, is a very, very fine house

The community has gained something more than just a place with the construction of the arts center.

  • Wednesday, August 7, 2019 10:09am
  • Opinion
Kevin Hoffberg (Courtesy Photo).

Kevin Hoffberg (Courtesy Photo).

On July 12, 13 and 14, our community — and it was indeed a community affair — joined hands with the Seattle Dance Collective and in the process, we put Vashon Center for the Arts on the national dance map.

This was a moon shot. And for three glorious days, we were the center of the dance universe. In the house Sunday afternoon were the current artistic director of Pacific Northwest Ballet, Peter Boal and the legendary founding artistic directors Kent Stowell and Francia Russell. These are dance royalty of the first tier, and they and our 1,148 guests were blown away by the experience of seeing world-class dance at VCA.

This was as true for the people who bought $75 seats as it was for the students who sat rapturous in their $10 seats and everyone in between.

During the week these wonderful young dancers were on the island, they stayed in local homes and bought their coffee at The Burton Coffee Stand and Minglement. One got his hair cut at James’ Hair Design.

They ate at The Hardware Store, May’s, La Biondo Farm, Gravy, Earthen and The Ruby Brink. They drank perry at Nashi and nibbled on nibbles from Bramble House. They became our resident dance company, and we became their family. Hundreds of people came from off-island to enjoy our island, watch world class dance in “our house” and support local businesses.

While all this was going on, VCA opened its second annual summer-long Vashon Summer Arts Fest to record sales. If you’ve somehow missed it, this is a celebration of Vashon art that features the work of 100 artists in 40 separate shows.

Our new partnership with Vashon Nature Center continues to bless VCA and our community.

Our formerly sad looking field now sits in tended repose, a welcome spot for community members and a living laboratory for our students and volunteers. Our campus is already home to nature center field activities, and we’re working together on combined education programming this fall.

Earlier this year, we hosted a young and amazing pianist named Vyacheslav Gryaznov. Everyone who came agreed it was a rapturous performance by a spectacularly talented young man (and he’ll be back next year). He told me then that our hall was one of the finest venues he’s ever played anywhere in the world, better even than Carnegie Hall. Every visiting performer who has played our building has had similarly good things to say, and that includes folks like Judy Collins, Matisyahu and kd lang (she loved playing in our building).

As you read this, we will be getting ready to welcome two seriously credentialed and talented Broadway musicians to our stage on Aug. 10: Christine Andreas and Marty Silvestri.

And let me be the first to start (and confirm) the rumor that in 2019, VCA will once again be home to the winter installment of Vashon Island Growers Association vital and fabulous Vashon Farmers Market.

I am as aware as anyone the range of feelings that surrounded the construction of our new building. Just a bit more than three years since we opened, I think it’s safe to say two things about what the community has as a result of that massive undertaking.

The first is a physical space that takes a back seat to few others in the region. We have a theater that is regarded by a growing group of world-class performers as a superb place to showcase their talent. We have over 4,000 square feet of first-class gallery space to showcase art of all sorts.

The second is that VCA is also a place. A place that draws guests to our island. A place that supports artistic and scientific inquiry. A place VIGA and the nature center can share with VCA as home. A place where the community can gather for a Cinco de Mayo celebration. A place of which we can all be proud because it is our place, our space, our house.

I believe we face two existential threats. The first is alienation from each other. The second is alienation from our environment. At VCA, we are committed to doing our part to address both.

Art, in all its forms, is one of the most direct and specific antidotes to the entropy of modernity that daily drives us apart. Through the arts, we learn to see through another’s eyes, feel what it’s like to dance in another’s shoes, to know the beating of two hearts as if they were one.

This desire to provide place and space, programming and education, gathering and sharing so that we can find each other through art and inquiry animates everything we’re doing at VCA.

In the words of Graham Nash, “Our house, is a very, very fine house” because we are turning our building more and more from space to place, a place that helps us see and celebrate what makes us Vashon and what makes us human.

— Kevin Hoffberg is the executive director of Vashon Center of the Arts.

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