Would It Work Here? Random Acts of Culture

By Laura Dannen March 17, 2011 Published in the April 2011 issue of Seattle Met

A CHEESESTEAK STAND in Philadelphia became a makeshift opera stage. In Charlotte, a symphony serenaded Macy’s shoppers with Christmas carols. Trumpeters walked through Miami International Airport on Thanksgiving weekend playing “America” from West Side Story. Out came the cellphones, the cameras, the mouths agape. They’d all just witnessed a Random Act of Culture.

Since October, the nonprofit Knight Foundation has funded hundreds of popup operas and chorale performances in cities where the Knight brothers own newspapers. “We’re trying to remind people that they care about the classics,” said Dennis Scholl, the Knight Foundation’s vice president of arts and the man behind this onslaught of goodwill.

The foundation doesn’t have its sights set on Seattle, but the Emerald City might not need its help. After all, maestro Gerard Schwarz, the Seattle Symphony Chorale, and members of 80 different local ensembles managed to shock and awe the holiday crowds at Nordstrom in December with an impromptu performance of Handel’s Messiah.

In fact, such events could be the future of Seattle arts. In March, Seattle Art Museum staged “interventions” in which dancers donned “soundsuits” designed by artist Nick Cave and performed all over the city. And, asked if her organization has any more surprise recitals up its tuxedo sleeve, Symphony spokesperson Jill Becker let slip: “We’d love to.”

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