Creative Writing

Profiles in Patience: Seattle’s Steadfast Arts Enablers

Amber Bissinger, band girlfriend
Amber Bissinger is one of the city’s great boosters of local music, donating thousands of dollars in seed money to boyfriend Jed Millman’s regionally touring garage psych band the High Wasted Genes. Bissinger, a paralegal, spends all her vacation time on the road with the band.

“Last winter I almost got hypothermia guarding their equipment in an alley in downtown Butte, Mont., while the boys pounded a half rack of free PBR in the green room.” She sighs, “You have to understand, they’re basically toddlers with beards. I’d totally feel responsible if they all died.”

Whether navigating treacherous mountain passes to bail out half the group after a post-gig misunderstanding in Pocatello, Idaho, or making sure the bass player gets to his court-mandated parenting class after practice each week, Bissinger does her part to make sure the beat goes on.

Tom Nishimura, T-K building janitor
As a janitor at the Tashiro-Kaplan Building, that hive of galleries and artists’ lofts in the heart of Pioneer Square, Tom Nishimura sees a side of the art world that few will ever glimpse. “I’m in charge of the dumpsters,” he says. “I come across a lot of stuff that doesn’t make it to the gallery wall. Sometimes there’s so much contemporary art that I have to get into the dumpster and stomp it down with my feet to make room for more contemporary art.”

Nishimura has witnessed aesthetic trends come and go in his 12 years at the T-K. “I remember when everyone was doing work in encaustic. It was a real mess. That stuff ruined two good pairs of work boots.”

Gary Plouff, season ticket holder
As the sole paid subscriber to the Screaming Agony Ensemble Theater’s 2013 season and, at times, its only audience member, Mr. Plouff is no stranger to suffering for art. He was hospitalized with facial lacerations after being struck by broken glass during the premiere of 2012’s swiftly cancelled Beat Up the Audience. While watching the Ensemble’s 12-hour public improv cycle in Occidental Park, he was robbed. Twice.

Plouff’s devotion is rooted in a deep respect and admiration for the performers. “They’re great, really,” he says. “Especially that Ashley; she’s brilliant. She’s my favorite barista. Do you think she’ll read this?”