ETCETERA - Wine, eateries, music and theater give WW culture

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Barring a lockdown at the Washington State Penitentiary or possibly a banner wheat, pea or asparagus crop, Walla Walla garnered little media attention outside the Valley, once upon a time.

That's sure changed with the influx of wineries, vineyards, restaurants and now the music and theater scene.

Writers are even beginning to report about our area without dragging into the narrative tired old bromides such as stray tumbleweeds rolling down Main Street or images of "wine-soaked" anything in Walla Walla or the town that was described as being completely in the shadow of our tallest building, the towering Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center.

Among more recent coverage comes a March 3 article from The Seattle Times, which caught wind of the Power House Theatre and all its goings on.

Brian J. Cantwell, who's on the Times travel staff, points out that the theater is bringing attention to culture in the community. He caught its premiere weekend of "The Four Tenors."

"People mostly have come to Walla Walla in recent years for the award-winning wines. Swirl a local syrah in one of those big wineglasses that takes two hands and it's like dunking your head in a bucket of August-picked blackberries," he observed.

"However, with three colleges, the longest-running symphony west of the Mississippi, a famed sculpture foundry and a corps of artists inspired by the sensuous whorls of nearby Palouse wheat fields, this town of 32,000 - also home to the state's oldest prison - has long been a sort of stealth incubator for the arts."

"Now, with last year's opening of the privately funded Power House, new home to Shakespeare Walla Walla as well as a year-round playbill of music and theater, you might say it's official: Culturally speaking there's, ahem, a lotta lotta to Walla Walla."

Find Brian's complete story at tinyurl.com/73h7xks .

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A bevy of young Sharpstein Elementary artists - Pollacks, Matisses and Picassos, if you will - have been busy as bees this winter prepping for the school's fourth annual Celebration of the Arts, said Karri Bruce in a release. Their creations will be displayed for the community from 6-8 p.m. March 21 in the school gymnasium.

"We are excited to bring the Celebration of the Arts to the kids at Sharpstein because it gives them yet another opportunity to awaken their inner artist and create beauty in the world," said Lisa Stott, event chairwoman. "We would love for members of our community to come and see what we've created."

More than 20 student-created items that will be displayed and auctioned off. Third-grade students painted in the style of Jackson Pollack, flinging, splattering and drizzling paint on canvases.

First-graders fused nature and art, creating delicate papier-mch birds-nest bowls and eye-popping, whimsical birdhouses. Encouraged to "draw with scissors," second-graders fashioned a large-scale paper leaf collage in the style of Henri Matisse. Fifth-grade students painted original acrylics on heavy paper, that were combined together into one eye-catching work of modern-abstract art, Karri said.

Parent Scott Caldwell worked with Sean Reid's fifth-graders to create a three-dimensional dragon head.

"My goal was to help them discover possibilities in art that they might otherwise think was beyond them. Through the Picture Lab program (formerly Picture Lady), I have had many opportunities to work with Sharpstein students over the years and I knew I had some really talented kids to work with. Also it is the Chinese year of the Dragon. With all that in mind, I proposed to the class a more advanced project that would really challenge them," Scott said.

The dragon head is made from card stock paper pieces that had to be meticulously cut out with a very high level of precision and accuracy. Once cut, the pieces were scored to ensure accurate folding, then inspected before each piece was added to the model.

Altogether, 193 individual parts printed on 47 sheets of card stock, completed the assembly. Every student and their teacher worked over the course of three days to cut out all of the pieces.

Once assembled, Scott sought paint scheme ideas from the students and then incorporated the varying styles into the final painting.

Finally, they added LED lights to the head and a display stand made from oak and galvanized pipe. The finished dragon head stands 20 inches tall and 29 inches long. A poster of the students' concept art work will be available for auction.

"I have to say that this was an incredibly rewarding project to be part of," Scott said. "I know whoever wins the dragon head at this year's auction will be acquiring not just an amazing conversational piece but also an inspiring sculpture that showcases the amazing heights that children can achieve through art."

All artwork will be auctioned to raise funds for Sharpstein PTA. Family-friendly packages and gift certificates Walla Walla Sweets, Sweet Putt, Walla Walla Clothing Company, Bright's and other area merchants will be available through a silent auction.

Sharpstein teachers are offering "adventure packages" for students and their families to bid on - fun activities hosted by teachers that include bowling, pottery painting, baking cookies, a Wii tournament, a Sweets game, a spa day and more, Karri said.

Guests will be treated to musical performances and light refreshments during the event.

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An Angel Share Auction hosted by the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers included participation by Walla Walla Community College wine program alumni.

The event occurred during WAWGG's February banquet at the 2012 annual meeting and trade show in Kennewick.

"Alumni donated a fabulous collection of astonishing wines from more than 25 wineries where they are employed as winemakers, enologists, viticulturists and cellar masters," said Melissa Harrison, WWCC interim director of marketing, in a release.

In addition to more than 35 wines, was a wine barrel rack hand-crafted by an alumnus and a four-hour luncheon tour of Walla Walla wineries. The auction lot raised $1,300, which will help fund future wine industry scholarships, Melissa said.

Three WWCC students were awarded scholarships from the Washington Wine Industry Foundation during the awards lunch at the annual meeting.

Walter Clore Scholarships of $500 went to Brooke Robertson and Rick Sewell. A John Farmer Scholarship of $2,000 went to Noel Perez. All three are students in the enology and viticulture program at WWCC.

Noel earned an associate's degree from WWCC in 2011. He hopes to enhance ethnic diversity in wine and viticulture through his bilingual language skills and by serving as a good role model for every wine enthusiast.

A 2008 alumna of Oregon State University, Brooke's family owns a 10-acre vineyard in the Walla Walla appellation. She wants to make the industry more accessible to younger generations and has an appreciation for wine not just as a beverage, but as a statement of a time and place.

Rick will graduate with an AAAS degree in enology and viticulture in June. After careers in retail and hospitality, he became inspired to pursue an education and career in viticulture and enology during summer employment as a charter bus driver for several wine tours. He is interested in opening a winery specializing in "port style" wines.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.

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