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Getting to Know Seattle: the Arts, the Social Challenges, and the Rain

By AFAR Traveler

Mar 14, 2014

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At AFAR Experiences-Seattle, one afternoon was spent in breakout sessions, in which smaller groups had the chance to explore a side of Seattle that interested them most, whether it was the flora and fauna (photo above: trekking through rainy Seward Park, by John Galante), the music scene, the arts, or the groundbreaking work in global health. Here is some more detail on the fascinating people we spoke with and the places we visited.

Back to Nature in the Pacific Northwest

Undeterred by the pouring rain, this group explored Seattle’s Seward Park with the author and forager Langdon Cook. We hiked through the woods for about two hours as Langdon pointed out edible leaves, mushrooms, roots, and berries along the way. “The forager’s golden rule is don’t eat anything you can’t identify with 100 percent certainty,” Langdon said. The author of two books, including The Mushroom Hunters, Langdon has a particular interest in the characters he met on the mushroom trail. “To be a mushroom hunter, you’ve got to know the trees,” he said. In our walk through an old-growth forest, we saw trailing blackberry, Himalayan blackberry, purslane, salal berries, Indian plum trees (with leaves that have a cucumber flavor), salmon berry, stinging nettle, and wild wood sorrel (which has a lemony taste). (Photo by Julia Cosgrove.)

Bill & Melinda Gates Visitor Center
Groundbreaking Global Health Initiatives 


Lisa Cohen of the Washington Global Health Alliance brought one of the breakout groups to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center, to discuss the organizations who are designing cutting-edge solutions to age old and new health threats—from developing a malaria vaccine to mobile technologies. The group toured the highly interactive Visitor Center, which aims to introduce visitors to some of the world’s toughest challenges and encourages the sharing of creative solutions. (Photo by Onnalee MacDonald.)

Contemporary Art and Architecture with Bill and Ruth True

We met up with art collectors Bill and Ruth True at their Madison Park private residence, designed by artist Roy McMakin. (The house’s glorious bathroom has a shower looking out towards Mount Rainier.) The Trues’ passion for contemporary art is obvious—their collection includes works by artists such as Stephan Balkenhol, Waleed Beshty, Amanda Ross Hoe, Bruce Nauman, Anne Fenton, and many more. They’re also huge supporters of the Seattle arts community, and over wine and whiskey the group discussed the rich local scene and what’s exciting the Trues most about Seattle right now. (Photo by Joe Diaz.)

The Storied Streets of First Hill


We explored Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood with artist, entrepreneur, and visionary Greg Lundgren. He’s the man behind iconic spots like the Hideout—which he said he “created for artists and the artist in all of us”—as well as the storied and restored Vito’s lounge; and the world’s only “death care boutique” that creates one-of-kind monuments by local artists. “Playing is one of the things that humans are best at,” said Lundgren. “If a robot can do your job, then let it, and do something else—like play.” (Thus the Robotic Art Dealer, shown above, photo by Greg Sullivan.)

The Seattle Music Scene, Then and Now

Megan Jasper, Vice President of the iconic Sub Pop Records, walked us through the label’s headquarters in downtown Seattle and then plied us with local wine and delicious baked goods over a chat about the label’s history. We gawked over wall-hangings, which included Nirvana gold records, original art from almost 25 years of album covers, and Polaroid photos of the famous musicians who have walked those halls. (Photo by Elizabeth Olson.)

The Marriage of Studio Glass and Native Art

Sarah Traver hosted us in the studio of Preston Singletary, a leader in Northwest Coast Native art and studio glass. Preston brings a new material to an ancient tradition, taking traditional Northwest Native Art and expressing it through modern European glass-blowing traditions. The themes of transformation, animal spirits, and shamanism are given a fresh perspective in his work. (Photo by Bryan Kinkade.)

Walking Tour of Historic Old Ballard

Seattle Experiences attendees learned a painful truth about Seattle: it rains. We meandered the wet streets of the funky neighborhood of Ballard with Cass O’Callaghan of the Ballard Historical Society. Cass’s stories of the neighborhood were best enjoyed once the group got out of the rain and into a cozy bar.

Read more about AFAR Experiences and our next trip, to Mexico City. 

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