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Bainbridge's Farmstock Festival — it’s all in the family
Art and music festivals on the island tend to be family friendly. And whether by happenstance or design, this year’s Farmstock Festival of the Arts also turned out to be a family affair.
“Isn’t that great? We couldn’t be happier,” Marj Hurlow said.
Three generations of what festival organizer Elizabeth Gadbois calls “the amazing Hurlows” will add their talents to the weekend’s Bottom’s Up Farm gathering, which builds on last August’s Art & Music Expo with the addition of ticketed live music each evening, all to raise awareness of local farms.
Start with artist and matriarch Marj, one of the art expo’s invitational artists whose work will be on display all weekend.
At 86, Marj has been finding ways to make art all her life, even when she acquiesced to her parents’ wish for her to have a proper career. She chose occupational therapy because the field incorporated art and craft skills.
“But my heart was always in trying to do art,” she said.
Later, raising her family in the Burien area, she drew from a talented pool of artists she knew to help start a local arts center.
At the time, her preschool-age son, Robert, was taking a class in which the instructor was militantly trying to teach him perspective. It threw him so out of whack that he began writing his name backward.
Where were the art classes, Marj wondered, that could let kids create freely?
Well, said her friends, you can create it, and we’ll help you. Over the four years she ran it, the Burien Creative Activity Center served roughly 1,000 kids, teaching them what for her is an essential message about art: that every way is the right way to make it.
Art, Marj thinks, can especially work wonders in a young person.
“I think it gives them some confidence in themselves, properly taught – you can ruin kids with teaching art the wrong way,” she said. “But given an opportunity to be creative and find their own direction can give them confidence and insight, and free up some of their anxiety. It’s just amazing.”
Which brings us to Nancy Houghton, Marj’s daughter. Her trajectory in music education parallels Marj’s early work with using art as part of occupational therapy. Having recently obtained her master’s degree in music therapy, she’ll lead a weekend workshop at the art expo, sharing ideas about the uses of music and sound as ways to address emotional, cognitive and behavioral challenges.
Nancy is married to Todd Houghton, who plays with perennial island favorite Ranger and the ReArrangers, performing at Farmstock Sunday afternoon.
And the topic of bands leads, finally, to Marj’s grandson and Nancy’s nephew, Brian Hurlow. The recent Bainbridge High School graduate is the frontman for Army Corp of Architects, a two-year-old foursome whose sound he describes as guitar-oriented indie rock in the tradition of Death Cab for Cutie and Sonic Youth.
“Slightly noisy,” he said.
As a freshman in high school, Brian searched for the thing that would click. He tried lacrosse but got thrashed around.
Then a teacher suggested that he make friends with a new kid, Sean Leonard. The two bonded over music, which Hurlow had been interested since he got a “how to play the harmonica” kit as a gift one year.
“We kind of got a blind date hookup as guitar playing friends,” Hurlow said.
What followed were the addition of a drummer and a bass and keyboard player, leading to the band’s current configuration of Hurlow as lead singer and guitarist; Leonard on lead guitar; Jordan Yentzer on bass, keyboard and backing vocals; and Colin Schulz on drums.
Although young, the band quickly developed not just a local following but also a regular stream of gigs at venues in the area including the Comet Tavern, Vera Project and the Kirkland Teen Union Building. And following in the footsteps of island youth bands like Gruff Mummies, they took second place at last year’s EMP Sound Off! competition.
The Farmstock Concerts, which they’ll close on Sunday night, will be Army Corp’s second-to-last performance before the band members scatter, Hurlow to MacAllister College college in St. Paul, Minn. There, he may major in humanities or anthropology, and minor in music.
“I’ve always toyed with a career in music, but I’m going down a regular path right now,” he said. “If doors open up for me, it’s fate.”
Brian thinks probably the fact that his family was infused in art and music, albeit in a low-key, no-pressure way, had a lot to do with his feeling free to pursue his music. So he gives his grandmother credit, and he really, really likes her art.
That fact delights Marj, although it’s the first she’d heard of it.
“They never tell me these things,” she said, laughing.