Beyond the Art Fair: Some of the Best Arts Activities this Weekend

Posted on August 01, 2019, 12:54 pm
11 mins


If you are not going to Seattle Art fair this weekend, there are plenty of cultural activities to engage in around town. If you ARE going to Seattle Art Fair this weekend, then you should supplement your fair experience with some of these recommendations. (And no…Sea Fair is not among them.)

Naturally, I always encourage people to see the Pioneer Square and downtown art galleries. Being adjacent to Century Link Event Center and the Art Fair itself, they would seem an obvious choice, but it’s especially worthy of mention since the galleries have their First Thursday Art Walk the night of the fair’s opening. Read our gallery guide for the month here.

The Festivals

Capitol Hill brings two free festival events this weekend. On the evening of Friday, August 2 and all day Saturday, August 3, festival:festival brings the art party to two locations: Northwest Film Forum and what the organizers call Festival Street (the stretch of E Denny Way between Broadway and 10th Ave by Cal Anderson Park).

The core of the works presented on Capitol Hill this year are short films and contemporary dance, plus a visual art exhibition in the NWFF lobby. Meanwhile, at Amplifier Art Lab, the festival is organizing an art market from 11am to 4pm on Saturday. The Art lab is south of the hill and east of Century Link Event Center, by the Hiawatha Art Lofts in the Atlantic neighborhood. For those who are overwhelmed by the scale or price point of the Art Fair but who are curious about buying art, the Art Market might be a low-stakes place to start.

Also on August 3 on Capitol Hill, Lusio: A Night to Awaken brings its 4th annual festival of light art to Volunteer Park. For three hours after sunset, 41 light art installations and two live sound installations will be spread around the park’s 40 acres. This event is free and all ages, but for those who want to party it up a bit, there will be a ticketed dance party in the Conservatory. (Ages 21+ because there will be bars.)

The Film

Also on August 3, during festival:festival (but separate) at NWFF, there will be a special screening of California on Fire. If all the partying feels a bit like fiddling while Rome burns (or the Arctic, in fact) then this elegy is for you.

California on Fire is a stunning art film shot over five years, capturing the devastation of 70 wildfires. Director Jeff Frost trained as a firefighter to get access to the frontlines, and pieced together photography and sound into a striking vision. He will be in attendance for the screening. Read more about it in our event posting.

The Public Art Space

This is the last weekend of yəhaw̓, the inaugural show at ARTS at King Street Station. It’s a splendid showcase of hundreds of works from artists creating from their experience of indigeneity. This could mean works of protest by emerging artists or traditional objects from master artisans. With such a diverse display of raw talent, refined craft, and experiments of varied success, you’d think it would be hard to bring it all together. In fact, the curators create surprising, thoughtful clusters of objects throughout the space. It takes repeat visits to really take it all in, so even if you have seen it at least once, this weekend is your last chance to see it again.

As it is the final weekend, there are plenty of events, too, including live performances in the plaza outside the the station during art walk, from 5pm to 7pm. You can hear from the curators directly at their panel Friday morning, 10:30am to 12:30pm. And of course there will be a big closing reception on the final afternoon, Sunday, August 4, from 1pm to 4pm. See more details on the event page. As always, ARTS at King Street Station is a free, all-ages space.

The Museum

Another free one! The Frye Art Museum is always free, always welcoming. And the welcome feels especially warm at at Cauleen Smith: Give It or Leave It, now entering its final month. Smith’s work ranges from live video installations to fiber works to short film in the four, carefully designed rooms her work occupies in the museum.

The themes of generosity and hopefulness that inform the work are never sappy or sentimental. They come with scars and self-awareness that to truly be generous is to be vulnerable. They are informed by 19th century spiritual traditions and living matriarchs. At turns meditative and dazzling, it’s a potent remedy to the materialism and marketeering that undeniably dominates much of the Art Fair discourse. Highly recommended.

The Galleries

The big public opening this weekend is definitely HOUSEWRIGHT Gallery in Georgetown. It’s the gallery space of acclaimed boutique architecture and design studio, Hoedemaker Pfeiffer. The inaugural show, Northwest Influencers, presents pre- and post-war works from artist of the Northwest School, such as Richard Gilkey, Paul Horiuchi, Yvonne Twining Humber, Mark Tobey and Margaret Tomkins. The opening celebration from 6pm to 9pm will surely be a glittery fete for collectors and art lovers in the region.

“Into the Catacombs” by Rick Araluce. Image courtesy of Roq La Rue Gallery.

Back on Capitol Hill again, I highly recommend seeing the final weekend of Rick Araluce’s The Night Theater at Roq La Rue Gallery. It’s not just because seeing the works together was every bit as trippy as I had hoped. It’s also because the Seattle Art Fair’s programming this year referenced the early modern Wunderkammer (curio of wonders) as an inspiration for its special programming. We are not getting really anything worthy of that tradition (or even relevant to it) at the Art Fair, but rather a hodgepodge. At The Night Theater, we do, in the sense that the Wunderkammer and Araluce’s dioramas are meticulously assembled microcosms with a skewed sense of reality. Love it.

And also on Capitol Hill, duck into Ghost Gallery to see Erin Kendig‘s wildfire inspired drawing and paintings. (It really made sense to plug this one given the California is Burning recommendation above. At the opening reception for Kendig’s work, artist Siolo Thimpson even served up a smoky wildfire-themed cocktail.)

The Bars

Last but not least (and speaking of cocktails), one certainly could use a good place to have a drink and contemplate all the art one has taken in. Why not make sure it is a duly bohemian bar?

Vermillion Art Gallery and Bar on Capitol Hill is an obvious choice. The walls are currently covered with poster art from previous years of Capitol Hill Block Party, which gives it a lively vibe if you are coming in from the Fair or the nearby festivals.

On First Hill, there is The Hideout, whose high walls are covered with a salon style-hang of visual art. It’s one of many projects that local arts impresario Greg Lundgren has a hand in, and Lundgren probably won’t be far from the bar himself, as he is working on his new Museum of Museums just a few blocks away. (That is set to open this autumn.)


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If you want something just a little more off the beaten path and close to the fair itself, The Dynasty Room is a must. This temporary art space and bar will end on the Lunar New Year 2020, but until then, it maintains regular evening hours Thursdays through Saturdays. It occupies a corner of the former Four Seas restaurant, and the ambient lighting, sanguine decor, and art by Seattle artist studio Electric Coffin make it one of the sexiest, coziest watering holes in town. It’s a perfect spot to relax and contemplate art while feeling like you possibly stepped into a Wong Kar Wai film.

Featured image courtesy of the The Frye Art Museum and Cauleen Smith

T.s. Flock is a writer and arts critic based in Seattle and co-founder of Vanguard Seattle.