Summer Arts 2017

Seattle's Must-See, Must-Do Events This Summer

Fun in the sun (and occasionally inside too).

By Seth Sommerfeld June 14, 2017 Published in the July 2017 issue of Seattle Met

Yayoi kusama with recent works in tokyo goyf7g

Yayoi Kusama with recent works in Tokyo, 2016.

Visual Art

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors

June 30–Sept 10 Entering one of Yayoi Kusama’s signature infinity rooms can feel like stepping into another plane of existence: The mirrored walls make her wild light, sculpture, and space arrangements seem to stretch on forever. For 65 years, the multidisciplinary Japanese artist has been an overflowing fountain of vibrant and colorful creativity; her must-see SAM exhibit features five unique infinity rooms, 60 works on paper, sculptures, and paintings (some made just last year) to showcase the full scope of her imagination. Seattle Art Museum,

Bowieiggyloureed 2 dorchesterhotel london1972 3040 c mickrock tslzx4

David Bowie: Starman

July 1–Jan 15 When Ziggy Stardust was at his glamorous, intergalactic heights in the early ’70s, legendary music photographer Mick Rock was the man documenting it all from behind a lens. The rare images found in Starman highlight one of music’s most visually inventive stars at an icon-forming creative peak. The exhibit also features Rock-directed Bowie music videos, an oral history, and the photographer’s shots of other titans of the era like Queen, IggyPop, and Lou Reed. Museum of Pop Culture,

Visual Art

Zhi Lin

June 27–Feb 18 It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by history upon entering the office studio of artist and UW professor Zhi Lin; the web of information scattered about astounds: a color-coded Tacoma street map from an 1885 insurance company lays across the floor, a desk-length drawing of the city is pinned up with dozens of sticky notes, binders full of legal documents and stacks of history books rest in piles. Lin rattles off dates and details as he grabs various texts that highlight each point. It’s the domain of an artist whose investigative preparation puts many actual researchers and journalists to shame.

During the visit, Lin is hard at work on his new Tacoma Art Museum exhibit, In Search of the Lost History of Chinese Migrants and the Transcontinental Railroads. A Chinese immigrant, Lin has devoted much of his artistic focus to undoing the harmful historical whitewashing that’s expunged the suffering and persecution of Chinese laborers from the history of the American West. The new exhibit centers on the 1885 Chinese Expulsion of Tacoma, when a violent mob of nearly 500 residents destroyed the homes of immigrants (who’d built the Northern Pacific Railroad) so they’d comply with a municipal order forcing them to vacate the city.

Zhilin chinesereconciliationpark 300dpi oq83is

The new works on display will mostly be large-scale paintings. That map on the floor—color-coded for various business types—will become a representative 48-foot by 30-foot work: “A good figurative painter never gets bored,” says Lin. TAM’s exhibit will also boast works from previous Lin shows, like sketches of small laborer homes.

Lin remains skeptical of biases in the lauded art history of the American West, including giants like Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran. “They only paint for the people they want to show, the people who want to buy. They don’t paint for the history of mankind.” He considers his researched artistic endeavors a means to tell a truer history and warn of repeating its pitfalls. Tacoma Art Museum,


Wooden O

July 6–Aug 6 All the world’s a stage (okay, maybe just the parks in the greater Seattle area) for Seattle Shakespeare’s annual Wooden O. This year’s traveling outdoor theater extravaganza features the delightful marriage comedy Much Ado About Nothing reset in post–World War II England and a music-filled rendition of Pericles’s high-seas drama. Various parks, 


Fun Home

July 11–30 The 2015 Tony winner for Best Musical proves that coming-out and coming-of-age stories can beautifully coexist. Based on Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed graphic memoir, Fun Home’s plot centers on her complicated relationship with her secret-hiding father as she sorts out her own sexual identity. The first Broadway show featuring a lesbian protagonist, Fun Home takes audiences on an emotional journey of joy and aching. 5th Avenue Theatre,

28228617471 90d4c7c62f o ejckcy

Movie night at Marymoor Park.


Seattle Summer Outdoor Movies

In the age of streaming, how is it that Seattle retains such a voracious appetite for watching movies outdoors with a bunch of strangers? It helps that the various lineups perfectly blend new thrills and nostalgia. This year’s slates feature 2016 hits Rogue One, La La Land, Hidden Figures, and Moana, but counterbalances with timeless faves such as The Princess Bride, The Big Lebowski party known as Dude Fest, and the campy queer cinema Three Dollar Bill programs at Cal Anderson Park. (See the full calendar here.)

Beyond the array of parks, there’s a wondrous variety of spots to catch a flick outside. Movies at the Mural screens family favorites underneath the Space Needle. Shilshole Bay Movies at the Marina brings moviegoing to the water’s edge on Puget Sound. Tacoma’s LeMay Car Museum keeps the drive-in movie tradition alive.

There’s a sense of community at these cineplexes without walls, where people needn’t sneak in snacks and it’s okay to shout out your favorite lines. Outdoor summer movies in Seattle become joyous cinematic congregations under the stars. “It’s a communal element of a bygone era in the world of high tech and smartphones we live in daily,” says Seattle Outdoor Cinema producer Ryan Reiter. “This is like a church, a break to tune out the world and share a story with strangers.”

1387 vxwqy9

Image: Warner Bros.

Classical & More

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Concert with Seattle Symphony

July 13–16 Anytime the Seattle Symphony performs the live soundtrack of a film, it’s a magical experience. So when the orchestra takes on the enduring cultural phenomenon of Harry Potter? Double magic. The whole family can enjoy both the wizarding adventures of the series’ first film and John Williams’s stirring score. Points for House Symphondor. Benaroya Hall,


Capitol Hill Block Party

July 21–23 Regardless of your partygoing style, Capitol Hill Block Party 2017 can accommodate. Like unrelenting balls-to-the-wall hip-hop with a message? Roll with Run the Jewels and Lizzo. Always making the EDM scene? So are Diplo and Jai Wolf. Prefer being the heartbroken rock wallflower in the corner? Angel Olsen and Perfume Genius will emote their hearts out too. Looking to just grab a cheap beer and rock out? Cloud Nothings and a load of local indie bands can satisfy that need. Capitol Hill,

The Sporting Life

WNBA All-Star Game

July 22 Sue Bird has achieved just about everything one can on the hardwood. The backbone of the Seattle Storm franchise has won two WNBA titles, four Olympic gold medals, collegiate and high school national championships, and has made seven All-NBA teams during her 14-year career. But there’s one thing the star point guard has yet to do: Play a WNBA All-Star Game at home. That should change this summer when the exhibition comes to KeyArena.

It’s Seattle’s first time to host the event highlighting the best women’s basketball players on the planet. Storm president and general manager Alisha Valavanis had been working for this since she arrived three years ago: “My number-one reason to bring the game here—beyond doing so for the fans and the city—was for Sue.”

20160717 sky vs storm 893 qpdtbo

Since last year’s Summer Olympics preempted this annual matchup, the Seattle edition also offers the first chance for the Storm’s two young stars—and back-to-back Rookie of the Year winners—Jewell Lloyd and Breanna Stewart to make an appearance at the premier event. “I think it’s great opportunity for Jewell and Stewie,” says Bird. “I wish I would have had that when I was younger.”

A 10th nod for Bird would tie her with the now-retired Tamika Catchings for the most WNBA All-Star appearances. In typical Bird style, she shrugs off the historic mark. “I didn’t even know that until you just told me. I think it just means that we’ve played for a long time.” It also means you’ve played at a pretty impressive level, Sue. “Yeah, I guess that too.” KeyArena,


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

July 25–30 Life is never easy for 15-year-old autistic math prodigy Christopher Boone, but things grow more complex when he decides to put on his metaphorical detective’s hat and investigate the murder of a neighborhood dog. What makes the The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Tony winner for Best Play in 2015) so gripping is how production design—a gridded black-box set transformed by Boone’s chalk drawings, swirling number projections, and more—places the audience inside the protagonist’s autistic-spectrum perspective to maximize the mystery’s emotional impact. Paramount Theatre,

Kendrick ggviz8

Kendrick Lamar

Aug 1 Kendrick Lamar is the most vital rapper going. Full stop. Drake and Kanye West may be bigger stars, but while they’re busy sitting courtside or keeping up with the Kardashians, Lamar keeps taking his street poet grit to higher levels while confronting social and racial issues with enough swagger to inspire an uprising. In April he put out his fourth straight critical and commercial hit LP, Damn., and it’d be damn foolish to miss his ever-evolving live show. Tacoma Dome,

Visual Art

Storme Webber

Aug 5–Oct 29 Seattle Renaissance woman Storme Webber combines a lot of the city’s identity in one package: indigenous, writer, artist, LGBTQ, teacher, and more. For her self-titled first solo museum exhibition, she crafts a hybrid memoir of photographs, performances, poetry, and art installation that examines the social history of the resilient marginalized people of this land we call home. Frye Art Museum,



Aug 9 Who said you have to age out of headbanging? More than three and a half decades after its formation, Metallica rediscovered its fastball on 2016’s Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, which outlets such as Rolling Stone and Revolver praised as the metal album of the year. Expect the riffs to be heavy and the pyrotechnics to be intense when the band shreds in Seattle. CenturyLink Field,


Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Aug 19 Since the Mariners are rarely good for any hits in Safeco Field, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers will have to pick up the slack. Will 19 Top 5 songs on the Billboard Rock Charts suffice? The legendary group travels to Seattle (with opening support from the Lumineers) as part of its 40th anniversary tour. Safeco Field,

Special Event


Sept 1–3 The number of acts on the 2017 Bumbershoot lineup with albums released before 1993: zero.

Since entertainment production giant AEG took over the Labor Day weekend festival’s musical programming two years ago, there’s been a sonic shift aimed at capturing a younger audience. Two-thirds of the headliners for 2017 are EDM acts (Flume and Seattle’s own Odesza), and 20-year-old pop star Lorde occupies the third slot. When Weezer, the Roots, and Bay Area rapper E-40 qualify by default as legacy acts because they’re the only performers on the bill to put out a record in the first half of the ’90s, there’s no way to claim the festival is targeting anyone over 45.

Bumberday3 90 copy oqbj7s

Bumbershoot 2015.

Image: Alison Klein

Does it actually matter that Bumbershoot is undergoing this youthful makeover? While the festival was founded by the city as a civic music celebration, it soon expanded beyond its humble beginnings. If AEG hadn’t stepped in to financially bail out Bumbershoot a couple years ago, it might have folded completely. It can be a bummer to lose that feeling that an entire family can attend Bumbershoot and each member will find something that appeals—but something is better than nothing. 

The fest still features plenty of great local music (Tacocat, Cataldo, Porter Ray, the Maldives, Crater, and more), and One Reel has beefed up the weekend’s nonmusical local arts programming with help from institutions like Velocity Dance, Theatre Puget Sound, and Cornish College of the Arts.

Bumbershoot might not be Northwest Coachella yet, but this certainly ain’t your daddy’s festival anymore. Seattle Center,

Show Comments