Seattle and New Orleans seem as different as two cities under the same flag could be. Big Easy and Lazy B. Caribbean and semi-Nordic. Old Man River and Salish Sea. Filé gumbo and clam chowder. Professor Longhair and Dr. Science. Hurricanes and earthquakes. Fearsome hills and even more fearsome flats. N’er the twain shall meet.
Essential Arts, a new Seattle nonprofit, has a different idea. It’s brought together both cities’ artists—six writers, six graphic designers, a musician and a filmmaker from each, plus celebrity chefs—to share work and explore hometown connections and differences. And, with luck, raise money for investigative journalism by the NOLA-based nonprofit The Lens, in a region that, as the Katrina response showed, could use some good muckraking.
This project, cleverly dubbed Bilocal, kicked off November 4 with the opening at Tether Design Gallery of a show of works by the 12 designers inspired by the 12 writers. It continues through the month, with silkscreen prints for sale. Bilocal peaks this Friday and Saturday at Town Hall with multi-medium shows including New Orleans soul star Coco Robicheaux on Friday and Seattle’s own Robin Holcomb on Saturday (with new songs for the occasion), films by Ben Kasulke and Court 13, and the literary likes of Molly Wizenberg, Alex Kuo, and Riz Rollins. Local chefs, including Matthew Dillon and, natch, Tom Douglas, will offer pre-show fare. Will they get their gumbo on?
Then again, this isn’t the first time NOLA and Seattle have met. After Katrina I attended a hurricane-aid fundraiser at Columbia City’s Royal Esquire Club, a venue resembling Preservation Hall more than Town Hall. Great food, great music; the Rebirth Brass Band played, and before it finished most of the crowd was up swaying and marching along. Here’s hoping Bilocal proves as good a match-up.