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Monday, October 29, 2012

Little Shop of Horrors performances in Tacoma

Boy Meets Girl. Girl Meets Plant. Plant Eats Girl. Come witness Annie Wright Upper School's rockin' take on the 1960s cult classic, Little Shop of Horrors. The girls will perform two showings: Friday, November 2 and Saturday, November 3. Both showings are at 7:30 pm at Annie Wright’s Kemper Theater, 827 North Tacoma Avenue, in Tacoma. Tickets can be purchased in advance at

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Holiday Food Drive underway through November 17

The holiday season is fast approaching.  Many families in University Place rely on the generosity of community members to make sure they have something on their tables for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  

Bridgeport Place is the one and only designated drop-off location for donations of non-perishable food items.  A donation bin is located in the lobby near the elevator.  

The Lions Club welcomes donations by check or cash so that they can purchase food items in bulk at the best prices. 

Donations for the Thanksgiving baskets must be received by November 17.  The University Place Lions club calls Bridgeport Place ‘home’ and holds their twice monthly meetings in the Parkside Lounge. 

Bridgeport Place is located at 5250 Bridgeport Way West, in University Place.  Donations can be dropped off from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week from now through November 17.  

To receive a complete list of suggested food items, please call Jaynie Jones at 253.565.1960 or e-mail your request to and a list will be mailed to you or sent to you via e-mail. 

The University Place Lions thank you for your support of their community outreach efforts in University Place and making this possible. If donations of non-perishable food items exceed what is needed for the holiday food baskets all extra items will be donated to the University Place food bank.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Day of the Dead Altars at Tacoma Art Museum--and Omiyage

Sunday ( October 21) was a brilliant Autumn day in the Northwest.  I drove in sunlight, watching blue iron storm clouds to the North, a brilliant rainbow at its edge, diving into Commencement Bay; the Foss Bridge for separation, then a phantom rainbow on the East side of those slanted, definitive lines.  These are the kind of days to celebrate skirting the edge of storms, days where the veil is thin, when trees are losing their red and gold leaves to the wind.  On these winds of change, we can feel the caress of our ancestors, feel time passing our mileposts.

My destination, this day, was the Tacoma Art Museum, to see altars made for the Day of the Dead celebration.  If you are not familiar, this is a yearly custom in Mexico, to honour ancestors on November 1 and 2, All Saints Day and All Souls Day, respectively.  Graves are cleaned up, dressed up, and sustenance shared and left, for their loved ones.  It seems a wonderful and loving way to honour lives, and to continue living.  Awonderful collection of altars lined the museum's hallways upstairs, made by those who were invited for the event, including my dear friend and colleague here in the Neighbourhood, Mizu Sugimura.

Mizu is not only a local gem of an artist, but also a champion of truth, with hope for America in her art, and in her essays.  She has taught me so much about the injustice done to Japanese-Americans during WWII, while working through the silent shock waves of her family’s trauma, and her need to speak of them, to honour her loved ones.  This event was perfect for her, picked from the melting pot that makes this country.

A majority of the altars followed the colourful, painted skulls and Madonnas, marigolds and mementos, traditional Dia de los Muertos form, but some put the same love, and honouring, in slightly different presentation.  The simplicity of one dedicated to women, missing in Mexico, photographs speaking volumes, was sad and sacred.  A gilded Weeping Fig stood for one family, coloured-glass ‘jewels’ on some of its leaves, and a canvas below that invited you to write the name of an ancestor you would like to honour.  My hand felt a little shaky, as I wrote my mother’s name there.

I knew Mizu’s altar as soon as I saw it, the colours muted—black, white, grey, with pale, watery blue-greens, except for bright red lips, buttoned, red suns on toy airplane wings, red koi and red stripes on tiny flags.  Silent ghost figures, and that one small suitcase, orders, identifying papers, a miniature sign of Tulle Lake and picture of the camp, all tell the story of Mizu’s family members, chosen for her altar.  Omiyage, is title of this piece.  I asked what it meant.

Mizu:  “I'll explain in shorthand [it] is a specialized obligatory gift that oils and cements relationships outside and even inside family. In this case however, idea of the gift wasn't quite about obligation and in my experience when it returned it isn't either!”

Lorraine: “ How did it feel for you to step back and look at the work as a whole? Did it bring your ancestors close to you, in sustenance, and do you feel the satisfaction of honouring them, by speaking through your art...loudly, proudly, Amercan-ly?”

Mizu:   “Oh YES! In fact I got the impression while I was making pieces for the altar - particularly the little people cutouts, that whatever I was looking for when I originally decided on impulse to take advantage of the opportunity to build one this year at the museum, that I was being answered. While that would sound ordinarily presumptuous, and maybe it still does in some circles, that's how I feel and that is why, when we were asked to give our pieces a title by museum staff, I decided upon the name "OMIYAGE."  It may well be the piece I make that has the shortest life (many of my previous two-dimensional collages are still following me around to this day) right now, it certainly appears to be my favorite and perhaps the most satisfying one I have ever done. The original questions asked about what family, relationships (w/relatives) and whether I wanted to be a member of this particular ethnic-American community if it were, had I a choice have all been addressed. Ditto the question out there over the years, did I belong and did they all accept me, and if they did, why didn't it feel like it was enough? I don't think I'm the only one in the history of the world who’s asked these questions. But I know that we don't always get the answers in one lifetime. In this respect, I feel like I've hit the jackpot.”

On one side of her altar, next to the raven, Mizu put up a copy of a quote she found from a well-known young woman, Taylor Swift:

"I think you deserved to look back on your life without this chorus of resounding voices saying, I could of but it's too late now. So there's a time for silent, and there's a time for waiting your turn. But if you know how you feel, and you so clearly know what you need to say, you'll know it. I don't think you should wait. I think you should speak now."

Mizu:  “… [This Taylor Swift quote] seemed to apply quite well to the words a younger version of myself might have said, back in the day. And that part of me is the one who was most anxious to have some resolution in regards to the family questions and that is the part of me who was also most anxious to put the whole interchange out there in the public eye at my present age.”

A thin aqua scarf seems both sad and soothing.  It drapes over one corner of the suitcase, as if to bring cooling water to the desert camps, ghosts now, themselves.  Within, at the heart of her altar, lie the personal, family things, a tiny doll’s crib, Bible, an abacus, photos, a candle, and slippers, to name a few.  Her uncle occupies the top, beside the head of Lady Liberty.  Yes, freedom is tenuous—and precious.  We are obliged to bring our best intents—honour, respect, humility and love.  These are palpable in Mizu’s Dia de los Muertos altar.

Art speaks.

Why do we have the need to create, as artists in whatever form?  Because we seek to solve the puzzle of self, the lines we come from, the ancestors we will be.  As we age, we get a little better handle on weaving our ideals with obligations and love.  With this piece, Mizu and her ancestors really do seem to have reached through the veil, to meet and give one another sustenance.

As I left the museum, the sky continued to make an incredible backdrop to this day.  A rolling giant of a cumulus cloud began to eat the afternoon sun, giving me my last pic—this shadow of a wing.  It was, indeed, an auspicious day.  May you flow and fly with your ancestors, and give thanks to your Elders, as my friend, the Liquid Muse, has done.

 All photographs copyright 2012 Lorraine Hart

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lives of Area Bus Drivers In Spotlight During Free Performance

Who says you need cast to see good theater? A grant from 4Culture allows Federal Way Regional Library patrons to enjoy a free live performance by solo performer Stokley Towles to present excerpts from his one-person performance entitled Behind the Wheel: Life on a Metro Bus this Wednesday, October 24, at 6:30 p.m., 34200 1st Way South.

According to King County Library publicity "For more than a decade, solo performer Stokley Towles has been studying us. He examines the mundane aspects of life in Seattle like an anthropologist from another planet. Behind The Wheel is based on interviews with Metro bus drivers and attempts to see the world through their eyes.

One of the driver's Towles talked with is a twenty year veteran driver named Pat who is quoted as saying: "You work inside but you're outside. You're always moving but you sit all day. You deal with hundreds of people but no one knows your name."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Spinning A Family Story In A New Key!

A popular saying I grew up with has something to do with whether mature canines can learn a few new tricks. We'll skip my age so I can happily write about the wonderful opportunity Tacoma Art Museum extended to area residents in connection with Dia de Los Muertes!
For those of you with Latin, Mexican or Catholic roots, I wasn't as fortunate. My American-born parents attended Protestant Christian churches in my childhood and so did I. They also didn't feel particularly comfortable in places where they weren't among familiar surroundings and in their element. And my grandparents on both sides of the family immigrated from Japan before World War II. Hence my need for some education in mid-life on a few of the particulars surrounding this empowering celebration of life and death now more often associated with Hispanic cultures.

Above: Handmade felt "buttoned lips" will be part of Mizu Sugimura's Japanese-American take on an altar she's creating at Tacoma Art Museum for their upcoming community celebration of Dia de Los Muertes.

That introduction Tacoma Art Museum personnel were happy to supply on Saturday, September 22, at the award-winning facility along Pacific Avenue. Since then, I have kept my eyes open for little bits of this and that while setting aside a portion of my living room floor to construct a mock-up altar on which to use as a 3-dimensional blackboard on a few passing ideas. More significantly, I feel like I'm getting a glimpse of seeing the pattern of my regular ordinary life unfolding out in a totally different way and the invaluable and truly priceless educational component of it all hasn't cost me more than a dime!

However family members will heave a deep, deep sign of relief when I load what I have into the trunk of my car this Sunday, October 21 and head for the museum with over 24 others who have answered the museum's call for community members to come and build the altars that will grace the third floor during the eighth annual free family-oriented celebration of Dia de Los Muertos at TAM scheduled for Sunday, November 4, from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Above: Handmade life preservers represent an artistic riff on traditional shapes of bread. Photo copyright 2012 by Mizu M. Sugimura.

The free community festival will merge music, dance, food, art-making, live performances and an exhibition of sand painting as well as the community altars and celebrate the cycle of life which I've come lately to believe is one of the more deep and meaningful connections we have lost certainly during my own lifetime.

And while I am very much looking forward to launching my ideas of what the time-honored tradition means to mean as a third-generation American of Japanese descent the exercise in creativity I am very happy to report has already paid off.

For those of you who like journaling or know of someone who does, making an altar for Dia de Los Muertes is something like putting a pen, pencil and a handful of art supplies to a pristine blank page. In short, it's very addicting.

Fortunately, more experienced and talented hands than mine will also be at work fashioning the altars you will enjoy at this year's celebration. At the time I attended the offical training in September, several local high schools were in board in additional individuals, families and organizations. And while you'll have to wait until November 4 for the free community celebration, everyday museum goers and their guests may enjoy the finished altars during regular museum days and hours as part of their Fall 2012 TAM experience!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Server's idea of honesty over-the-top

Overheard in a Tacoma area restaurant at lunch this afternoon: our server was talking to the party of 8 at the next table.  At the conclusion of their meal when they inquired about desserts that might be available, she informed them flat-out, bluntly, directly (not jokingly) that ... 

"Our desserts are terrible! They really are. None of them are any good. Even the ice cream is an off-brand and it's horrible. The cheescake is the worst. It tastes like cardboard. I'm just being honest with you.  They're terrible!" 

  • Would you have thanked her?
  • Tipped her generously for her candor?
  • Not tipped her at all for the blistering review of the restaurant's desserts?
  • Applauded her personal integrity? 
  • Reported her to management?

Annie Wright Schools host PNAIS Conference

Friday, October 12, Annie Wright Schools are hosting the Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools (PNAIS) day-long conference for 900 educators.  Special shuttle service and parking arrangements have been established; however, there is little doubt that with 900 visitors arriving, traffic itself will be quite congested around the area.  

The Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools will be presenting the conference theme "Risk + Failure = Growth:  Developing the Resilient Learner and Educator".  

Keynote speakers include Kathryn Schulz author of "Being Wrong:  Adventures in the Margin of Error" and Rob Evans, Ed.D. "Helping Parents Face Risk and Foster Resilience" and "Getting to No:  From Congeniality to True Collegiality."

More information on PNAIS is available at  For questions regarding the conference at Annie Wright Schools, please contact Jen Willey, Communications Director, at 253.284.5419. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fall Is Here

Children, Teenagers, Adults, Seniors... all adjusting to the ups and downs of the weather. And all have the power to choose to accept their gifts now:

And recognize that every day they can move with beauty and graciosness