Grant

Summary

This project will result in free performances of live music and spoken word at 15 Seattle locations of sculptures by James Washington. Most of these sculptures are located outdoors and can accommodate audiences from 60 to 100 people. Ideally, these performances would occur on weekend afternoons during summer months. The maximum live audience would be 1,500. The program will be recorded for promotional use and potential commercial sale.

Background

James Winston Washington (1909-2000) grew up in Mississippi, became a shoemaker and created the first WPA sponsored exhibition of black artists in the state. He moved to Seattle in 1944 to work in the Bremerton ship yards and became involved with the Northwest School of artists. After meeting Diego Rivera in Mexico, he began sculpting in stone. His subjects were often freedom, creativity, racism and religion. His sculptures are included in collections of the Seattle Art Museum and Whitney Museum of American Art, have been exhibited in American, Japan and Europe, and are installed across Seattle, Olympia, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Osaka.
 
As for his creative process and motives, he said, “I’d done a series on the Creation, concerning all of life having a kindred spirit within. Not necessarily this creative spirit, but something that would unify all of us. What I am trying to say with my sculptures is that each one of us has something within us waiting to be released, and that something is spiritual, the spirit being the universality of life itself.” He also said, I release the spiritual force into the inanimate material and animate it."
 
This project will attempt to translate the spiritual force from Washington’s work into music and share this with audiences. It will also set excerpts of Washington’s poetry and prose to music. The sounds of Mr. Washington’s tools will be incorporated as musical material.

Collaboration

LaVerne Hall, President Emeritus of the James W. Washington, Jr. and Janie Rogella Washington Foundation is in support of this project. I would like to spend a significant amount of time in the home of James Washington to absorb the rich collection of writings, artifacts and art. One potential collaboration may be to develop a walking tour of Black heritage sites and a student art show in conjunction with this project.
 
Other potential collaborators are:
  • African American Writers Alliance (Washington wrote poetry and prose)
  • Black Heritage Society of Washington (Washington was a local civil rights advocate)
  • Northwest African American Museum (hosted exhibit of Washington works)
  • Pacific Northwest African American Quilters (Washington wrote about quilting)

In addition, collaboration will include site management for the 13 sculpture locations below:
 
Nearby Building
Address
Washington Sculpture
Skarbos Furniture
5354 Ballard Ave NW
Coelacanths
Betty Bowen Viewpoint
7th Avenue W & W Highland Drive
Untitled (Gemini)
Intiman Theater Plaza
201 Mercer Street
Barbet
YWCA
1118 5th Ave
Renewness of Life
Safeco Plaza
1001 4th Avenue
Creation #7, #8, #9, #10
Seattle Public Library
1000 4th Avenue
Kinship of all Life (Creation #4)
Rhythm in Colors
Washington State Convention Center
800 Convention Place
(3rd floor)
Bird with Covey
Sheraton Hotel
1400 6th Avenue
Obelisk with Phoenix and Esoteric Symbols of Nature
Columbia Center (3200)
701 5th Avenue
Life Surrounding the Astral Altar
Nova High School
301 21st Avenue
The Obelisk
Earl’s Cuts and Styles
1162 23rd Avenue
Fountain of Triumph
Mount Zion Church
1634 19th Avenue
Oracle of Truth
Youth Services Center
1211 East Alder Street
Woodchuck with Owl
Bailey Gatzert School
1301 East Yesler Way
Children’s Touchstone with Eagles
Odessa Brown Children’s Center
2101 East Yesler Way
My Testimony in Stone

Previous Experience

I set three of James Washington’s poems to music (“Children Swinging,” “Finding Yourself,” “Mother Earth”) and they were performed by a female gospel singer, guitarist and me at a fundraiser for the Foundation. This proposal will further develop these pieces and add several new works for an expanded ensemble that includes percussion, bass, trumpet and male voice.
 
This project will be developed and presented in a manner similar to my previous standing room only 4Culture Historic Site Specific concerts of spoken word and music at the Panama Hotel Tea Room.
 
The creative process will mimic my Earshot Jazz Voice and Vision concert at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. I meditated in the sculpture court and imagined the statues coming to life and speaking with me. I found poetry related to animated statues and composed music on the theme of art coming to life.
 
Another similar previous project was sold out concerts at the Good Shepherd Chapel for a program of jazz chamber music inspired by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959).

Creative Process

  • I will research the writing of James Washington, spend time in his studio and home, listen to the sound of his tools, read his written materials, visit the sculptures and post source material on a blog (http://soundinstone.blogspot.com).
  • From this I will construct a list of scenes and corresponding musical ideas. The music will be arranged for an ensemble that includes male and female voices, trumpet, saxophone, guitar, bass and percussion.
  • The music compositions (scores and parts) will be published with notation software and rendered by MIDI playback to audio files that will be used for rehearsal and promotion.
  • I will construct a narrative thread to connect the scenes. Additional information will be published in a program.
  • The performance will be rehearsed and refined over the course of performances.
  • The music and narrative will be recorded for commercial release.

Sources

  • A Field Guide to Seattle’s Public Art, Seattle Arts Commission, 1991.
  • A History of African-American Artists, Romare Bearden & Harry Henderson, New York: Pantheon Books, 1993.
  • Art in Seattle’s Public Places, Gervais Reed, Seattle: Seattle Public Library, 1977.
  • Art in Seattle’s Public Places, James R. Rupp, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1992. 
  • Iridescent Light: The Emergence of Northwest Art, Deloris Tarzan Ament, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002.
  • Northwest Art Collection, The Seattle Public Library
  • Poems of Life, James Washington, 1997.
  • Spirit in the Stone: The Visionary Art of James W. Washington, Jr., Paul J. Karlstrom, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1989.
  • The Galleries: Art at the Convention Center, A Self-Guided Tour