2014: The Year in Arts

Without the art we experienced this year, 2014 would’ve driven us over the cliff. Instead, we were bouyed by the empathy and community engendered by art in all its forms. We were reminded that this is why we’re here. So let’s take a moment to revel in our favorite trends, moments and memories of the year, brought to you by the entire City Arts staff. 

Les Fleurs du Mâle
Steven Miller’s work always straddles the perverse and melancholy with his irresistible brand of cinematic, baroque staging. His show Les Fleurs du Mâle (pictured above) at Gallery4Culture in September may have been the best thing I saw in 2014. The hour-long video Oubliette, which featured a composite, bird’s-eye view of 42 male volunteers locked, at turns, in a claustrophobic faux jail cell, was heartbreaking genius. —Amanda Manitach

My Last Year with the Nuns
Plenty of great locally grown feature films surfaced in 2014, but My Last Year with the Nuns won’t let me go. It’s a great oral document of Seattle at a key cultural crossroads, and a funny, bracingly universal coming-of-age story to boot. —Tony Kay

Crossover culture
The other highlight of the year was the increased willingness of writers to not only share a bill but also collaborate with artists in other disciplines. Here I specifically recognize the efforts of Ed Skoog (in his Triggering Town Review) and Sierra Nelson (in two Hugo House events: the Cephalopod Appreciation Society reading and her recent I Ching-based event) for bringing together visual arts, comedy, music and literature in ways that expand and subvert audience expectations for a “reading.” —Bill Carty

Slowdive/Low at the Neptune
STG continued its run of excellent programming this year, particularly at the Neptune, which hosted the best local bands, national comedians and revival shows like this one in early November, which paired one of America’s best live indie bands with one of Britain’s most iconic gone-too-soon groups. Supported by the venue’s superb sightlines and sound design, the result was transcendent. —Rachel Shimp

Against the Grain
This year, the 10th-anniversary production of Men In Dance’s Against the Grain—a two-weekend showcase of talent celebrating men in dance—re-ignited my love of dance. The combined talent, athleticism, creativity and precision on that stage blew me away in a way I haven’t felt in a long time. —Rachel Gallaher 

10:04 was my favorite novel of 2014, and Ben Lerner’s reading at Elliott Bay Books did not disappoint, partly because he chose to read from one of the book’s most memorable scenes (a set piece involving sperm donation and some hilariously germaphobic attention to detail). But the reading was even more memorable for the impromptu discussion between Lerner and the novelist Maria Semple, who hijacked (in the best, most welcome way) the Q&A to ask Lerner questions about craft, dealing with editors and structuring his time-and-structure bending book. Were all audience interventions as enlightening! —Bill Carty

This year was my first AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) and conveniently it was held in Seattle. Attending lectures and wandering around the Bookfair was great, but meeting other young writers from around the country during the evening readings was an absolute highlight. —Rachel Gallaher

Pacific Northwest Ballet
From the always-intriguing Director’s Choice presentations to the final performance of the Stowell/Sendak Nutcracker, the ballet has come to symbolize the spirit of local culture from high to low, nodding to tradition but mostly leaping fearlessly into the future. —Rachel Shimp

Angels in America: Perestroika
Watching actor Adam Standley, as the AIDS-stricken Prior Walter, face a quorum of angels to fight for his life on earth was an emotional gut punch in the best possible way: “I don’t know if it’s not braver to die, but I recognize the habit; the addiction to being alive. So we live past hope. If I can find hope anywhere, that’s it, that’s the best I can do. It’s so much not enough. It’s so inadequate. But still bless me anyway. I want more life.” —Gemma Wilson

Become Ocean
Sitting in the gilded splendor of Carnegie Hall feeling the deep, murky tones of John Luther Adams’ Become Ocean wash over me and fellow Seattleites who’d travelled across the country to hear the Seattle Symphony perform in May—just weeks after Become Ocean won a Pulitzer Prize—was an experience I’ll never forget. —Gemma Wilson

Long live Scarecrow 
Scarecrow‘s resurrection as a non-profit saved one of the world’s biggest video collections from oblivion and turned out to be one of the most valuable acts of cultural rescue we saw in this region in 2014. —Tony Kay

Comedy takeover
Parlor Live finally brought an upscale comedy showroom and world-class headliners to downtown Seattle. After a long period of dormancy and an overgrowth of bar-clearing gutbucket open mics, some good new local alt-shows popped up around the city: Taphouse Sessions and Laugh!Riot! at Naked City Brewery in Greenwood, Boring Time and Tiny Baby Talk Show at Scratch Deli on Capitol Hill, and Magic Hat and Comedy Womb at the Rendezvous in Belltown. ­—Brett Hamil

This year Molly Sides emerged from her role as choreographer and dancer to step into thigh-high boots as Thunderpussy’s frontwoman—and killed it. She and bandmates Lena Simon, Whitney Petty and Leah Julius came out the gate smoldering, kissing, screaming, stripping and crooning like rock and roll should. —Amanda Manitach

Lese Majesty at the Laser Dome
Listed as one of the best albums of the year by various tastemaking websites (including this one), Shabazz Palaces’ Lese Majesty is more sonic sculpture than standard pop music. Producers Ishmael Butler and Erik Blood spent a year skewing the album’s sonics from hip-hop’s usual building blocks—808 drum machines, live drums, guitar, bass—into unprecedented, wholly original sounds, sounds nobody had ever previously heard. (How does one even conceive of a color never before seen?) Hearing the 70-minute aural odyssey on the Laser Dome’s 15,000-watt soundsystem before the album was officially released in August was a full-body immersion into the music unachievable anywhere else. —Jonathan Zwickel

Your Feast Has Ended at the Frye
There’s no going back to the time before Ferguson. Coming on the heels of that crucial turning point for race relations in America, Your Feast Has Ended—a September group show at the Frye featuring artists Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes, Nicholas Galanin and Nep Sidhu—was a megaphone to the masses. Along with compelling, inspired visual art, Feast brought music and lectures to museumgoers who were eager to engage with crucial issues. —Jonathan Zwickel