Sunday, May 15, 2011

It's A Story That Will Take A Few Days To Tell

Rain rivers are running in the trolley tracks in front of my apartment building this morning, racing down Westlake Avenue where they will join Lake Union to become part of the system of bays, lakes, streams and canals, natural and manmade, that form much of the character of Seattle to the north of its downtown core.

If you rowed a tiny kayak down those rivers and paddled to the north end of the lake, you would come to the Gas Works Park peninsula, where you would have a choice of heading east and under I-5 into Portage Bay, then though the canal where the powerful University of Washington crew race, to Union Bay, and finally into Lake Washington. If you chose instead to head toward the setting sun, you would pass under the Aurora and Fremont Bridges at one end of the ship canal, then you'd come to the Ballard Bridge. If you continued you would have to pass through the Ballard Locks and Salmon Bay before finally entering Elliott Bay and ultimately the Pacific Ocean.

Today's story doesn't go that far, starting instead under the Ballard Bridge where we are warned in no uncertain terms of savage zombies "from the darkest depths of the most forsaken netherlands."

This is a place where strange things get piled together behind a chain link fence, being a storage "facility" for the Fremont Arts Council and our rag tag collection of affiliated community arts organizations.

A group of us met under there yesterday at noon for the purpose of retrieving our "float beds" that will be transformed over the course of the next month into works of art to be displayed in the streets as part of the 22nd annual Fremont Summer Solstice Parade (June 19th, noon).

Some of these "blanks" were originally built to be floats, while others had former lives as various types of trailers, but all of them are designed to carry hundreds of pounds of artistic weight as they move down the street. We don't allow motors in our parade, everything that moves must be human-powered, so they must be pushed or pulled. 

They don't look like much all stacked there under the bridge, behind chain link, in the gravel donated several years ago by good people at Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel, but most of them are already vibrantly alive in the minds of the creative people who are planning to get to work on them in the coming days. If you live in the area and want some advanced knowledge about some of the incredible things being planned, and especially if you feel inspired to pitch in to help make some art, the McKay Grantee Artist Reception is this coming Tuesday (May 17) from 7-9 p.m. at the Fremont Abbey Arts Center (43rd and Fremont Ave. N.). I'll be there if that's any enticement.

Right now it's all just blanks and ideas and a few strange things poking out from under tarps.

There are parts that we've kept just in case we need them.

Because you never know when you might need a cannon or a portion of a graffiti wall or large galvanized steel tubs . . .

. . . or wooden waves, or a giant metal windmill complete with a fold out dragon and the ability to shoot real fire.

It's really not much different than the storage rooms of the Woodland Park Cooperative Preschool.

As we hurried up and waited, which is in the nature of every project involving many hands, I took part in and overheard dozens of conversations about "bubble floats," and "giant preying mantises," and "zombies," and "ice queens." I spoke about my own ensemble, the Superhuggers (the photo at the top of this blog is me in my Captain Superhugger costume), which, whether I like it or not, have become a summer solstice tradition, one that will continue for at least one more year. (If you want to be a Superhugger this year, shoot me an email. We can always use more huggers!)

It didn't take long to get the first load of float beds hooked up and then it was off to the Powerhouse (3940 Fremont Ave. N.), where they needed to be unloaded. This is where we really need all those hands. I'm no expert on estimating these things, but each one of those float beds weighs several hundred pounds. They're unwieldy, spikey with protruding nails and staples left over from last summer. Once the tie downs are removed, the stack of blanks is a hazardous, tippy tower that must be carefully taken down, one at a time, the work of dozens of hands, each one blocking traffic for a time as we maneuver them into place along the curb. Watch your toes! Careful of the kick back! Block the wheels! Safety third!

It was hard work, but the beds are now all in place, lining a portion of Fremont Avenue under blooming chestnut trees. As I left, a second shift was getting to work putting up the temporary fencing that will protect the cyclists who need to use that bike lane.

It doesn't look like much now, but there are enough foolish people living downstream from our rain flooded trolley tracks to make great beauty. People foolish enough to imagine that the sun will shine and on the longest day we will shed our common, everyday clothing and dance and hug in the streets.

So what, you ask, does this have to do with children or education or preschool? Believe it or not, I'm going someplace with this, someplace a little strange, new and exciting. It's a story about many hands, and playing, and making art, and having faith in the sun. Our community is setting out in a few day's time in its flotilla of kayaks, following a stream we've found at our feet.

I want to take you with us, but it's a story that will take a few days to tell.

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Juliet Robertson said...

I'm already excited and looking forward to the rest of the posts.

I always used to involve my school in the local arts festival which included a Saturday parade. All the parents would come along to.

Oh and thanks for the political rants on Facebook. Haven't got time to rant back but I'm tuning in!

Mullin Avenue Workshop said...

The parade sounds like alot of community effort, and as well fun!
I'm looking forward to seeing where things are heading in next weeks's posts too!

Barbara Zaborowski said...

I think what we need here in Phoenix is a Winter Solstice Parade!