Join the Seattle Symphony for a FREE community concert at the Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center in RentonWa.
Music for all
Each year the Seattle Symphony partners with sponsors from across the region to bring free concerts to you. Community concerts are a huge part of Seattle symphonies yearly programming. More than 50,000 people engage with music every year through this program. Concert like the one in Renton tomorrow provide equitable access to music for all. Helping to spark joy and inspiration through family, schools, and community programs.
Music is a huge part of what brings people together. Music has a unique way of connecting all without barriers.
What you can expect
One of the Renton performances will feature a Bach flute concerto, performed by Minsoo Kwon. This 17 year old is a senior at Lakeside School. Over her summer vacation she performed at Carnegie Hall and Miami’s New World Center as part of the National Youth Orchestra (NYO2). Outside of being in school and being in the seattle symphony youth orchestra she also founded a service club that connects other student musicians to volunteer opportunities in the greater Seattle community. She has raised thousands of dollars for underprivileged children’s music education through annual benefit concerts.
Key to Change
What I’m most looking forward to is seeing performances by students at Key to Change.
Key to Change was founded by fellow Renton High School grad, Dr. Quinton Morris. I could write multiple blogs on this one over-achiever. Dr. Morris is a concert violinist who has played 3 sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall. This comes as no surprise to those of us who grew up seeing Quinton practicing in the halls of our high school. He could be seen both before and after school, in between classes, and during lunch playing his violin. He is the example of hard work and dedication to his craft.
Besides being a concert Violinist, his career also includes being a chamber musician, educator, entrepreneur and filmmaker. His talent and drive have brought him around the world for solo recitals, lectures, and filming opportunities.
As though that were not enough. Quinton remains a student. Always striving to better himself and raise the bar. He is a teacher at Seattle University, and he is the newest addition to the Seattle Arts Commission.
Quinton founded Key to Change as one of the ways he gives back to his community. Key to Change is a nonprofit organization that inspires underserved youth through world-class music instruction, and supports their development as self-aware leaders.
The mission is to educate the next generation of ethnically, culturally and economically diverse musicians and to empower students to create meaningful change in their community.
On stage, in a pre-concert recital, will be three students from Key to Change. Amariah Strand, Alia Uffenorde, and Jasmine Wang.
I have been working in the arts for the past 20 years. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I’ve designed my life in a fashion that allows me to pursue my creative path. It has not always been easy. It has not always been fun. As a matter of fact, it has been a struggle a lot of the time.
The struggle is real
If I’m being honest, the struggle has primarily been in my head. I work hard. I’ve been given a ton of great opportunities in this life. Most of which I passed up, ignored, or declined because of my imposter syndrome. The struggle has continued in my mind for decades!
The layer under which all my fear stemmed was the world of online marketing.
Dun dun dun!
Yep. The World Wide Web was my Achilles heel. For years I listened to people tell me how I needed to get my business online. The entire time my gallery was open (2007-2013) I was encouraged to get an online presence. And I knew I needed to. I really did. But my excuses, that were screaming my fears took hold of every decision I made. I told myself like a gazillion times a day how broke I was. I couldn’t afford to get a website. I couldn’t afford to get an online shopping cart.
I couldn’t afford to do anything!
The truth is that I couldn’t afford to not do these things.
Oh if I could turn back time and tell myself to listen up.
Running in circles
I had opened a credit card to start my business. Then thought I could wear all the hats myself until magically the customers started to show up. And they did! A trickling effect started. I got involved in my local arts scene, started making connections. I started going to events in my community to let the people know about my gallery. I had cards made and handed them out to everyone. And what did they say to me? “You know, you really should get a website.” Ugh! Okay, I KNOW!
Yet, I did not get a website. I was working too hard in my shop. I was working hard making the connections with my art community and my city. I was working really hard to help build events that would bring people to my place of business. But gosh darn it, do you know how one gets all this awesome information out to the public? You have to get yourself online. You have to go to where the people are. And where the people are is online!
I didn’t want to sit in front of a computer
One of the greatest things about living a creative life for me has been not participating in the humdrum commute to a 9-5 sterile workplace. Answering to a Boss who reviews and evaluates me on my performance. Helping to drive profits to the company, but not me. I don’t get up to the sound of a blaring alarm. It doesn’t take me 45 minutes to get to the neon lights of my cubicle. I am not required to sit in the same place for 8 hours in front of a computer. I can’t imagine doing these things. I don’t think I’m designed for such a life. And I love that I don’t have to.
My life of luxury
I love that I wake up at ease with my own internal clock. I love that I can meditate in my pajamas while the coffee is brewing. I love that I can enjoy my morning coffee in my favorite handmade mug on my couch with my cat on my lap while reading. I love that I can go on a hike on a Wednesday afternoon without having to request time off. I love that I can get into my craft room and listen to my favorite podcast while buzzing away on my next art project. I love eating when I want to. I love helping my friends get their kids to school on a late start Friday when they can’t. I love it all.
I’m not trying to paint my life to be a dream. I’m not trying to demonize the 9-5. I’m simply saying this is what works for me, and I am very fortunate to know this about myself.
Every decision has its price
This lifestyle, like any, comes with its own set of standards and rules. I don’t have a 401k, I don’t get paid holiday or vacation time. I don’t get company bonuses or retirement. In fact, I had a side hustle for a very long time. I was a bartender for years! I loved it. I made incredible money while moving around and chatting it up with all kinds of humans. Slowly this side hustle became my regular hustle and my art advocacy became my side hustle.
All of this could have been avoided if I had just taken the steps to get fear out of the way and get myself online.
Yes, experience is the best teacher. But, I let the fear of getting online control what is now my perfect creative path. Stepping away from the service industry was hard. I’m telling you, bartending is great money. But it wasn’t serving my needs as an artist, and it wasn’t helping to keep me on my artistic path.
I finally signed up for some online 101 classes. I found out fast that I actually knew more than I previously thought. This mountain of fear, as it turned out, was more like a hill. A hill with a ton of resting points. Most of which I was able to fly by. A hill that I discovered had a beautiful view. One that has allowed me to bring all my practices together in one space. I can now easily find my clients, aspiring artists, other advocates and educators worldwide.
My Achilles’ heel had been mended! And in the end, I found it was only fear. Fear of stepping into my own power under the mask of the unknown, as the story always goes.
Now I cannot be stopped. I have continued to build my online presence and now I’m pulling it all towards me. Bringing all I have learned to the collective online, in hopes that I can inspire others to do the same.
If you grew up in Renton anytime between 1960 and 1990 you probably remember spending time at the downtown Renton Sears. You might even smell the popcorn from the upstairs candy counter just thinking about it.
Well I’m one of those kids who remembers. I remember going down with my aunt to purchase my first cabbage patch kid. I remember a huge enclosed courtyard with JCPenny’s being the flagship store directly across from Sears. The stores in between were mostly local. There was a Walden bookstore with books of all kinds stacked on shelves from floor to ceiling. My favorite, kids corner. It had a door for us kids separate and smaller than the actual doors. My mom’s favorite, FashionsWest, supplying a host of trendy women fashions. And, of course, the oh so popular Command Center, our local arcade in which I was never allowed to go.
This whole complex had such a cool vibe. It was well thought out, and seemed to offer something for everyone.
The courtyard was a dream. Walkways up both sides that entered into each place of business. And in the center, throughout flowers and benches was an architectural dream.
Let’s rundown a few of the highlights shall we.
FOUNTAIN by Artist is George Tsutakawa, designed in 1970. Now located at the Maplewood Golf Course.
HEXAPOD by Creative Playthings, designed sometime in the 1959’s. Now located in Skyway outside the old Skyway Grocery.
PORPOISE by Jim Miller-Melberg (of Form Inc.) created the porpoise. The courtyard had two. One nose up, one nose down. One remains in the collection, on display at the Henry Moses Aquatic Center. The other made its way to Lake Tapps County Park.
TURTLETENTby Milton Hebald, also of Creative Playthings (1953)/Play Sculptures. Now on display at Kennydale Beach Park.
Let’s talk about this turtle.
I’m not saying it was the most cherished piece if public art Renton has. I’m not even saying it is a piece that defines us in any way. What I am saying is this. This is to me the definition of what public art should be.
Tommy the turtle, or ”turtle tent”, which is the original name, first came back into my memory in 2014. A good 25 year since I last crawled on his shell. There were public meetings about the new Sunset Park. The city was getting ready to build next to KCLSs new highlands library. These two major construction projects would help the reboot of this untouched 1970’s neighborhood.
That was then, this is now
I wasn’t present at these public meetings, but I remember this is when discussions about Tommy had begun to circulate.
For those of you reading who might not know, after the Renton Center courtyard was demolished, Tommy landed at the highlands library. Here Kids could continue to play on him for a good 20 more years.
When KCLS took over our library systems the plan was to remodel both libraries; starting with the highlands. During this time, Tommy ended up in storage.
A Spokesperson for the Turtle
Over the next six years I followed the Tommy story. I became somewhat of a turtle spokesperson. I continued to ask the city about its safety, and encouraged them to help locate a new home for him. Throughout those years I would get tagged in posts from people wondering what happened to the turtle. Occasionally a photo would pop up on social media stating, ” you know you’re from Renton if you grew up playing on the turtle.”
In a monumental presentation for us on the arts commission to City Council in October of 2017. I presented a whole section around Tommy, the benefits of social shared space. How art becomes central points to our history.
Everyone on the Arts Commission began to get involved in finding him a home. Marsha Rollinger did some deep digging to find all the information. You would be surprised how Little was documented about the historic courtyard.
The City gets involved
It wasn’t until Betsy Severtsen and Alan Wyatt from the Parks Department got involved that any movement happened. It was there suggestion that Tommy be placed,in his forever home, on Kennydale Beach Park. The beach where famously Clint Eastwood had lifeguarded back when he was a teen.
The Kennydale neighborhood embraced this addition. They even shared some of their own memories of the turtle.
One resident sent me a picture of her son playing on the turtle that she remembered playing on at his age.
Who was the Artist
Let’s talk about the designer, Milton Hebald. In 1953, produced by the Play Sculptures division of Creative Playthings from the mid 50s to the mid 60s. The idea behind the catalogs work was said that if you could engage children in play and imagination that they would take that with them into adulthood.
Creative Playthings, in collaboration with the MoMA in New York City, opened an independent division of the company in 1953 called Play Sculptures. Working with artists to take on the playground. This was done in an effort to refresh ideas about playground planning. These modernistic designed sculptures turned up throughout America in playgrounds, schools, and courtyards.
Tent Turtles Across the Land
You might remember that Tommy had two smaller turtles with him while at Sears. Yes, it’s true, they were sold as a set. They did not make the move. In fact, they were demolished along with the complex. May they rest in pieces. However, others elsewhere still stand, amusing yet another generation.
Today there is an entire FB page dedicated to his turtles, which are all over the US. They even have a map of the locations, and Renton’s turtle is on the map! https://www.facebook.com/bowieturtle/
Clearly there is a lot of history here. One that many of us share. Not only here in Renton, but throughout the USA.
Yes, I believe this is one of the most valuable pieces of art in our collection. Not the most expensive mind you, but it’s history makes it so rich.
Art really does give us a sense of belonging. Tommy the turtle, and all ”Turtle Tents” across America have planted in our collective mind. We have shared memories of our precious childhood melted together by this insignificant structure.
It may look to some like old concrete, but to those of us who remember it stands for so much more.
I feel honored to have been a part of preserving this piece of Rentons history. I do hope you go visit him down at Kennydale Beach Park. And may children continue to enjoy him for generations to come.
Who’s got two thumbs and just got elected new chair of the Renton Municipal Arts Commission? This girl!
The opportunity to join the Renton Municipal Arts Commission came to me within a year of my gallery, happy delusions, closure in 2013. Many friends, artists, and community members had tried for years to get me to join. I had been skeptical. I had many friends tell many stories about their time serving on the Arts Commission. I watch many of these high functioning individuals get burned out. I hid behind my gallery, saying I didn’t have the time. And I didn’t.
Licking my wounds
After my gallery closed I took some time to re-evaluate my life. I took time cleaning up any loose ends left over from the closure. I went to work for someone else. I started to feel like all my work in the community had lost its place. I gave my ego time to settle down, and my mind time to grieve the loss of closing. Then I was ready to get back to the things that mattered to me.
Art & Community
Let’s face it, you don’t open a maker space in your hometown unless you feel on some level the importance of these two things. It takes me 15 minutes to be in downtown Seattle where there are far more people. Far more foot-traffic. Far more opportunities for working with an established arts community. And as I saw it, far more opportunities to get lost in the crowd.
Bringing Art to Renton
It would be incorrect if I said these opportunities weren’t available in Renton. Any local community has some sort of art happening all the time. I just wasn’t in that circle, and frankly, I felt most of what I was seeing in the arts was directed towards an older demographic. I just couldn’t find my niche. So I opened my gallery, happy delusions. In its five years, it supported over 500 local artists. It was very rewarding seeing all these artists and makers step forward to show their work in my gallery.
One of the unexpected beauties of this was that I became a voice for this demographic missed in my community art scene. Artists and community members rallied around me to speak for them.
Rising up as anarts advocate
I started getting involved with the city of Renton. Started going to the public meeting, and started engaging with the City council members. Stepping up my game by proposing ideas to the Renton Municipal Arts Commission. Slowly I started to understand more about the ins and out of getting projects funded. I started to see issues that I wanted to be involved in. Issues that would help the community I love become more art-centered. And how do you do that? Well, you get involved.
Joining the Arts Commission was a no brainer.
At this point, a seat had opened up and I took the interview. I was happy to see so many familiar faces on the board. Like any committee I’ve ever had the pleasure of serving on, it takes a minute to get up to speed.
We had a lot of work to do.
I feel very fortunate to have joined when I did. I felt a wave of change happening before my eyes as we worked together to make some positive lasting Chance. We really took a look at where our focus was and formed a vision to get the City excited about art. I found myself once more, meeting with council members. Driving around to local arts agency meetings. Signing up for a Seattle Public Art Bootcamp. Connecting with members of 4Culture, and SoCoCulture. We started working on installing small art projects throughout Renton. We were working with a commission of like-minded individuals. Commissioner who Renton is very lucky to have. All of our hard work began to pay off.
Show me the money!
In the last 3 years, the Renton Municipal Arts Commission has seen our budget more than triple! The work was showing. The City, the mayor, the council, we’re all getting involved. The movement has been incredible. The commission has been able to continue to participate and coordinate small art projects. But now we are no longer limited to that. Now we have a budget to afford to bring in bigger more extraordinary pieces of public art. We had funds to help make The City of Renton a leader for arts in our area.
Hip Hip Hooray!
It feels wonderful to be working with such an incredible group of art leaders. It feels like progress at every meeting I attend. It feels like we are unstoppable. So now I step into this role as Chair. I come into it behind a long list of leaders who have done so much to get us to where we are today. I come into it with a renewed commitment to the commission. A renewed commitment to my community. I renewed commitment to show up for the arts community.
Thank you to everyone who has helped me along my path. Thank you to the leaders who’ve helped show me the courage to stand up for what is right. Thank you to my mentors who’ve guided me to use my voice. Thank you to the Renton arts community for welcoming me in. Thank you to the city of Renton for listening. Thank you to our mayor and council members who took the time to come to meet with me.
I will do my best to represent Renton well within the arts.
So what are we doing?
A month is already behind us here in 2020, and the Renton Municipal Arts Commission is off to the races. We have been working on bringing Workshops to the public. The first one will be held this coming April and will be centered around helping individuals apply for our grants. After that, we will be planning two more for the year. One around the film industry, and one around curating a show. We are also tying up some unfinished projects from last year, including art in the new sunset neighborhood park and the Renton Loop sculpture that will be installed at 2nd and main. We are also excited about two projects that are starting in neighborhoods that currently have no art. One in the Benson Hill neighborhood, and one on our historic Renton Hill.
I am committed to keeping my followers up to date on all things art in our community here on my blog.
Stay tuned for more exciting happening throughout the year.