VCA’s new leader honored to serve

I know the value of a community steeped in the arts.

  • Thursday, February 20, 2020 1:12pm
  • Opinion
Allison Halstead Reid

Allison Halstead Reid

Vashon Center for the Arts has a long history of being a home for the arts on Vashon. As VCA’s new executive director, I look forward to furthering that mission, ensuring that the arts remain a vibrant and thriving part of our community. Whether you create art, perform, volunteer or attend, I invite all islanders to share in the power of the arts that are alive on our island and flourishing at VCA.

In the past year, I have watched the riveting performance of a Broadway legend (Christine Andreas), sat in awe as I watched an acclaimed choreographer direct our region’s finest dancers (Seattle Dance Collective), delighted in students rehearsing dance steps for a musical production (“Footloose”), took in the brush strokes of many brilliant island artists (First Friday Gallery Cruises in the Koch Gallery), wiped tears from my eyes at the very real and raw personal stories of performers (Gaybaret, The Cyclone Line), grooved to the soulful melodies of vibraphonist Joel Ross, and stood back to marvel at a community that actively participates in the arts on Vashon. It is this act of coming together, of arts and community, that gives me purpose.

The arts have the power to unite us in shared experience; they strengthen our community. To see an artist’s work unveiled and to watch an audience’s reaction is exhilarating. I often turn to those seated next to me when the curtains close and a look of understanding passes between us; we have experienced something profound together. Regardless of our individual differences, political opinions and diverse backgrounds, we can find common ground and connection with others through the arts.

If Vashon is home to you, you know that we have many talented artists, galleries and performance venues. We are spoiled with the choices before us. This weekend alone, you can check out guitarist Loren Sinner’s playing at The Hardware Store Restaurant; stop by Snapdragon to hear local musicians in The Confessions; hustle down to VCA to catch LeRoy Bell or Eugenie Jones’ Nina Simone Tribute; or take in National Theatre Live’s “All My Sons” at Vashon Theatre. Whatever you do, you will undoubtedly feel a sense of community as you gather with others. It is our plethora of arts, in their many forms, and many homes, that make Vashon an extraordinary place to live.

Vashon’s artists deserve to be seen and shared beyond the boundaries of our beaches. Seeing local singer Ara Lee James take her music on the road; hearing that Gaybaret (renamed The Driftwood Bridge) is lining up tour dates across the region; noting a visual artist’s work will be hung in a Santa Fe museum; or that one of our alumni Arts Ed students has been accepted into a prestigious theater program, reminds me of the far-reaching impact our community has in promoting the arts. For many, the roots of their work, their passion, are formed right here on Vashon.

We have a responsibility to showcase our artists, and we must also welcome new artists to share their gifts with us. Inviting artists to perform, exhibit, teach, live in residency, and engage with our community rewards us in countless ways. It is a thrill to have world-class dancers (Whim W’Him, Seattle Dance Collective) perform at VCA, but it is even more impactful for our own dance students to study with them. It is marvelous to hear virtuoso pianist Vyacheslav Gryaznov on stage in The Kay White Hall, but even more rewarding that he wishes to return and perform alongside local chamber musicians. The power of listening to activist Nikkita Oliver’s performance is inspirational, but watching a group of students assemble and absorb her words is equally impressive. It is this beneficial dynamic between artist and community that nourishes and influences the next generation.

With the vast array of programs VCA offers — arts education, artists in schools, dance, performing arts and visual arts — it is important to celebrate our uniqueness. With a world-class facility at our disposal, it is also important for us to fully realize our potential as an arts organization. By increasing our performing arts offerings, integrating themes across programs, inviting greater cultural and community participation, and giving our resident partners a home they deserve, we can sustain a vibrant arts center that lives for generations to come.

I greatly value the artists on our island (and those from afar) for the quality of life and beauty they bring to our community. At VCA, I will continue to welcome artists who bring their gifts to us, educating and instructing us, and opening our minds even further. It is essential for our community to remain strong. Having lived on Vashon for many years, I know the value of a community steeped in the arts and I am honored to work at VCA where I can serve artists and islanders alike.

Allison Halstead Reid is the executive director at Vashon Center for the Arts.

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