Nancy Guppy has been an integral part of Seattle arts and culture for more than twenty years. Originally a cast member for the iconic Seattle sketch comedy show (and career launcher) Almost Live!, Guppy branched out to become the city’s preeminent host/producer of the Seattle Channel’s Art Zone with Nancy Guppy.
We caught up with her to ask about the arts community here in Seattle – what makes it strong, what she loves about covering it, and what the future may hold, as well as chatting about her live show being held this week at King Street Station in conjunction with the Seattle Art Fair.
You’ve been hosting Art Zone with Nancy Guppy on the Seattle Channel for almost 8 years now. What is your favorite thing about covering the arts and culture scene here in Seattle?
For me, it’s connecting first with the artist and then with the audience that I am presenting the artist to. It’s really all about the relationship to me. I’m a writer and a performer myself, so I’ve had a lot of background in the arts. I love art, and I love artists.
I love putting people into a spotlight who often won’t necessarily be getting much attention otherwise, and allowing them to talk about their ideas, their take on the world, and their art. But making a connection and having a relationship — that’s the juice for me.
What’s unique and special to you about the Seattle arts and culture scene?
Definitely there are all these little genres – it’s like a big meta art umbrella — you’ve got your dance communities, you’ve got your theater, film, music, and literature. But what I found interesting is that there is just a lot of crossover. I’ll see dance and music coming together here, for example, theater and dance, or theater and film. There’s a lot more sharing of ideas and trying to create work that isn’t just one specific genre.
And why do you think that is?
One thing is that there’s such a strong ‘Do it Yourself,’ or DIY vibe, certainly in Seattle, and in much of the Pacific Northwest. And I think right now when arts organizations or studios or rehearsal spaces, for example, are getting crunched, artists who are here respond in creative ways. Most of them are committed and passionate about doing their art, so they get wily and really creative – there’s a dedication to getting your stuff out there however you can.
So I think the drying up of opportunities many times can force people to find new ways of refreshing itself. And that I think is part of the reason why I think there is a lot more crossover here.
Are you concerned about how all this development is affecting the arts community here in Seattle?
I mean some spaces are starting to disappear in Seattle with this insane development, yes, and without the city putting in place some fairly strict demands on developers to provide areas for artists to continue to do their thing. Because by the way, the reason people love Seattle is because of the arts scene, its not because they like tall buildings.
I think people always survive. We’re not going to get snuffed out, but I do think that we’re getting homogenized here. So the answer has to come from the top, that’s just the bottom line. The top has to say: the economic health of artists is an important thing to my vision of the city.
Throughout all these changes, what keeps you motived and inspired to keep covering the arts here?
I think Seattle, as boomed up as it has become, is still a very small place. There’s a sense of community here. And people are very passionate about what they do. So there are always interesting projects going on that I just think…they deserve to be seen! It’s the gift that keeps on giving because it opens doors all the time.
It’s really a delightful, satisfying feeling to put someone out there. And I just feel really lucky that I get to do that – this is as much it is for me as it is for them.
You’ve spoken about the need for city officials and those in charge to value the arts. But what can the arts community here do to make itself stronger?
I think arts organizations can do more to cross-promote each other. I think we’re stronger as a whole than we are in our little fiefdoms.
And in terms of individual artists, I would say get outside of your bubble. There’s a lot of crossover in terms of collaboration, but do painters go to dance performances? Do dance people go to see gallery shows? Do they go to see films? Go see stuff that isn’t what you know. Expose yourself to other genres and broaden your scope to seed your own artistic practice. Bust out!
Can you talk about your upcoming event this week, Art Zone with Nancy Guppy: Live at King Street Station?
In conjunction with the Seattle art fair, we’re taking over three rooms on the second floor of King Street Station to live interview artists, filmmakers, and musicians. There will be filmmakers like VR experimenter Sandy Cioffi and indie filmmaker Megan Griffiths. The set design is by Tania Kupczak, who has worked on Captain Fantastic and with Lynn Shelton on various films.
It’s kind of a live talk show. For 3 days in a row, for one hour each day. It’s open to the public and free with limited seating.
Think of it as David Letterman on a budget of a dollar. The whole thing is one big huge fun circus, but it’s also pretty produced. Who knows how it’s going to go, but it’s going to be fun!
Here’s the lineup:
Admission is free, but you’ll need a ticket. You can pick up tickets on the day of each show one hour before show time at King Street Station, 303 S. Jackson Street.