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Town Hall Seattle Arts & Culture Series

Arts & Culture Podcasts

The Arts & Culture series enriches our community with imagination and creativity. Whether reinventing the classics for a new audience or presenting an innovative new art form, these events are aimed at expanding horizons. From poetry to music to storytelling, this series leaves our audiences inspired, encouraged, and seeing the world with new eyes.


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The Arts & Culture series enriches our community with imagination and creativity. Whether reinventing the classics for a new audience or presenting an innovative new art form, these events are aimed at expanding horizons. From poetry to music to storytelling, this series leaves our audiences inspired, encouraged, and seeing the world with new eyes.







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258. Shain Shapiro with Greg Scruggs: How Music Builds Cities

Looking back through history, it is obvious that the presence of music has had a profound impact on the daily lives of humans, our cultural rituals, and the evolution of civilization as a whole. Yet in public discourse, we still tend to separate conversations about music from those about civics or politics. We frame music as a product for entertainment when in reality the practice of music is deeply tied to the way our communities are structured and function. Shain Shapiro is the director of the global nonprofit Center for Music Ecosystems, and author of This Must Be The Place: How Music Can Make Your City Better. In his book, Shapiro examines the way music affects the building, managing, and governing of a city. Told through personal stories from cities around the world — including London, Melbourne, Nashville, Austin, and Zurich — This Must Be the Place demonstrates how integral music is to everyday life, yet how consistently music is ignored in public policy. Specifically, Shapiro references the transformative role that artists and musicians played in revitalizing elements of our post-pandemic world. In addition to spotlighting the connection between music and building cities, This Must be the Place serves as a guide and toolkit for music enthusiasts, artists, and activists who seek to utilize music as a tool for reinventing their community. Join Shain Shapiro at Town Hall, for an examination of the way music informs the building of a city, and how we can use music to strengthen our communities going forward. Shain Shapiro, Ph.D. is one of the world’s leading music and cultural policy thinkers. He is the founder and chairman of economics consultancy Sound Diplomacy, founder and director of the global nonprofit Center for Music Ecosystems and author of This Must Be The Place: How Music Can Make Your City Better. Shain has pioneered the work of music cities and music ecosystem policy, where music is written into how cities and places plan and invest in their future. Gregory Scruggs is a Seattle-based journalist. He is a correspondent for leading international cultural magazine Monocle and also works on the features desk at The Seattle Times. His reporting on how public policy impacts music scenes have been published in outlets such as The New York Times, Bloomberg CityLab, VICE, Next City, Seattle Weekly, and The Stranger. Buy the Book This Must Be the Place: How Music Can Make Your City Better Third Place Books


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257. Benjamin Wurgaft and Merry White with Peter Miller: Epicurean Odyssey

What do we learn when an anthropologist and a historian talk about food? Across endless eras, landscapes, and civilizations, humanity’s relationship with food has played the part of one of the landmark features of culture and community. We feel this on both the micro and macro scale — from learning a recipe passed down through generations of one’s own family to the excitement of exploring an unfamiliar local market in a city far from home. Culinary curiosity invites us all to the table, and through their new book, Ways of Eating, authors and storytellers Benjamin Wurgaft and Merry White are here to serve. Wurgaft and White aim to introduce readers to the interwoven worlds of global food history and food anthropology, exploring how we’re not just what we eat, but where, why, and how we came to eat it in the first place. Throughout their collaborative work, Wurgaft and White embark on a world tour of anthropological accounts and vivid storytelling, paying visits to Panamanian coffee growers, Japanese knife forgers, and the medieval age of women brewing beer. Ways of Eating explores the influence of migration and politics in shaping both group identity and global culinary practices, from the Venetian spice trade to the Columbian Exchange to the parallels between ancient Roman garum and contemporary Vietnamese nớc chấm. There are as many dynamics at play across the world of food anthropology as spices in a well-stocked pantry, and Ways of Eating seeks to understand and follow them from the plate back to the kitchen, the farm, and the field. Co-authors Benjamin A. Wurgaft and Merry I. White are a son and mother duo with backgrounds in history, philosophy, anthropology, and the social study of food. Merry White is a Professor of Anthropology at Boston University, with a specialization in Japanese social and food culture. Their previous publications include White’s Coffee Life in Japan and Wurgaft’s Meat Planet: Artificial Flesh and the Future of Food. This is their first book written together. Born in New England, Peter Miller is a graduate of Williams College and Harvard Graduate School of Education. He moved to Seattle in November 1970, a time when one could rent a home from a nearby phone booth with the instructions, “the key is under the mat, I will come meet you this week.” In 1975, Miller opened a bookshop in Wallingford, with its first lecture series featuring Tom Robbins and Alan Furst. In 1980, he opened an architecture bookshop in Pioneer Square, relocating it to the market in 1983. Thirty years later, he moved again to Belltown, in association with George Suyama Architects. The shop is now situated in Pioneer Square between First Avenue and the water. Additionally, Miller served as a member of the Seattle Design Commission from 1998 to 2001. Peter has authored three books: Lunch at the Shop, Five Ways to Cook Asparagus, and How to Wash the Dishes, with a fourth book set to be released in May, titled Shopkeeping. Buy the Book Ways of Eating: Exploring Food through History and Culture Third Place Books


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256. Tricia Romano with Dan Savage and Jane Levine: Voices of the Village

The Village Voice aimed to show readers something that mainstream publications wouldn’t: live theater productions climbing through the scaffolding of off-Broadway venues; moments in music from hip-hop to jazz to punk; New York City civil issues, like corrupt landlords; and global issues, like the AIDS crisis. Through decades of independent reporting and first-hand accounts within the myriad subcultures of New York, the Village Voice built a journalistic legacy of lived experience, bold critique, and political activism. One can’t help but wonder, what it must have been like to be one of the writers, editors, or photographers who was in on the action. In her debut book, The Freaks Came Out to Write, Tricia Romano shares her journey from intern to contributor at the Village Voice, and the multi-generational significance of the weekly paper that reached far beyond the neighborhoods of New York City. Romano’s accounts include over 200 interviews that span decades and feature influential figures such as Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead, feminist writers Vivian Gornick and Susan Brownmiller, the post-punk band Blondie, and many other acclaimed individuals in the realms of art, politics, and society. Romano ties it all together in an expansive oral history that tells the story of journalism, New York City and American culture — and the most famous alt-weekly of all time. Tricia Romano is a writer, columnist, and editor whose work has been published in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Elle, the Los Angeles Times, and of course the Village Voice, among others. Her column, Fly Life, dug into the underbelly of New York nightlife and she has penned award-winning stories on music and culture. She has served as a fellow at MacDowell, Millay, and UCross, a staff writer at the Seattle Times, and as editor-in-chief of the Stranger, Seattle’s own alternative newsweekly. Dan Savage is a sex-advice columnist, a podcaster, an author, and has appeared on numerous television shows. Formerly the editor of the Stranger, Dan’s sex-advice column “Savage Love,” is syndicated worldwide. He has published seven books and his weekly sex advice podcast Savage Lovecast. Jane Levine worked for more than 30 years at alternative weeklies. She started as an intern at Chicago Reader in 1973 and returned to serve as publisher from 1994 to 2004. In between, she held business-side positions at Los Angeles Reader, North Carolina Independent, and Seattle Weekly. Buy the Book The Freaks Came Out to Write: The Definitive History of the Village Voice, the Radical Paper That Changed American Culture Third Place Books


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255. Sasha LaPointe with Dawn Barron: Poignant Reflections on Indigenous America

What does it mean to be a proudly queer Indigenous woman in the United States today? Sasha LaPointe, winner of the 2023 Pacific Northwest Book Award for her memoir, Red Paint, shares a new collection of essays that navigate the complexities of indigenous identity, challenge stereotypes, and address cultural displacement and environmental concerns. Thunder Song draws inspiration from her family’s rich archive and the work of her late great-grandmother and weaves together stories that demonstrate the profound intersections of community, commitment, and conscientious honesty. Described as “unapologetically punk,” the essays in Thunder Song segue from the miraculous to the mundane, from the spiritual to the physical, as they examine the role of art — in particular, music — and community in helping a new generation of indigenous people claim the strength of their heritage while defining their own path in the contemporary world. Celebrate cultural diversity as LaPointe explores how we shape our understanding of the world, hoping to inspire a new era of conscientious living. Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe is a Coast Salish author from the Nooksack and Upper Skagit Indian tribes. She is the author of Red Paint: The Ancestral Autobiography of a Coast Salish Punk, winner of a Pacific Northwest Book Award, the Washington State Book Award for Creative Nonfiction/Memoir, and an NPR Best Book of the Year, and the poetry collection Rose Quartz. She received a double MFA in creative nonfiction and poetry from the Institute of American Indian Arts. She lives in Tacoma, Washington. Dawn Pichón Barron of Chowanoke/Choctaw/Mexican-Chihuahua/European heritage, is the Academic Director of the Native Pathways Program and Creative Writing Faculty at the Evergreen State College. She founded and curated the Gray Skies Reading Series 2009-2019. Her chapbook, ESCAPE GIRL BLUES, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2018. Buy the Book Thunder Song The Elliott Bay Book Company


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254. Tessa Hulls with Putsata Reang: Exploring Generational Echoes

If you’re a part of the Seattle arts scene, chances are you’ve come across Tessa Hulls. She has a hand in many local creative communities, including Seattle Arts & Lectures (where you might have spotted her illustrations on the 2021 Summer Book Bingo Card!), the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, and the Henry Art Museum. She’s also the lead artist in the Wing Luke Museum exhibit “Nobody Lives Here,” which explores the impacts of how the I-5 construction ran right through the Chinatown International District in the 1960s. It’s no surprise then that Hulls is passionate about mixing art and historical research, looking at how past events echo throughout daily relationships today. She explores these themes in her debut book, Feeding Ghosts, a graphic novel memoir that tells the story of three generations of women in her family: her Chinese grandmother Sun Yi; her mother, Rose; and herself. Sun Yi, who fled Communist China for Hong Kong, published a celebrated memoir about her persecution and survival, but then later succumbed to mental illness. Determined to face the history that shaped her family, Tessa exposes the wounds that haunt generations and the love that holds them together. Hulls is a self-proclaimed “compulsive genre-hopper,” mixing personal and political histories with travel writing and visual art. This might explain why she’s so well-intertwined in Seattle’s art scene, using her creativity to build community and create conversations about the impacts of our shared history. Tessa Hulls is an artist, a writer, and an adventurer. Her essays have appeared in The Washington Post, Atlas Obscura, and Adventure Journal, and her comics have been published in The Rumpus, City Arts, and SPARK. She has received grants from the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture and 4Culture, and she is a fellowship recipient from the Washington Artist Trust. Feeding Ghosts is her first book. Putsata Reang is a Cambodian-born author and a journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Politico, The Guardian, Ms., The San Jose Mercury News, and The Seattle Times, among other publications. She is an alumna of residencies at Hedgebrook, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and Mineral School, and she has received fellowships from the Alicia Patterson Foundation and Jack Straw Cultural Center. Buy the Companion Book Feeding Ghosts: A Graphic Memoir Third Place Books


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253. Sloane Crosley with Ben Gibbard: Grief Is for People

Have you ever lost something or someone dear to you? Though it ranges in severity and impact, loss is a shared human experience – an inevitable, inescapable part of life. Praised for her humor and sharp wit, essayist and novelist Sloane Crosley delivers her first memoir Grief is for People, exploring how loss can take many forms. After the pain and confusion of losing her closest friend Russell to suicide – which occurred only a month after also losing prized possessions and her sense of safety following a burglary – Crosley looks for answers, even where they may be elusive. She seeks solace not only in those close to her but in art and philosophy as well, hoping for a useful framework outside the oft-cited five stages of grief. Crosley’s readership may not have seen this side of the author, but will nevertheless recognize those observations and examinations of the human condition interlaced with levity that popularized her earlier writings. Grief Is for People seeks to upend the traditional grief memoir and offer both consolation and challenge to standard conceptions of mourning. Crosley’s talk is for anyone in a current time of sorrow or who has experienced a loss and might welcome a discussion beyond platitudes. Sloane Crosley is the author of the novels Cult Classic and The Clasp and three essay collections: Look Alive Out There and the New York Times bestsellers I Was Told There’d Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number. Benjamin Gibbard is a multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter and guitarist. He is the lead vocalist, guitarist, and primary songwriter of Death Cab for Cutie, formed in 1997, and one half of the electronic duo The Postal Service. Gibbard released his debut solo album “Former Lives” in 2012, and he has scored two films. Gibbard is an avid ultra-marathon runner and a longtime resident of Seattle. Buy the Companion Book Grief Is for People: A Memoir The Elliott Bay Book Company


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252. Eric Klinenberg with Margaret O’Mara: A Year Which Will Live in Infamy

You’d be hard-pressed to find a person whose life went unchanged in 2020, arguably one of the most consequential years in human history. It marked an unprecedented time, left indelible memories in our minds, and set off ripple effects we still feel even today. Disruption of normal life was nearly universal; however, the ways in which we experienced disruption were varied. Acclaimed sociologist and bestselling author Eric Klinenberg’s latest work 2020: One City, Seven People, and the Year Everything Changed offers an account of a single year in modern history told through the stories of seven New Yorkers. From an elementary school principal to a bar manager, a subway custodian to a political aide, the book sheds light on the human experience of that fateful time four years ago, illuminating both individual and collective uncertainty, fear, loss, and hope. Although the book is centered on New York City, 2020 also explores the political spheres of the nation’s capital and beyond, as well as epidemiological battles, policies, and movements worldwide. Set against the backdrop of a tense presidential election and social unrest, Klinenberg offers a window into a recent time of reckoning and an invitation to examine ourselves and our experiences. Eric Klinenberg is the Helen Gould Shepard Professor in the Social Sciences and director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. He is the co-author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Modern Romance and author of Palaces for the People, Going Solo, Heat Wave, and Fighting for Air. He has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Wired, and This American Life. He lives in New York City. Margaret O’Mara is the Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Professor of American History at the University of Washington. Margaret is a leading historian of Silicon Valley and the author of two acclaimed books about the modern American technology industry: The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America (Penguin Press, 2019) and Cities of Knowledge: Cold War Science and the Search For The Next Silicon Valley (Princeton, 2005). She also is a historian of the American presidency and author of Pivotal Tuesdays: Four Elections that Shaped the Twentieth Century (Penn Press, 2015). She is a coauthor, with David Kennedy and Lizabeth Cohen, of the widely used United States history college textbook, The American Pageant (Cengage). Buy the Companion Book 2020: One City, Seven People, and the Year Everything Changed The Elliott Bay Book Company


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251. Robots Who Paint: What’s Next with AI and Art?

Three expert guests discuss the implications of AI and the fine arts in a conversation moderated by Steve Scher. Scientist and founder of the Artists and Machine Intelligence program at Google, Blaise Agüera y Arcas, will offer his “news from the front” about the latest developments in AI capabilities, and what he foresees ahead. Alex Alben, technology executive, author, and law professor, will review the implications of AI to the artist from the point of view of intellectual property: is anything on the internet up for grabs, or is compensation for image “borrowing” a possibility? Finally, painter Jason Puccinelli, who uses AI as one of his tools in image creation, will talk about what he finds exciting and useful, and what he finds problematic, about this new resource. Presented by Town Hall Seattle and Gage Academy of Art.


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250. James Miles - Gotta Stay Fresh: Transforming Learning with Hip-Hop Education

Hip-hop education is more than just music; it’s a dynamic tool for fostering student success and intellectual growth. James Miles, known as the Fresh Professor, is renowned for his engaging teaching style. By infusing lessons with content that’s inspirational, intellectually engaging, and relevant to students’ lives, Miles demonstrates how teachers can use hip-hop education to help students better retain information and think critically about concepts inside and outside the classroom. Miles will be joined by a panel of experts with backgrounds ranging from educators to artists who will talk about ways to ignite curiosity, ensure comprehension, and provide differentiation options for all kinds of learners. Weaving performance into their discussion, they will talk about the impact of hip-hop on their lives, how it shows up in current events, and the implications for education. At the program break, DJ Topspin will play music, followed by a discussion of James’s book, Gotta Stay Fresh. James Miles, aka Fresh Professor, is a New York City artist and educator with 20 years of experience, now based in Seattle. He’s an Assistant Professor at Seattle University and serves as the Creative Economy Manager at Seattle’s Office of Economic Development. James has a rich history, including leadership roles at Third Stone, MENTOR Washington, and Arts Corps. His innovative Fresh Education program, using hip-hop and theater for academic success, has influenced educators worldwide. A graduate of Morehouse College and Brandeis University, James empowers teachers globally through professional development. His mission is to reduce educational inequities using the arts. DJ Topspin aka Blendiana Jones is established as a musical pillar in the Northwest and across the world. He (seemingly) easily weaves a complex blend of hits and unearthed genre-spanning gems from both past & present eras, creating a musical tapestry all his own. Born from a Jamaican father and Panamanian mother, the pulse of the diaspora in the form of dancehall/reggae/soca/afrobeat is always present in his musical displays. He’s recently showcased them DJing in The Kingdom of Bahrain for the 2nd time in as many years, and has previously produced a weekly countdown show broadcasted throughout Tanzania (where he’s spun 3x so far) and to other African nations. Moses Sun is an afro-abstractionist working in assemblage, painting, video, animation, and public art that explores the intersection of Pan-Africanism and the world’s diasporas. Moses Sun fuses hip-hop, jazz, afro-futurism, and the black southern diaspora of his childhood into a mix of visuals that blurs the lines between digital and analog art. His interdisciplinary practice comes from the hip-hop ethos of grinding in the studio, creating multiple tracks (series of works) that he remixes into new works. His search for common ground between diasporas has led to collaborations with Seattle’s Wing Luke Museum, SAM, Frye Art Museum, Museum of Pop Culture, Seattle Hebrew Academy, and Africatown Plaza. Idris Goodwin is a multi-award-winning storyteller of stage, audio, screen, and page. Currently serving as Artistic Director of Seattle Children’s Theater, Idris writes, directs, programs, and /or produces relevant content for intergenerational audiences. Goodwin is the author of over 75 dynamic and diverse original plays. Committed to access and impact, Goodwin’s work is widely produced across the country by professional, community, and academic institutions alike. Olisa Enrico is an artist, educator and administrator who engages the unique power of art to cultivate community and culture. Olisa spent her childhood writing music and performing, traversing genres and rooted in hip hop as her primary form of expression. She branched out to theater and found passion for the power of story to reveal and heal. Olisa provides performances, professional development, curriculum development, consultations and workshops through her...


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249. Alexis Devine with Sarah Stremming: How a Talking Dog Could Teach You How to Be Human

Many of us talk to our pets daily, but what would you do if your pet could talk back? What do you think they would say? When Bunny, a fluffy, black-and-white sheepadoodle, was eight weeks old, her guardian Alexis presented her with an odd gift: a button programmed to say “outside” when pressed. Within a few weeks, Bunny was using it all the time, and Alexis, encouraged by Bunny’s progress, continued to introduce more buttons and more words. Three years later, Bunny can now communicate using over one hundred buttons, stringing together important, relatable, philosophical phrases such as “Love you Mom,” “Dad went poop,” and “Ugh why?” In I Am Bunny, Alexis chronicles not only how Bunny learned to “talk,” but also the profound impact their journey has had on her life. Caring for Bunny revealed to Alexis a path to self-acceptance if not complete self-love, and as their relationship developed their ability to communicate deepened. Through charming anecdotes about day-to-day life with Bunny, explorations into prior animal language studies, and plenty of irreverent humor, daring, and heart, Alexis tells the story of how she and Bunny have become so inspiringly close and explores the ancient and unique bond between dog and guardian that so many of us know leads to a deeper, more meaningful life. Alexis Devine is an artist and entrepreneur hailing from Seattle, Washington. She was a longtime creator of wearable art before her sheepadoodle, Bunny, known as “What About Bunny” on social media, became an internet sensation in the fall of 2020. Bunny is part of an ongoing canine cognition research study at the Comparative Cognition Lab at UCSD. Alexis is a Licensed Family Dog Mediator, Fear Free Certified Professional, and Certified Canine Enrichment Tech­nician. Her goal is to further our understanding of the power of connection and the importance of empathy, meeting her dogs where they are and understanding them on their terms first to facilitate trust and promote an environment that supports them as the incredible creatures they are. Sarah Stremming (she/her) is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants who hosts the popular podcast Cog Dog Radio. She consults on challenging dog behavior cases, lectures other professionals worldwide, and runs a dynamic membership out of her home office in Redmond, Washington. Known for popularizing “decompression walks” she believes what is best for dogs is usually best for their human companions, too. Sarah competes in the dog sports of Agility and Obedience and can often be found deep in the woods beside her Icelandic sheepdog and three border collies. I Am Bunny The Elliott Bay Book Company


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248. Misha Berson: Seattle Theatre Lives!

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Seattle’s theatre community demonstrated resilience and adaptability, navigating through challenging times to envision a new era for the performing arts. Arts journalist and educator Misha Berson will moderate an open discussion about Seattle’s current theatrical landscape with the respected artistic directors of three of the city’s most popular stage companies: John Langs, head of the long-running ACT Theatre; Karen Lund, producing artistic director of Taproot Theatre in Greenwood; and Dámaso Rodríguez, the new artistic director of the Tony Award-honored Seattle Repertory Theatre. Misha Berson was the chief theatre critic for The Seattle Times for 25 years. Now a freelance writer and teacher, her work appears in The Seattle Times, American Theatre, and other publications, and she is the author of four books, most recently Something’s Coming, Something Good: West Side Story and the American Imagination. Presented by Town Hall Seattle and Northwest Center for Creative Aging.


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247. 2022 Town Hall Seattle Writer-in-Residence Sarah Salcedo and Washington State Poet Laureate Arianne True: Neurodivergence and Art

Join us for a conversation between former Town Hall Seattle Writer-in-Residence Sarah Salcedo and Washington State Poet Laureate Arianne True. Together, they will discuss how they negotiate the intersections of neurodivergence, art, and artistic careers. After a discussion, there will be a reading of Arianne’s poems and a section from the in-progress novel that Sarah began during her Town Hall residency in 2022, which has also been funded by 4Culture. Arianne True (Choctaw, Chickasaw) is a queer poet and teaching artist from Seattle, and has spent most of her work time working with youth. She’s received fellowships and residencies from Jack Straw, the Hugo House, Artist Trust, and the Seattle Repertory Theater, and is a proud alum of Hedgebrook and of the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She lives near the Salish Sea with her cat. Arianne is the 2023-2025 Washington State Poet Laureate. Sarah Salcedo is an award-winning filmmaker, illustrator, and author. She was the Spring 2022 Writer-in-Residence for Town Hall Seattle and attended both the 2022 Tin House Winter and Summer Workshop for fiction. Her first film, Promised Land, debuted in festivals in 2016. She is currently at work on her next two documentaries with her partner and collaborator, Vasant Salcedo. She has received multiple grants from 4Culture and Artist Trust for her fiction and film work. To learn more about our speakers, or read their work prior to the event, please visit their websites and social media below: Arianne True: Website | Instagram Sarah Salcedo: Website | Instagram


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246. Behind the WHEEL: The Power of Homeless Women

You’re invited to celebrate thirty years of homeless women organizing, writing, and creating change! In 1993, homeless and formerly homeless women in Seattle came together to create WHEEL (Women’s Housing, Equality, and Enhancement League) to organize for increased safety and shelter and advocate for changes to end homelessness. Now, in 2023, it’s time to commemorate the 30th anniversary of WHEEL and 20th anniversary of WHEEL’s Homeless Remembrance Project, an initiative that has endowed the city with enduring memorials for homeless individuals. As if this weren’t enough, it is also the 15th anniversary of the publication of Beloved Community: The Sisterhood of Homeless Women in Poetry, a moving anthology published by Whit Press, which continues to resonate with community members. Discover new, powerful voices from current WHEEL members as they share their stories and insights. Following the presentation, engage in a Q&A session to delve deeper into the issues at hand. Beloved Community – The Sisterhood of Homeless Women in Poetry


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245. Stephanie Land with Sara K. Runnels: Motherhood, Hunger, and Higher Education

When Stephanie Land set out to write her memoir, Maid, she never could have imagined what was to come. Handpicked by President Barack Obama as one of the best books of 2019 and later adapted into the hit Netflix series Maid, Stephanie’s escape out of poverty and abuse in search of a better life inspired millions. Maid was a story about a house cleaner, but it was also a story about a woman with a dream. In her new book, Class, Land takes us with her as she finishes college and pursues her writing career. Facing barriers at every turn including a byzantine loan system, not having enough money for food, navigating the judgments of professors and fellow students who didn’t understand the demands of attending college while under the poverty line — Land finds a way to survive once again, finally graduating in her mid-thirties. Class paints an intimate portrait of motherhood as it converges and often conflicts with personal desire and professional ambition. Who has the right to create art? Who has the right to go to college? And what kind of work is valued in our culture? Class grapples with these questions, offering a searing indictment of America’s educational system and an inspiring testimony of a mother’s triumph against all odds. Stephanie Land is the author of the New York Times bestseller Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive, called “a testimony…worth listening to,” by The New York Times and inspiration for the Netflix series Maid. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Atlantic, and many other outlets. Her writing focuses on social and economic justice and parenting under the poverty line. She is a frequent speaker at colleges and national advocacy organizations. Find out more at Sara K. Runnels is a seasoned humor writer, copywriter and writer-writer living in Seattle, WA. She is a regular contributor to The New Yorker, and her satire has been featured in McSweeney’s, Betches and Overheard, among other publications that respect scintillating wordplay. Sara has also spent more than 15 years pushing corporate boundaries by writing extremely fun and edgy copy for a variety of popular brands (including airlines, TV networks and dating apps—all of life’s necessities). Her witticisms, viral one-liners and sharp social commentary can be found, quite literally, all over the internet (@omgskr). She specializes in clever dating and relationship content, and always has something to say about politics, pop culture and the Pacific Northwest. She is currently working on a funny novel in between episodes of terrible reality TV. Class: A Memoir of Motherhood, Hunger, and Higher Education The Elliott Bay Book Company


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244. Alva Noë: Art is All Around Us

What exactly is art and why does it matter to us? Philosopher of the mind Alva Noë explores the answers to these questions, arguing that we need art and philosophy to fully understand human nature. After all, our modern way of life is permeated with the aesthetic––the arts are an integral part of every human culture on the planet. Our lives supply art with its raw materials, but art, Noë argues, remakes life by giving us resources to live differently. Because of this, Noë believes that art is the truest way of understanding ourselves. He suggests that neither biology, cognitive science, nor artificial intelligence can tell a complete story of us. In making these claims, Noë explores examples from his latest book, The Entanglement—in artworks and seeing, writing and speech, and choreography and dancing—and looks at a range of scientific efforts to explain what it means to be human. Through his work, Noë believes that natural science has its limits in fully understanding the human experience. He lays out the argument that art and philosophy play essential roles in trying to know ourselves. Challenging the idea that art is simply a cultural curiosity and that philosophy has been replaced with science, Noë suggests a new way of thinking about human nature. Alva Noë is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is a member of the Center for New Media, the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences, and the Program in Critical Theory. His many books include Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature and Learning to Look: Dispatches from the Art World. The Entanglement: How Art and Philosophy Make Us What We Are Third Place Books


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243. Sheila Johnson with Gin Hammond: Through the Fire

If you thought billionaire success stories all looked pretty similar, prepare to be surprised. From middle-class Midwestern beginnings, Sheila Johnson went from an accomplished violinist who married young to become one of the most accomplished businesswomen in America. A co-founder of the popular network Black Entertainment Television (BET) and the first African-American woman billionaire, Johnson rose to become an entrepreneur and philanthropist at the highest levels. Her new book, Walk Through Fire: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Triumph is filled with candor and emotion as Johnson recounts her many challenges, both in her professional life and thirty-three-year marriage. From battling self-doubt and institutional racism to losing a child, suffering domestic emotional abuse, and plunging into a deep depression from her divorce, Johnson has faced no shortage of hardships. And yet, out of that pain came renewed purpose and meaning. In the third act of her life, Johnson has not only made her mark as the founder of Salamander Hotels & Resorts and the only Black female co-owner of three professional sports teams but has also finally found true love. Walk Through Fire is at once a story of the American dream and the deeply personal portrait of one woman who, despite heartache and obstacles, finally found herself and her place in the world. Johnson’s deeply personal account of love and loss, tragedy and triumph is an example of overcoming toxicity, discovering her true self, and at last finding happiness in work and life. Sheila Johnson is an American entrepreneur and philanthropist, co-founder of BET, founder, and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, and the only African American woman to have a principal shareholder stake in three professional sports teams. Gin Hammond is an award-winning Harvard University/Moscow Art Theatre graduate, as well as an actor, writer, director, and has performed onstage both nationally and internationally. She is also the author of the recently released historical fiction novel Returning The Bones which she wrote after a decade of interviews with the main character. Presented by Town Hall Seattle and Northwest African American Museum. Community partner: Seattle Black Business Network Walk Through Fire: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Triumph Third Place Books


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242. Letters Aloud: Before They Were Famous – letters on the way up

Have you ever dreamed of being famous? Imagined what it would be like to have all your dreams come true? Recognition, adoration, basking in the limelight. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that “The Road To Fame” is a prickly path, filled with twists & turns, backstabbing & betrayals. Experience a captivating journey into fame as the performers of Letters Aloud bring to life personal and illuminating letters from renowned figures like Stephen King, Dorothy Parker, Vincent Van Gogh, Emily Dickinson, Bruce Lee, Oprah Winfrey, and Tom Hanks, and explore the steep cost and evolving nature of what it means to be “famous” from those who have traversed its path. A riotously funny, movingly poignant, and thought-provoking experience brought to life by a gifted ensemble of professional actors, with live musical accompaniment, and a dynamic slide show, “Before They Were Famous” is a show that leaves audiences with smiles on their faces and much to discuss on their drive home. Letters Aloud is a performing arts company that brings to life intimate, thought-provoking, and often humorous stories hidden within private letters of the past. Their performances are a unique combination of literature, theatre, and live music that celebrates the beauty of the written word and the human experience. (If you take NPR’s Selected Shorts, cross it with The Moth podcast and add just a pinch of the old A Prairie Home Companion, you pretty much have their show…except, of course, with letters.) They believe that letters are more than just pieces of paper; they are windows into the past, bridges between people, and tools for empathy and connection. Reading them aloud in front of an audience makes for a truly unique and powerful collective experience. Whether you’re a fan of literature, history, or simply good storytelling, we invite you to join us on a journey through the written word. Letters Aloud is a celebration of the human spirit and we look forward to sharing it with you. About the Performers: PAUL MORGAN STETLER Paul is the creator and curator of Letters Aloud and a co-founder (and former Co-Artistic Director) of Seattle’s multi-award-winning New Century Theatre Company. A well-known Seattle actor, Paul has appeared on numerous local stages over the past 20 years, including ACT Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Village Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre, Intiman Theatre, and Empty Space Theatre, as well as numerous regional theatres across the country. He holds a BA in English Literature at Cal State Northridge and an MFA in Theatre Arts from Penn State University. BASIL HARRIS Basil Harris is a Seattle actor and musician who has worked extensively on stage and in film and media. As a voice actor, he’s a regular contributor to the audio dramas of Jim French’s Imagination Theater. He also plays in the alt-pop band “Awesome”, which will be appearing here at Town Hall in December. More at CLAUDINE MBOLIGIKPELANI NAKO Claudine is an actor out of Seattle, Washington, and a core company member of the prestigious ACT Theatre where she has appeared in numerous plays and is a two-time Gregory Award Winner for her work on stage. Film/TV credits include Everything Sucks!, Raising Dion, and Outside In (Netflix); Three Busy Debras on HBO Max and Grimm on NBC. Up next: directing Stew by Nora Howard at ACT Theatre, March 15-31. RAY TAGAVILLA Ray Tagavilla is a UW Drama Program graduate and a recipient of the 2012, 2014 Gregory Award for Best Supporting Actor for Jesus Hopped the A Train and A Small Fire and 2016 for Lead Actor for The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. His most recent theater credits were Two Mile Hollow at Intiman Theater, Titanish at Seattle Public, and recent film credits were Three Busy Debras with Adult Swim/HBO Max. ALEXANDRA TAVARES Alexandra Tavares is one of Seattle’s most treasured theatre actors. She most recently portrayed Caliban in Seattle Rep’s The Tempest, as well...


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241. Peter Boal with Jackson Cooper: From Boyhood to Ballet

From the artistic director of the Pacific Northwest Ballet and former principal dancer for the New York City Ballet comes a deeply personal memoir about one artist’s journey from boyhood to ballet. Peter Boal’s extensive background in ballet offers a unique glimpse into the world of dance with his diverse repertoire and artistic achievements, including collaborations with prominent choreographers and dancers, Boal’s perspective resonates with both seasoned ballet enthusiasts and those new to the art form. Boal will discuss his journey as well as the challenges and triumphs of his career. Serving as a platform for fostering a deeper understanding of ballet’s impact on contemporary culture, Boal’s insights into the creative process, his role in shaping Pacific Northwest Ballet’s repertoire, and his dedication to nurturing emerging talents within the dance community offer attendees the chance to gain insights into the dedication and discipline required in ballet, as well as the broader artistic influences that have shaped Peter Boal’s journey. Whether one is an ardent ballet aficionado or simply curious about the world of dance, this event is poised to offer an enriching experience for all. Peter Boal is the Artistic Director of Pacific Northwest Ballet and Director of Pacific Northwest Ballet School. Born in Bedford, New York, he received his training at the School of American Ballet while performing children’s roles with New York City Ballet. George Balanchine invited Boal to join the company as an apprentice in 1983, and he continued to dance for NYCB until his retirement in 2005. He has staged works by Balanchine, Ulysses Dove, and Jerome Robbins for PNB, PNB School, and other companies. His memoir, Illusions of Camelot, was released in 2023. Jackson Cooper is a nationally recognized queer arts leader who currently serves as the Major Gifts Manager at Pacific Northwest Ballet and a member of their Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility committee. In addition to his role at the ballet, Cooper serves as an Adjunct Professor for Seattle University’s Arts Leadership program. Cooper is an accomplished writer, with two upcoming publications: A Kids Book About Kindness which comes out this year and a book on fundraising through Columbia Business School Press due out in 2026. Illusions of Camelot: A Memoir Third Place Books


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240. Amy Schneider with Mimi Zima: In the Form of a Question

Who is the most successful woman to ever compete on Jeopardy!? Amy Schneider’s impressive forty-game winning streak was accompanied by an even greater prize – the joy of being herself on national television and blazing a trail for openly queer and transgender people around the world. Join Amy as she shares her singular journey that led to becoming an unlikely icon and hero to millions. Amy Schneider is an American software engineer and recent Jeopardy! champion. Following an impressive forty-game winning streak, she became the most successful woman ever to compete on Jeopardy!. She is second all-time in the show’s history, trailing only Ken Jennings. Amy is also the first openly transgender contestant to qualify for the Tournament of Champions. She has been covered in People, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, USA TODAY, and more, and she has appeared on Good Morning America. Mimi Zima is a DJ, performer, and recording artist who has been an integral part of Seattle’s music and queer nightlife scenes for nearly a decade. She gained wider recognition in 2020 with the release of her underground rave hit “Back of the Truck.” In her original music and her DJ sets, she strives to boldly confront transmisogyny and to encourage trans women and queer people at large to liberate themselves from shame and repression. In the Form of a Question: The Joys and Rewards of a Curious Life Phinney Books


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239. Tattoo Artist Panel: Yes It Hurts and You Will Bleed

Professor Scott Méxcal sits down with three of Seattle’s preeminent tattoo artists to chat about life behind the needle. In this discussion, they will explore the history of tattooing, tattoo cultural traditions, and the personal journeys of tattoo artists Sonrisa Barron, Suzanna Fisher, and Dustin Burt. About the artists: Sonrisa Barron is the owner and lead artist at Serpent Tattoo LLC, established in 2023 in Olympia, WA. With a Bachelor’s degree from Evergreen State College and extensive training via a long-term apprenticeship, Barron specializes in neo-traditional and illustrative tattoo styles. Barron believes that tattooing is not just about creating a beautiful piece of art, but also about creating an energetic exchange that promotes healing and clarity. Suzanna Fisher was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and has always felt lucky to live amongst the beauty and diversity that can be found here. Shortly after graduating with a degree in Visual Art from the University of Washington, Suzanna began a tattoo apprenticeship and the fates were forever sealed. Tattooing allows Suzanna to collaborate with clients to realize their vision of personal adornment through a shared appreciation of nature and with respect for this ancient art. Suzanna has been tattooing professionally since 2007 and has owned and operated Bellwether Tattoo in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle since 2014. Dustin Burt specializes in realistic tattoos through the Black and Grey tattoo technique and has developed a style of his own. With a degree from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and over ten years of tattooing experience, Dustin Burt strives to continually develop as an artist while providing the highest caliber of artwork to his clients. In 2021 Dustin was featured in MoPop’s tattoo exhibition “Body of Work: Tattoo Culture. About the Moderator: Scott Méxcal is a public artist, scholar, and art activist. Born and raised in Albuquerque New Mexico, Scott grew up amongst the Nopal and Yucca learning the fundamentals of Chicano Street Art. In 2000, Scott moved to the PNW to earn his BFA from Northwest College of Art and later studied classical painting at Gage Academy of Art in the Aristides Atelier. In 2022, Scott was awarded an MFA through Prescott College in Social and Environmental Practice Art. Scott has lectured at the Seattle Artists of Color Expo and Symposium (ACES), created public art projects, commissions, and exhibitions throughout Seattle, and supports the fight to close the NW Detention Center with Tsuru for Solidarity and La Resistencia. Presented by Town Hall Seattle and Gage Arts Academy.