The boss asked me yesterday if I wanted to weigh in on this year's City Arts Fest line-up, and at first I honestly couldn't think of much worth saying. David Byrne is a treasure, Ghostland Observatory is a laser show, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez is sneakily the most exciting name in the top tiers. But no rush if I didn't have a "what does it all mean" in me, the boss said. This morning, as I was making my coffee I figured it out (although, Julia has already had a crack at it here). I've been to City Arts Fest each of the past two years--that's all of them--and both times I've walked away from some great shows--Belle & Sebastian, Big Boi, Robyn--feeling like I hadn't really been to a festival at all.
The other half of the City Arts line-up
That's party because City Arts Fest throws their banner over a bunch of more or less unconnected shows that would likely be touring through town anyway--one reason local is such a big deal here is probably because it's easier to actively curate--but I'm starting to think that it's because City Arts Fest has never really been about the music, but the arts. Each of the past two years, I've missed daytime and evening arts components--visual arts, installations, readings, dance and theater, film maybe, and more--only to later hear friends raving about them. So, there is a real-feeling festival here, I think, but you might not get it if you're only looking at the music. (Which is why dismissing it as "nothing you haven't seen before" misses the point--and is a weird stone to throw when SW's own Reverb Festival trades on familiar local-only names rather than big surprise guests.) Hell, even the musical headliners are multi-disciplinary artists--Byrne also writes and works in visual arts; both he and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez have directed films. So don't write City Arts Fest off yet just because of Ghostland Observatory (although, go ahead and write those guys off)--dig into the arts line-ups (copied below and in full here), and see what the fest is really about.
Urban Arts Adventure is a curated collection of programs that treat Seattle's streets, businesses and buildings as one big venue, canvas and playground. The programming highlights how art helps us experience our city. It sends audiences on adventures around the city to see limited-capacity shows in non-traditional venues and secret and unexpected locations, featuring work by Danielle Agami/Ate9; Erin Jorgensen, Jesse Higman, Jose Bold +, Lingo Productions, Queen Shmooquan, Wesley K. Andrews and ilvs strauss, and zoe | juniper.
Traverse topographies of the city via art-centric tours including scavenger-hunts and bike races designed by Split Six & Lily Divine Productions, New Mystics, Litquake, and Dan Hawkins & Aaron Asis; and then return to the festival's interdisciplinary and social hub Culture Club. Culture Club will be staged in a converted storefront in the downtown area and will feature day and nighttime programs including Genre Bender Showcase with Susan Robb, Graham Downing, Kate Wallich and more; Food for Thought Café by Klara Glosova & Rodrigo Valenzuela; art installations and exhibits by Julie Alpert, Allison Manch and Ian Young, Lindsey Apodaca, MKNZ, Aaron and Jessixa Bagley, Maggie Carson Romano, Ashleigh Rauen; a crowd-sourced filmmaking project with Collection Agency and Adam Sekuler; happy hours curated by Litquake, Fictilis, PDL; Think & Tell in partnership with Humanities Washington; a pop-up art market, surprise performances and late night parties. City Arts Fest's Urban Arts Adventure is being programmed and curated by Sara Edwards with visual art planning and curation by Sierra Stinson.