Photographer Kevin Horan
Photo by: Melissa Ponder

Ampersand Live 2016: Eclectic, funny and unexpectedly cathartic

Two days after the Presidential election showed us how divided we are as a country, more than 700 people came together for an evening of stories, spoken word, photography, parkour and song.

We weren’t certain if people would decide to spend an evening at Town Hall Seattle for our third Ampersand Live show. We always host the show in early November but our scheduled date (Nov. 10) fell two days after an extremely divisive Presidential race came to a conclusion. We knew our lineup of contributors—author, sketcher, athlete—was ready to storytell and share. But would there be an audience to witness it?

The answer was Yes.

More than 700 people packed the pews at one of our most favorite “third places” in Seattle to hear about whether we’re losing the soul of Seattle (from author/writer David Schmader) or whether we’re too quick to dismiss the importance of a Central Area grocery store (from filmmaker Jill Freidberg).

We got a lesson in how to appreciate both the people and place of our urban surroundings (from sketcher Gabriel Campanario); how to ponder the innate humanity of goats (photographer Kevin Horan) and how to balance density with design in Wallingford (architect Rick Mohler).

Through photographs and video we armchair traveled to the wilds of Alaska (photographer Amy Gulick) and we scaled the heights of a 140-year old North Bend hemlock-turned art sculpture (artist John Grade). We were invited to appreciate the uniqueness of our urban neighbors: raccoons (Tracey Conway, who subbed in at the last minute for Brenda Peterson). And we smiled at the rhyming talents of author and biologist Thor Hanson.

Spoken word (Jourdan Imani Keith, Emrys Foster) proved powerful and transformative as did an emotional (and world premiere) musical composition by Evan Flory-Barnes (performed with Monica Schley, Marina Christopher, Heather Thomas, Andrew Joslyn, Rebecca Chung Filice, Sarah Chung Malmstrom and Seth May Patterson).

And in a moment that will forever be seared in our memories and in our hearts, Tomo Nakayama led us in the singing of “We Shall Overcome.” [Watch Tomo’s powerful speech about the power of listening to one another, his performance of “Open Room” (at 3:02) and “We Shall Overcome at (5:42)].


That singular moment of communal expression showed us the gift that live performances can deliver. Our Ampersand Live shows have been a gamble of faith. This third show proved how a gamble can really pay off.

We’ll be posting videos of the performances on this website over the next several weeks. We’re happy to announce KUOW, who was our media sponsor, recorded the show as part of their Speakers Forum. Full audio is here.

Thank you to our sponsors Nube 9, Beneficial State Bank and Outdoor Research. And to everyone who joined us at Town Hall. We’ve heard from several people who were in the audience that evening. If the show made an impression on you, we’d love to hear your comments in the section below.