True, people buy tickets many months in advance to see Seattle Opera
perform signature masterworks such as Wagner’s “Ring.” Yes, the city’s numerous theatres such as ACT
and Seattle Rep
produce great work on par with any in the country. And there’s no doubt that the expanded Seattle Art Museum
contributes to Seattle’s reputation as a great arts city. In fact, recently the famed Musee National Picasso in Paris chose SAM for the U.S. premiere for a worldwide tour of the museum’s collection, an exhibit that drew record-breaking attendance. But while Seattle can boast sophistication with the best of them, the city’s arts scene also reveals its unconventional side.
Seattle’s public art takes “public” to another level — and seems to be open game for Seattleites to add their own flair. In the Fremont
neighborhood, locals regularly adorn the cast aluminum figures of “Waiting for the Interurban” with hats, scarves, ties and sunglasses. Near the University District
, paper cranes often drape over a Peace Park statue memorializing a Japanese girl who survived the Hiroshima bombing. Storefronts bloom with temporary art installations.
Art is integrated almost everywhere you look. Supported by award-winning public art programs, artists design everything from building components to manhole covers.
“It seems like more spaces than ever are showing art,” says comic artist David Lasky, quoted in The Artists’ Guide to Seattle, Second Edition. “I’ve had countless shows in cafes, restaurants, bars and shops. Shows like that create a social opportunity in which to see art.”
And Seattle’s love for innovation isn’t limited to visual art. After all, this was the home of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, trailblazers of the grunge rock era whose influences spread to nearly every music genre. Even the 110-year-old Seattle Symphony Orchestra
stays hip. In addition to performing the classics, SSO is known for adventurous programming of contemporary works.
For those who think ballet is “old school,” consider the Pacific Northwest Ballet
. Long acclaimed for its outstanding Balanchine repertoire, PNB is equally noted for its contemporary work and regularly electrifies audiences with new works.
Fringe theater — a term used to describe small-scale, experimental shows — has become an integral part of Seattle’s arts scene. Local theater service group Theatre Puget Sound
counts more than 140 producing theater companies in its membership.
Overall, Seattle’s arts scene mirrors its inhabitants. For every traditionalist, there’s a non-traditionalist; for every serious piece of art, there’s something to make you laugh. What inspires us? Some say it’s the coffee culture. Others say it’s the weather. It could just be that Seattle is the cultural center of the Northwest, and its citizens are happy to celebrate. Whatever it is, there’s no doubt that things are fun and a little quirky, too.