In the coming four weeks, Vashon Center for the Arts will go big with a baker’s dozen of events including concerts, talks, dance presentations, and even an opera created just for children.
It’s all part of a push led by Allison Halstead Reid, who was recently named as the arts center’s new executive director, after serving in an interim capacity in the post since last August.
In an announcement of Halstead Reid’s hire, VCA officials cited that she was chosen in part because of a 30% increase in programming under her term as interim director. And in an interview with The Beachcomber shortly after her appointment, Halstead Reid praised the staff, board and volunteers of the organization, saying they had fully embraced the expansion of VCA’s program calendar under her watch.
“I don’t know what it was like in other transitions, but [this time] it felt like there was a force at work, a positive energy that comes as we program more,” she said.
With increased programming, VCA is also beefing up its now 16-member staff, announcing on the art center’s website that it has opened searches for new full-time positions including marketing coordinator, development director, and patron services manager. An hourly position for a grant writer is also being advertised.
And as the calendar below unspools, island audiences will also have the chance to step up, sit down in VCA’s performance hall and enjoy the shows.
Tickets to all the shows are on sale at vashoncenterforthearts.org.
Eugenie Jones on Feb. 21
Seattle jazz artist Eugenie Jones will perform the music of Nina Simone to honor Simone’s 92nd birthday, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, at VCA.
Charles Mudede, who writes for The Stranger, has said that Jones has “a voice that covers words like pieces of silk covering precious stones.”
According to Jones’ website, she is a coal miner’s daughter born and raised in West Virginia. One of eight children in her family, she was influenced by her older siblings’ love of the Motown sound and her parents’ leadership of their church choir. Those deep musical roots flowered well after Jones became an adult when she left a career in business to become a jazz singer. In 2013, she received Earshot Golden Ear Award for Northwest Recording of the Year, and then in 2016, won Earshot’s Vocalist of the Year prize.
Jones, who will also perform her own jazz compositions at her show at VCA, has self-produced two primarily original vocal jazz projects, earning her ranking on Jazz Week Review Top-50, No. 1 spots on CMJ charts, and numerous favorable reviews on industry platforms. Her original single, “A Good Day,” has been downloaded more than 9,000 times.
Tickets to the show range in price from $15 to $40. For more information on Jones, visit her website at eugeniejones.com.
LeRoy Bell and His Only Friends on Feb. 22
Singer and songwriter LeRoy Bell will take the stage with his band, His Only Friends, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at VCA.
Bell’s long career in music has taken him everywhere from collaborations with famed musicians in the 1970s to the 2011 season of the X-Factor, where he was a finalist, to nightspots and concert venues all over the country.
Along with his long-time writing partner, Casey James, he penned songs recorded by The Spinners, The O’Jays, The Temptations, Gladys Knight & the Pips and many others.
Perhaps most notably, Bell and James wrote several songs recorded by Elton John, including “Mama Can’t Buy Your Love,” “Three Way Love Affair,” and “Nice and Slow.” Bell also had a long-running relationship with Teddy Pendergrass that resulted in five of Bell’s songs being recorded on three Pendergrass albums recorded over the time span of 1979 to 1990.
Starting in the 2000s, Bell embarked on a solo career, recording and touring. On Vashon, he’ll be backed by his band, featuring seasoned musicians Terry Morgan on bass, Davis Martin on drums, and Daniel Walker on guitar and keyboards. Tickets to the show range in price from $15 to $40.
Art History on Feb. 26
Rebecca Albiani will offer an art history talk on two of the most important American sculptors of the 20th century, Louise Nevelson and Louise Bourgeois, at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, at VCA. Tickets range in price from $5 to $15.
Round-Trip Africa on Feb. 27
Gansango Music & Dance and VCA will present “Round-Trip Africa,” a performance of contemporary and traditional African dance and drumming, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27.
Gansango is directed by Etienne Cakpo, originally from Benin and now a choreographer and teacher based in Seattle. The company has performed internationally for audiences of all ages.
Audiences to the show at VCA can expect music and movement from across the African continent, drawing from the dance and music traditions of Benin, Ghana and Togo, among other countries. The company’s concerts often feature traditional dance from Benin — including ritualistic dances, regional social ceremony dances such as the Chenkoumé dance from Savalou, and royal historical dances such as the Zehli dance from the late 1800s.
Djembé, djun-djun and paholé drums and percussion will accompany the dance arrangements, while colorful costumes provide cultural context for the show.
Tickets to the show range in price from $10 to $25.
Nikkita Oliver on Feb. 28
Nikkita Oliver, a Seattle educator, artist, attorney, boxer, musician, mentor and organizer, will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28, at VCA for an evening that will include poetry, music and storytelling.
Oliver became a household name in 2017, with her bid for Seattle mayor as the first political candidate of the Seattle People’s Party. Her campaign narrowly missed the general election by approximately 1,100 votes, coming in third of 21 candidates.
But Oliver has long been acclaimed in Seattle for her creative and impactful work in the intersections of the arts, law, education and community organizing.
She has worked, in recent years, as a case manager for Creative Justice, an arts program aimed at transforming the criminal legal system and at providing space for young people to be self-empowered and self-determined. She is also the co-creator, with Nikki Etienne and DJ Rise, of the Ringside, a monthly poetry slam and artist showcase. She has opened for Cornel West and Chuck D of Public Enemy, performed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and has been featured on The Breakfast Club and KUOW’s “The Week in Review.” Her writing and poetry have been widely published, and she has won multiple championships in the Seattle Poetry Slam. She is also the recipient of the Seattle Office of Civil Rights Artist Human Rights Leader Award.
Tickets to the evening range from $5 to $25.
Roger Fisher of Heart on Feb. 29
As original guitarist of the famed band, Heart, Fisher co-wrote many of the Seattle band’s early hits including “Barracuda” and “Crazy on You” which have stood the test of time, becoming monster hits covered by countless artists.
Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, Fisher has played in every major city in North America many times. He has also toured Europe, Japan, Australia, Uzbekistan and Russia, and performed at massive events in the Czech Republic, Japan, Canada and the United States for more than 300,000 people at a single rock show.
On Vashon, he’ll perform his classic rock favorites and new music with a band featuring vocalist Carol Ann Wood at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29, at VCA. Tickets range in price from $35 to $50.
Dead Feminists on March 1
Chandler O’Leary and Jessica Spring are two Tacoma artists who have created a series of colorful broadsides featuring quotes by historical feminists tied to political and social issues. The letterpress poster series was so successful that the pair created “Dead Feminists, Historic Heroines in Living Color,” a 2018 award-winning book using the original broadsides with archival photos and ephemera to describe the accomplishments of women like Eleanor Roosevelt, Rachel Carson, Harriet Tubman and Shirley Chisholm. The book has a forward by writer Jill Lepore. Join O’Leary and Spring at 7 p.m. Sunday, March 1, at VCA, as they talk about their collaboration, art and activism. Tickets range in price from $5 to $15.
Christine Andreas sings Piaf on March 7
Christine Andreas, a bona fide Broadway diva who performed at VCA last fall, will return to the arts center to celebrate the life and music of “The Little Sparrow,” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 7, with songs including a soaring “La Vie En Rose.”
Andreas’ show, “Piaf, No Regrets,” will sing in French as well as English, and will be peppered with Piaf’s own words in monologues by dramaturge Drew Harris. Martin Silvestri, a composer, arranger and musical director who is Andreas’ husband, will be her accompanist on piano and accordion.
Andreas has sung in concert in Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Town Hall and the Kennedy Center Jazz Festival, to name a few. Symphonic work includes the Boston Philharmonic with Ben Zander, the Tulsa Symphony with Peter Nero, the Detroit Symphony, the Richmond Symphony with Charles Strouse and the Palm Beach Pops.
Tickets range in price from $20 to $50.
Iris DeMent on March 8
Iris DeMent, a singer and songwriter who has released six studio albums in an illustrious career, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 8, at VCA.
Beginning with her 1992 debut, “Infamous Angel,” which was hailed as “an essential album of the 1990s” by Rolling Stone, DeMent released a series of stellar records that established her as “one of the finest singer-songwriters in America,” according to The Guardian. The music earned her multiple Grammy nominations, as well as the respect of peers like John Prine, Steve Earle, and Emmylou Harris, who all invited her to collaborate. Merle Haggard dubbed her “the best singer I’ve ever heard” and asked her to join his touring band, and David Byrne and Natalie Merchant covered her “Let The Mystery Be” as a duet on MTV Unplugged. DeMent’s 2012 album, “Sing The Delta,” prompted NPR to call her “one of the great voices in contemporary popular music.”
Her newest album, “The Trackless Woods,” is inspired by the poetry of Russian writer Anna Akhmatova. DeMent and her husband, the singer and songwriter Greg Brown, live in Iowa City with their adopted, Russian-born daughter.
Tickets to the show range in price from $30 to $50.
Climate change talk on March 15
Heidi Roop, lead scientist for Science Communication at the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group, will share her expertise on climate change in the Pacific Northwest with islanders at 7 p.m. Sunday, March 15, at VCA. During her talk, she will explore the range of observed and projected climate impacts in the region, discuss the factors that hinder and motivate changes in political will and social acceptance of climate change, and suggest ways people can work together to prepare communities for a warming world.
Tickets range in price from $5 to $10.
Original Works on March 20, 21 and 22
A mix of dances created by both student and professional choreographers at Vashon Center for Dance will be on view in the seventh annual production of “Original Works,” at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 20 and 21, and 1 p.m. Sunday, March 22. Tickets range in price from $12 to $18.
Chamber Music on Sunday, March 22
Vashon Chamber Music will present its spring concert at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March, 22, at VCA. Resident string quartet, the Girsky Quartet, will be joined by pianist Jessica Choe and soprano Holly Boaz. The concert will include Jennifer Higdon’s string quartet “Southern Harmony,” Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Seven Romances” on poems of Alexander Bloch for soprano and piano trio, and Dvorak’s magnificent quintet for piano and string.
Tickets range in price from $15 to $32.
‘Earth To Kenzie’ on March 24
VCA and Seattle Opera will present “Earth to Kenzie,” a 45-minute opera production for elementary-school-aged children that deals with the crisis of homelessness while introducing young people to the art form of opera. The free performance, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, is a fully staged and costumed opera performed with professional singers and live piano accompaniment. It tells the story of Kenzie, an adventurous fifth-grader who must move to a shelter with her mother. This production is appropriate for all ages, especially families with children.