Seeing a finished art piece in a gallery is one thing, but watching the creative process unfold is entirely different.
That feeling of being in an artist’s studio is what Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, or WICA, Marketing Manager Fritha Strand wants to bring to the South Whidbey arts scene. And after following the success of similar live multi-genre art shows in Seattle, Portland and elsewhere, she decided to bring her own rendition to the South End.
“As an artist, you feel so much more connected to the audience when you’re in an intimate living room setting,” Strand said. “Watching pieces come to life is a different experience, and you’re never going to get the same live experience twice.”
Strand is bringing the partly improvised live art show, The Whidbey Island Round, to WICA at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13. The Round, which began in Seattle, brings together a painter, three musicians and a poet on stage for a night of collaboration. The various artists will feed off each other’s performances to create connectivity among their art forms. The poet will perform the spoken word while musicians back them, playing each other’s songs with a degree of improvisation and building off the subject and tone of the poems. The live painter will also share the stage, and the musicians will build off the painting, or visa versa.
The Round consists of six sessions over two hours, with each round going in a different direction depending on the selected poem or song. The final product is a collaborative and partly improvised performance that strings together music, poetry and visual arts.
“The Round has the potential to help people connect with the arts and each other in a new way through an up-close collaborative concert experience,” Fremont Abbey Arts Center Director Nathan Marion, who created The Round, said.
Strand is the live painter, and brings years of experience with synergistic performances after working with Marion on similar events in Seattle. Langley-based poet Judith Adams will bring her poignant spoken words on stage, while Strand is bringing together two Whidbey-based singer-songwriters in Sophia Duccini and Nick Toombs as well as Seattle band Lemolo. Lemolo has been moving and shaking in Seattle these days, and was recently voted best Seattle band by City Arts Magazine.
Admission costs $12. The event is free for youth under 18.
The performers purposefully head into the performance slightly in the dark. Adams is pre-selecting poems to give the musicians an idea of what she will perform. The musicians will arrive familiar with each other’s music in order to better collaborate. That’s the extent of the preparation, but it’s all part of the improvised aspect of the performance, according to Strand. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but Strand says improvised multi-genre performances like this have been a hit in cities with thriving art scenes. She adds the final product is always fresh, new and different.
“There are preexisting aspects such as the songs and poems, but there is no prep, so the audience gets to watch it unfold first hand,” Strand said. “What will I paint? I’m not sure, but that’s the whole point of improvisation. It allows me to be totally influenced by those who I share the stage with.”
Strand added that a show like this also gives young performers a platform. She says while there are venues on the South End, some are age restrictive and others too pricey for a younger crowd. A venue that’s open to all ages and holds performances that span multiple genres is the sort of inclusive atmosphere she thinks young performers on Whidbey need to flourish.
The performers say improvisation makes for interesting performances since it comes down to the current state of things — the artists’ current mindset, how much they slept and how much coffee they had, for example. It makes for a raw and up-front experience that challenges the performers and leaves the audience questioning the direction the show will head.
“I suspect there will be a bit of rawness to a performance like this, where anything can happen,” Adams said. “I think that’s where the excitement of an evening like this would be. There are some sort of parameters, but it’s open to whatever might happen.”