Mike’s Adventures in Art: “The Utopian Garden,” Wa Na Wari, Children’s Book Day

If you’re looking for tips on how to experience art in the Seattle area, you’ve come to the right place. In this weekly post, KUOW arts reporter Mike Davis offers suggestions for what to do around Seattle over the weekend so you can enjoy your own arts and culture adventures.

Visual art

The virtuous gardenAt Tacoma Arts Live Pick the week. It is difficult to fully describe this immersive experience in words. Entering was like stepping into a portal to another world. We entered a dark room with long walls bursting with flower motifs. Light is projected throughout the space and onto the floors so that every surface, including the audience, is part of the screen.

The amazing design team at flora & faunavisions brought this gallery to life. I remember going to the WNDR Museum and being blown away by “Insideout,” an exhibition there by Leigh Sachwitz, who founded flora & faunavisions in 1999, that put audiences in a little transparent house during a thunderstorm. Using sound, lights, projections, and pieces within the structure, the audience shared a shared experience with Sachowitz, who crafted the exhibit from one of her childhood memories.

The Utopian Garden is a larger, bolder exhibition that not only draws audiences into the artwork, but also allows viewers to become creative. The 45-minute presentation continually shifts from audiences surrounded by graffiti to walls that signal participation. When people interact with the sensors in the walls, new art is created. From games where you pick seeds into bubbles that grow flowers, to touch games that play with graphic designs, audiences bounce from watching to participating and your overall experience will be different on each visit depending on the one you want to create.

Music and floral designs create a psychedelic experience. An underlying message is to combine science and art to save nature. I remember, at some points during the experiment, hearing about designs that had the potential to drive climate change. There were the voices of children and teenagers interspersed. But what really stands out is the head flight. The swirling colors, the optical illusions, the way the images projected onto all surfaces while the bass from the ambient sound pierced my heart. It was a rush.

Then it’s over. Except, instead of sending us on our way, we found ourselves in an activity room. And this is where the real message took hold. We rubbed the leaves with paper and crayons. We’ve made our button pins using recycled materials. There is a relationship between art, science and nature. A connection between people and the Earth and the knowledge that we must make changes to save our planet. This show is all of those things. It was nice. It was a head rush. I can’t wait to go again.

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“Utopian Garden” will be shown from May 19th to June 30th at Tacoma Arts Live

wa na wariThey have new exhibits in their galleries. I admit, I made the trip because I had to see my Teda Sandiford luggage carts. And I’m glad I did. Strollers made from recycled materials account for the heavy burden of baggage to carry, especially women of color. In a world of racial injustice and microaggressions, these carts are a place where people can write down the baggage they’re carrying and put it on carts for transportation away. This symbolism is powerful, but I don’t want to belittle the art. Recycled textiles and zip ties, rope weaving, and an earth-toned color palette—these strollers may be built to take a beating but are still beautiful works of art.

Caption: Theda Sandiford's soulful luggage cart at Wa Na Wari

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Xavier Kelly’s work on this show I encourage people to see. His Afrofuturist paintings blend abstraction, color, and symbolism in story-telling works. There are hints of graffiti and a scattering of words and phrases. Each piece has an underlying narrative, and standing in front of that work, letting it speak to you, is a cathartic experience.

Existing exhibitions at Wa Na Wari will be on display from April 22nd

community event

Children’s Book Day Town Hall in Seattle will take place this Saturday, May 27th. Presented in partnership with the Seattle Urban Book Fair, this event is fun for everyone but great for kids. More than a dozen BIPOC children’s book authors, including young authors, will stage the event for meet-and-greets and book signings. There will be face painting and Dutch singers will jump rope with the kids. This event will spark children’s interest in reading and writing, and will include free gifts of books and school supplies.

Children’s Book Day at 12 noon on May 27 at Town Hall Seattle

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