Lifestyle

Valley arts crossroads

Greetings Valley Record readers. My name is Gary Schwartz. I am an acting teacher, voice-over actor, a council member on the board of Seattle Screen Actors Guild and the director of the Unity Theater in North Bend.

I came to the Snoqualmie Valley six years ago to establish a theater and school of improvisation. You likely have seen my flyers, ads and press releases about acting classes and shows at the Unity Theater over the past several months. If you've been to one of our shows, you've probably met me. If you have not yet attended any performances at the Unity Theater, I urge you to come. The shows have been first rate and feature a lot of great talent from our own area.

The Valley Record asked me to take over this column for the arts in the Snoqualmie Valley from departing columnist Leigh Falconer, who is relocating to Italy with her husband. I agreed to be a local contributor to the Valley Record to encourage a greater interest and participation in the arts.

I entitle this column, "Valley Arts Crossroads." Crossroads is an apt name, because it means an intersection of many paths and an opportunity for choices.

There's a lot of good stuff going on in the Valley. There are summer comedy and variety shows at the Unity Theater on Aug. 21 and 28, and the Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater presents "The Sound of Music" Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 5.

I also want to applaud Snoqualmie Valley Arts Live, the Snoqualmie Center for the Performing Arts and the various arts councils for contributing so much to our lives. Each organization has its own mission and each makes the Snoqualmie Valley an even better place to live. I'd like to see if all these groups could find new ways to cooperate in order to generate even more involvement in the arts.

Our area harbors a larger population of professional and creative artists than we suspect. I am constantly amazed when I meet such interesting and talented people and I always wonder, where have you been keeping yourself? The responses usually are, "Oh, I just work in my studio ..." or "I'm on the Web ..." or "I like living here, but have to sell or perform in Seattle" or "There's really no audience/market here for what I do."

How is it that there is so much talent hidden in our midst? Why don't we know about them? What can we do to help support these artists and encourage them? So, I undertake this column to attempt to accomplish several things.

1. Introduce you to the wide variety of artists and creative people in the area.

2. Offer you an opportunity to learn about, experience and support local arts.

3. Encourage you to become involved in the arts at every level, from audience members to patrons and participants.

4. Create a forum to share our own local treasures with each other and our neighbors.

5. Develop and comment on the calendar of events featured in the paper.

6. Initiate a dialogue about the arts scene of the Snoqualmie Valley.

As our community continues to grow, there will be more and more people to create an interesting arts scene and, with a little help, make it thrive. I think as we grow as a locality, we need to grow culturally as well.

We are at a crossroads. Should we just be a nice bedroom community with great outdoor recreation? Or should we become a uniquely creative community in our own right, with a distinctive arts culture of our own? We need a local arts culture that will interest more than just hikers, fisherman and campers to come to the Valley.

Fellow contributor and president of the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce, Jennifer Lynham, urges us to support our area by "shopping locally." I echo that sentiment and ask that you encourage, patronize and contribute to the local arts. That's our choice and that's how we'll expand and grow together.

I encourage us all to meet outside the pages of this column, too. I'll let you know of any such opportunities as they come up.

In coming weeks, I hope to bring you news of what's going on in the area and I want to feature interviews and profiles of local artists as well.

If you know of an interesting artist or are one yourself and would like to be featured in this column, I'd be happy to meet you and bring you to the attention of Valley Record readership. Feel free to contact me via e-mail at gary@unitytheater.org or by phone and fax at (425) 831-5667.

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