The Seattle Dance Collective (Kenneth Edwards Photo).

The Seattle Dance Collective (Kenneth Edwards Photo).

Looking back at an artful year on Vashon

2019 saw a flurry of performers, concerts, theater productions, art exhibitions and more.

It’s a wrap for Vashon’s art scene in 2019 — a busy year that kept islanders on the go — to concerts, theater productions, art exhibitions and more.

The music scene thrived thanks to presenters including Vashon Events, Debra Heesch, Open Space for Arts & Community and Vashon Center for the Arts.

A long list of national and international acts made stops on Vashon — including such names as piano virtuoso Vyacheslav “Slava” Gryaznov, Broadway diva Christine Andreas, Hawaiian slack-key guitar god Makana, jazz vibes wunderkind Joel Ross, alt-country climber Patterson Hood, power-pop legends The Posies, folk-pop luminary Shawn Mullins and grunge veteran Mark Lanegan. Local bands, singers, chamber groups and choirs also raised their voices and instruments on an almost weekly basis at Vashon venues both large and small.

The island’s culture of creation was also passed down to hundreds of young people who took part in dance, theater, and visual arts programs offered by the schools, Vashon Center for the Arts and Open Space for Arts & Community.

In addition to all the offerings detailed below, Vashon’s historic single-screen movie theater also welcomed islanders to festivals, first-run films and arthouse fare throughout the year.

Here’s hoping for an equally artful 2020.

Memorable 2019 productions

“She Kills Monsters,” presented by Drama Dock in November, included a vibrant cast of young island actors performing a muscular production of Qui Nguyen’s play. This show followed Drama Dock’s high-octane summer production of the musical, “The Who’s Tommy.”

“Gaybaret” was presented in November at VCA, weaving storytelling, songs and theater together to tell the true love story of its creators and performers, David Mielke and Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma.

“The Cyclone Line,” a play with music by islander Kat Eggleston about her father’s hard times in Dust Bowl-era Oklahoma, had a deeply moving production at Vashon Center for the Arts in September.

Also in September, Vashon Opera launched its 11th season with a star-studded cast of its first-ever Verdi opera, “La Traviata.” The company presented André Previn’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” in May, with a heart-rending performance by opera co-founder and artistic director Jennifer Krikawa singing the role of Blanche DuBois.

The Vashon-centric variety show, The Church of Great Rain, after a seven-year hiatus, made a much-welcomed return to Open Space for Arts & Community, drawing 500 eager islanders to the debut of its revival in October.

In July, the Seattle Dance Collective — led by Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers — wowed with four sold-out performances of its debut production at Vashon Center for the Arts. The dance group plans to return to VCA next summer.

The Seattle Dance Collective (Kenneth Edwards Photo).

The Seattle Dance Collective (Kenneth Edwards Photo).

“Kissing the Joy as it Flies: The Wit and Wisdom of Brian Doyle,” a new play by islanders Mike and Gerry Feinstein, was a deft adaptation of the works of the late writer’s best-known essays and short stories. The show was presented in March at Vashon Center for the Arts.

Memorable 2019 art exhibits

“In and Out: Being LGBTQ on Vashon,” opened at the Vashon Heritage Museum in June, drew big crowds to celebrate the long history and vast contributions of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer/questioning) people on Vashon.

Vashon Center for the Arts 2nd annual Summer Arts Fest, including work by more than 100 local artists and drawing thousands of visitors, took over the arts center for eight weeks starting in July.

Throughout the year, all of Vashon’s galleries were stuffed with exhibitions of local artists in solo and group shows, and under the vibrant banner of Vashon Island Visual Artists, local painters, sculptors, photographers and other artisans presented two stellar studio art tours. Twelve fabulous First Fridays gallery cruises drew big crowds to ogle all the artwork on view.

Poetry and talks abounded

The poetry scene on Vashon hummed, with readings and poetry-themed art exhibits taking place throughout the year. In May, acclaimed Northwest poets Tess Gallagher and Alice Derry gave readings at Vashon Bookshop.

Vashon’s first LitCon, held at VCA in April, boasted 75 talks, readings and panels celebrating the literary arts.

“Talks on the Rock,” VCA’s lecture series curated by Mike and Gerry Feinstein, brought art scholars, climatologists, authors and other experts in a wide range of fields to share their knowledge with islanders.

Arrivals and departures

Vashon Center for the Arts experienced high executive turnover. In April, the organization announced the elimination of Angela Gist’s job as its artistic director. At the same time, Allison Halstead Reid, a board member, was appointed as associate executive director. In August, VCA executive director Kevin Hoffberg, who had served in his position for 14 months, abruptly announced his resignation, with Halstead Reid stepping into the executive position on an interim basis. In October, Darragh Kennan, who had also briefly served on VCA’s board, was appointed associate executive director. The organization is currently in the midst of an open search for a new executive director, with an announcement expected in early 2020.

Darragh Kennan (John Ulman Photo).

Darragh Kennan (John Ulman Photo).

Megan Hastings and Adam Cone added a new stage, the Black Cat Cabaret, to Snapdragon in May. Since that time, the performance/cabaret space has been the site for community events and concerts ranging from square dances to play readings to concerts.

Open Space for Arts & Community made two notable hires: local artist Jiji Saunders was named as the organization’s new executive director in January, and in September, Veronica Aristeo came aboard as youth programs coordinator, opening a new teen center in the space.

In December, Garam Choi, who runs Red Bicycle Bistro & Sushi, took islanders on a bumpy ride when she announced the closure of the popular island eatery and music venue. However, the planned closure on Dec. 7 did not take place after all and the venue is still open, as of press time, for drinks and meals. New Year’s wish: a new chapter for this once-vibrant venue — the scene of many remarkable island concerts through the years.


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