What: Input Session #1
Who: Arts Groups and Artists
Where: Mercer Island Community and Events Center
When: May 15, 2018

The first of our small input sessions began on Tuesday, May 15th. MICA is excited that so many arts groups and individual artists decided to take part in the session. These sessions are led and moderated by our partner Phinney Bischoff and are a great way to get unbiased opinions from island arts stakeholders.

The topics were varied and ranged from how the arts on the island need a space, MICA’s role as a central hub for the arts, STEM vs. STEAM, and the importance of bringing diverse communities to the arts table. At the end of the Community Visioning, MICA will synthesize all of these discussions and release a full report.

Here are a few great quotes to ponder:

“We have the recipe and everything is in the pot…but not one’s turned on the burner yet”
“Our city leaders just want to create more programs. No one wants to be the glue.”
“MICA can bring a sense of community that can exist outside of the schools.”
“Find the people who support it and press on them. Once it’s built, everyone will love it.”
“Too many people live with the assumption that all the good stuff happens in Seattle. Others believe that if you support the arts, you’re taking away from something else. MICA can challenge that.”

Input sessions to come: business owners, parents, and many more. Keep up on the dialogue by regularly visiting our website.

Everybody’s input is important! Please register and take part in our large visioning session on June 11 from 7-9:00pm at the Mercer Island Boys and Girls Club. Visit www.mercerislandarts.org/register or email info@mercerislandarts.org or call 206-715-7671.

Throughout the months of May, June, and July MICA will be holding various large and small community gatherings. We want to hear what you would like to see in a space for the arts on Mercer Island.

The first large community visioning session will be similar to a town hall. But unlike traditional town hall gatherings, this 2-hour session will be conducted as a series of small group discussions so that all attendees are given an opportunity to share their unique points of view. Our goal in using this format is to also foster productive dialogue among our friends and neighbors.

Each small group discussion will be between 5-10 participants. They will be co-moderated by the MICA team and our community input partner, Phinney Bischoff. Each group will be given a discussion prompt, and after a deep dive into that topic, participants will be asked to swap tables and explore another topic with a fresh set of perspectives. By carrying their ideas from one table to the next, we hope that participants will build on each other’s thoughts, resulting in a positive exchange of insights.

To take part in the June 11th visioning session you must register by clicking the accompanying link or visit the MICA website.


Hopefully you were able to catch the outrageously funny performance of YTN’s 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. I was fortunate enough to attend the final performance and was even selected to be a part of the Spelling Bee on stage with four other audience members. Unfortunately I was the first to go, of course I was robbed. But seriously, I had a great time and was also glad I attended that performance because I was able to witness the final show of the senior class which was an such an emotional event for all YTN students and staff. Over the last year I’ve had the pleasure to get to know a hand full of the students and Annika Evan is one of those. I dropped her a quick line asking her what her favorites roles have been in the many years she has been a part of YTN.

Keith – What were some of your favorite roles during your time at YTN?
Annika – Marcy Park in this years performance of Spelling Bee has been my favorite role. This is one of my favorite shows, and was the last show I got to be in at YTN.

Annika goes on to say that the show was incredibly fun because they all got to play children, which at the age of 18, she doesn’t get to do often.

“The character I played, I felt was a much more exaggerated version of myself, which gave me an understanding about myself that I did’t know I would ever get. I loved the cast of this show, and the fact that the entire show was double cast. Being able to watch the other cast and work with them taught be a lot about acting and character development. And it was so fun to be able to see all of the difference in the two shows.”

She went on to tell me that another role she loved was the puppeteer for Nicky in Avenue Q: School Edition her freshman year.

Keith – What was different about this role for you than others?
Annika – This role was different from any other role I had ever played because I did not have any lines, as I was the puppeteer and there was another actor that did the voice. As the puppeteer, I had to be able to portray the character’s story and show his emotion and reactions without saying any word, which was a skill I found very challenging, yet very fun, and I learned a lot.

Keith – Not being able to speak, how did you work with the actor performing the voice?
Annika – I loved getting to work so close with the actor doing the voice of Nicky, and collaborating with him about how the character walks, and moves, and feels at certain points in the show.

We also performed this show at a black box theatre in Seattle Center, which made us all feel very professional.

Keith – I saw that you played your bass in Spelling Bee, have you played your bass in other roles
Annika – One final role I loved playing MC Dog in Go Dog Go this past summer. This role was so much fun because I got to be in a cast with younger actors who I always love working with and watching them grow as actors. I also loved that most of this show was physical comedy and not a lot of talking. This was another show I also got to play my bass, and it was the first show I was able to do that – I loved it.

Annika is graduating this year and I was very happy to have been on stage with her. Thank you to the entire YTN team for inviting me up to be a part of the Spelling Bee. Annika, I know the entire island will miss you. Thank you for taking part in this short Q&A.

Q & A with Robert Wood

written by Julia Hess

Robert, an artist on Lopez Island, has been creating  Mixed Media artwork for over 20 years. His exhibit, “Left Luggage” at SZ Gallery will feature a whimsical narrative revealing the story of travelling gnomes. To learn more about his exhibit, I sent a few questions along to Robert – read on for his Q&A!

Julia Hess: First of all, why gnomes? 

Robert Wood: Gnomes were selected for their diminutive size, outrageous aesthetics, fun loving nature and desire to remain a bit hidden in the landscape. It is a snapshot of a wildly different way of life and an invitation to the viewer to suspend expectations around a “constitution of aesthetic beauty.” It is a limited collection of 36 pieces.

JH:   What themes or motifs inspire you the most when creating your work? 

RW: The themes I most like to explore involve nontraditional views of beauty, invoking new perspectives on familiar objects and the marriage of abstract images and natural materials such as bark, plant tendrils, nest materials and beach floss. I carry these themes out in sculpture, collage, and shadow box works.

JH: What does the “left luggage” represent? 

RW: The Left Luggage of Gnome Island tells a story of 36 Gnome travelers who cross Callow’s Bridge to Infinity and vanish into thin air leaving only their luggage behind. It is a statement on the impermanence of objects from the perspective of infinity and a cultural reveal of life on a remote fantasy island with its own unique history and characters. The luggage was” left behind” as it was no longer needed once the travelers crossed the bridge.

JH: How do your surroundings on Lopez Island inspire your artwork? How does this work into the map of Gnome Island? 

RW: Island life engages a certain myopic focus reinforced by geography which feeds the growth of an island culture all its own. One knows their neighbors on a small island. Anonymity does not exist here. Gnome Island is a parallel reality to Lopez Island. While there are no specific similarities, I endeavored to make Gnome Island an interesting island with absurd amenities like a theme park and railroad.  As I developed descriptions for the luggage, a narrative unfolded based upon the lives of the original luggage owners who had vanished.

Come see Robert’s art at SZ Gallery from April 6th to May 31st. You can also view their artwork on the SZ website.

There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t run into Natalya Ageyeva on Mercer Island. Granted, since Russian Chamber Music Foundation of Seattle is a MICA partner we have many meetings, but aside from those, I can no longer count on my fingers the number of times we run into each other shopping at New Seasons.

Even if you don’t know Natalya you have more than likely seen her performances during the summer at Luther Burbank Park. She and I had a quick back and forth text followed by an impromptu ‘coffee talk’ regarding her top 5 classical music pieces. Here is the quick list.

1. J.S. Bach | Mass in B minor.
This one is very close to Natalya’s heart (though she says this about each composition below); a piece she has obsessed over from age 14. Natalya talks about Bach from two different points of view: intellectually and meditatively. She is struck by his harmony & compositional technique. Any musical novice can look at Bach’s manuscripts and remark on the sea of notes over multiple pages of staff paper; almost making one’s eyes blur. But, Bach’s Mass made a profound statement on her. She describes the B minor mass as “close to godliness in music that she knows”. That is quite the recommendation.

2. Antonin Dvorak | “Song of the Moon” from the opera Rusalka.
If you haven’t heard “Song of the Moon” here is a quick clip. It’s a haunting and beautiful melody that will make the most masculine of men weak in the knees. It makes sense why this is in Natalya’s top five. She does say that specifically, she prefers the rendition by opera star Anna Netrebko.

3. Ludwig van Beethoven | Piano Trio, Op. 97 “Archduke” 
Of course we come to expect at least one piece by Beethoven, but a piano trio? (what could Natalya be thinking, but I digress). Dedicated to Archduke Rudolph of Austria, this was one of fourteen compositions Beethoven dedicated to the Archduke. Natalya went on to explain the inspiration this piece bestows on her. Not the type of inspiration it has on her piano playing, but inspiration on her writing (not music), or house cleaning, or it just makes her feel better when she is down.

4. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky | 6th Symphony
Who doesn’t love Tchaikovsky? And Natalya is no different. But out of all the monumental works Tchaikovsky has composed why did she choose this piece? She told me she first heard his 6th Symphony as a teenager when it was performed in the Great Hall of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. It’s quite common for art to affect us emotionally and as such, it happened for Natalya with this Symphony. Throughout the music she found emotional parallels of misery, despair, and sadness. Indeed a depressing finding in art but these types of moments can lead to a sense of peace rather than further turmoil which is what Natalya found.

5. Sergei Rachmaninoff | 2nd Symphony
I was flabbergasted when Natalya said the 2nd Symphony by Rachmaninoff and not a piano concerto or some other piano piece. That is almost sacrilegious for any pianist. But, she merely said, “if you want to know who I am, then listen to Rach’s 2nd Symphony”. There you have it – get to know Rach’s 2nd Symphony and you will know the wonderful and dear person that MICA has come to befriend.

I highly recommend you looking further into Natalya and her organization Russian Chamber Music Foundation of Seattle. They produce memorable performances and she is an island treasure.

Becoming an advocate for the arts is easy. It can take some time, but if you’re reading this, you must already be an arts lover and feel it should thrive. Here are five easy ways you can be an Arts Advocate Superstar:

1. Contact your Representatives:

The best way to start is at the local level. Email, call, and/or write your councilmember(s). Let your voice be heard and tell your community leaders how important the arts are to you – especially if the arts are on the budget chopping block or the city council is reviewing changes to the arts in your community. Maybe you have an impactful story about how the arts has affected your life. Why are the arts important to you? How do arts relate to the broader community? Have you read some well-informed statistic on how the arts improves lives, makes us smarter, or simply increases dopamine levels to make us happier people (what’s not to love about that)? Bring these studies to the attention of your Representatives. Remember, they represent YOU, so advocate openly and often.


The above is also true for your State and Federal Representatives. If you are unsure who your congressmen are, here are two websites that can assist you:



Furthermore, here is a link to all Mercer Island Council Members: name, phone numbers, and email.

2. Write your local paper (For our purposes, the Mercer Island Reporter):

Letters to the editor (LTE) are a fantastic way to inform the public of the positive impact the arts can and already do have on the Island. Remember to make your letter positive and craft your message well. Readers love a delightful story, but if that story isn’t well crafted it could cause the opposite effect than what you are trying to convey. Click here for a letter example. Are you feeling up to the task? Yes? Great! Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to write a positive story to the Mercer Island Report about MICA.

Send your letter via email here editor@mi-reporter.com


use this online form http://www.mi-reporter.com/submit-letter.

3. Volunteer:

Arts organizations are massively understaffed. Usually, a staff of three must be all roles: CEO, CFO, accountant, fundraiser, marketer, administrator, copywriter, graphic designer, IT, office manager, security guard, sommelier, contractor, truck driver, line-cook, house cleaner, handyman, furniture mover, politician, and more. Needless-to-say, the staff of arts organization need your help! Want to volunteer? Easy. Go to the organization’s website and search for a volunteer page. If the organization doesn’t have one, just call. As a volunteer, you will do more than just stuff envelopes, you become an ambassador for the organization and an advocate for them in the community. A much more significant role than one thinks. People always say to me that they don’t volunteer because they lead busy lives and can’t commit every week. As arts managers, we don’t need people to show up every week, we just need people to show up when they say they will.

4. Attend arts events frequently:

Arts organizations need patrons. Whether you purchase a subscription of concerts to the Symphony, single tickets, or attend the museum “expose yourself to art.” By no means should art be a chore like your parents telling you to eat your vegetables. Attend art events that interest you, but make it a priority. If you need a fun family weekend event, go to the Seattle Art Museum; a great night out with friends can be cocktails followed by a Symphony/Opera/Jazz concert and then a late dinner; want to make some new friends, join the many young-adult clubs that organizations now have: Wolfgang Club (Seattle Symphony); BRAVO! (Seattle Opera); and Club 20/30 (Seattle Repertory Theater). If you attend events frequently, it will become second nature; “why didn’t I do this more?” you’ll ask yourself. And most importantly, have fun!

5. Donate – when & where you can:

Whether its theater, symphony, dance, or arts center – all non-profit arts organization need help paying the bills. This country is home to many wealthy and generous individuals, and non-profit leaders are thankful for that. However, there are hundreds of arts organizations around the country that worry about their bottom-line or even go out of business because they didn’t get that one grant, or didn’t sell enough tickets. You don’t have to be a multi-millionaire to help support the arts. A small investment of $20-50 ($1.67-$4.17/month) is all it takes to become a member of your local organizations: MICA, SAM, Japanese Gardens. If you are a person that has more wealth and don’t already give, consider becoming a major donor. Depending on the organization this could be between $1,000 – $10,000. You then become an invested stakeholder to the organization, feel good that you’re taking action in your community. In addtion, you get a tax deduction.

Lastly, by doing all or part of the above, you set an important example to your friends and family regarding the importance of philanthropy and supporting the arts in our country. Here on the west coast, though there are many generous donors, there isn’t the same history and background of philanthropy as there is on the east coast. If friends extol the programming of KEXP or KPLU, ask them if they are a member. If not, lightly nudge them in the direction of membership to whatever arts organization they have an interest. If you support Mercer Island Center for the Arts (MICA), invite your friends to become a Friend of MICA. People just need a simple invite to be an advocate. MICA invites you to be an advocate for the arts and for MICA.