Culture News: VERA’s New Leader, Protest Fest Sticks It to Trump, and Paul Rucker Becomes a TED Fellow

Ashraf Hasham


Meet VERA Project’s New Executive Director, Ashraf Hasham: He’s taking the helm after the all-ages community center and venue’s former ED, Tim Lennon, stepped down to lead the new African American arts nonprofit, LANGSTON, in the Central District. Hasham grew up in Seattle and has been involved with VERA since he was a teenager, and will be returning to his hometown after a stint at arts education organization Urban Gateways in Chicago. Sounds like a good fit!

“Ashraf specifically brings the needed community connections—both local and national­—his activist lens, and deep roots in Seattle’s unique arts landscape to position VERA for major growth,” said VERA Board President Amy Piñon in the press release.

First annual Protest Fest Seattle to Raise Funds for Righteous Causes: On President’s Day (Mon., Feb. 19), Do206 will host a multi-venue music event called Protest Fest Seattle that will benefit various charities, including ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center, Anti-Defamation League, and the Sierra Club—repping pretty much all the things the “stable genius” in the White House opposes. The goal is to “shine a light on injustice, intolerance, and inequality,” and to fund organizations that will foster those ideals. If you want to play, promote, sponsor, or host an event at Protest Fest, send an e-mail to

Have You Made Your Appointment for Black ImaginationYet?: Reparations artist Nastasha Marin’s latest project—in collaboration with poet Imani Sims, writer and educator Amber Flame, and musician Rachael Ferguson—is currently showing at CORE Gallery in Pioneer Square. Marin told art writer Emily Pothast that “Black Imagination is for black people first,” and is like “home-baked bread with butter for a stomach tight with growling.” It’s open by appointment only and there’s only a few of those left. The exhibit includes multimedia work from Stranger Genius nominee poet Robert Lashley, Stas Thee Boss, and artist and cellist Paul Rucker.

And speaking of Paul Rucker…

Paul Rucker


Rewind Artist Paul Rucker Awarded TED Fellowship: The Seattle and Baltimore based Guggenheim Fellow keeps racking up the honors: Rucker, whose powerful exhibit on racism, Rewind, was deemed too provocative by York College, is one of 20 2018 TED Fellowship recipients who will head to Vancouver BC in April and give a TED talk on the subject of their choosing. Rucker plans on speaking about the long-term impacts of slavery and Jim Crow laws on socioeconomic disparities among African Americans today (and of course, offer some solutions, because it’s a TED talk, after all).

Young Jean Lee Is the First Asian American Woman Playwright on Broadway: Her non-linear, thought-provoking new play, Straight White Men, is heading to Broadway, but first it’s stopping in Seattle this Friday at Washington Ensemble Theatre. The avant-garde playwright talked with Rich Smith about privilege, politics, and her reaction to finding out that the play made it to Broadway.

MOHAI Added Over 500 Al Smith Photographs to UW’s Digital Collections: In tandem with their exhibition on Smith’s photographs documenting over 50 years of African-American life in the Central District (a community which is now down to 20 percent black due to the tech boom and gentrification). There’s jazz bands, dancing, fancy dresses, fascinating portraiture, and more. Check them out here.

We Lost a Good One, Seattle: “One of the Best Bookmen in the Northwest,” Louis Collins, passed away last week. He worked in books for over 50 years, first selling them out of his station wagon at book fairs, then out of the blue building on the corner of 12th and Denny, Collins Books (now the post office—the bookstore relocated last year). Perusing his absurdly amazing and exquisitely preserved art book collection was always a treat, and as Rich Smith says in his retrospective of Collins’ life and career, he will be missed.

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