Your Guide to January 2021 Events in Seattle: COVID-Safe Edition

The Sundance Film Festival, MLK Day Celebrations, and Other Notable Happenings
January 4, 2021
Major news for movie lovers: The Sundance Film Festival is partnering with the Northwest Film Forum to bring a week of digital screenings and Q&As to you, including Pedro Kos's documentary Rebel Hearts (pictured), about the patriarchy-defying Sisters of the Immaculate Heart in Los Angeles. (Courtesy Sundance)

In addition to seeing the inauguration of a president who is not Donald Trump and a VP who is not Mike Pence, the first month of 2021 brings quite a few happenings to look forward to both online and in the socially distanced outside world. We've rounded up the heavy hitters in every genre below, from the Sundance Film Festival to the Seattle MLK Coalition's 39th Annual MLK Jr. Day celebration, and from Cafe Nordo's Keep it Surreal Soiree to a reading with co-authors (and sisters) Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar. For even more options, you can always check out our complete streaming, in-person, or on-demand calendars. 

Events are online unless otherwise noted.

JANUARY 9-30

FILM

Scarecrow Movie Club
Join free Zoom discussions of films like Meek's Cutoff, Yojimbo, and Nashville every Saturday in January with the movie fiends at Scarecrow. 

JANUARY 9-FEBRUARY 6

READINGS & TALKS

Quarantine Book Club: 'To the Lighthouse'
After parsing through works by authors like Joan Didion, Toni Morrison, and James Baldwin, Christopher Frizzelle's remote six-week book club continues with Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse—a symbolic choice for the darkest time of the year.

JANUARY 11

FILM

Collide-O-Scope: 11th Anniversary Spectacular!
This special 11th-anniversary edition of your favorite trippy video mashup series will bring an extra dose of lunacy to your Monday night. 

JANUARY 12

FILM

Cinema DNA: Parasite - Virtual Class
Are you obsessed with Bong Joon-ho's Parasite but you've seen it one too many times? This SIFF class will delve into the movies that inspired it to give you some adjacent viewing material, from Charlie Chaplin's City Lights to a selection of mid-century South Korean films. 

READINGS & TALKS

Melinda Gates: The Moment of Lift
Melinda Gates will present the paperback edition of her bestselling book The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World (which Brené Brown calls "an urgent call to courage") with Elliott Bay. 

JANUARY 12-18

COMMUNITY

39th Annual MLK Jr. Day
The Seattle MLK Jr. Coalition will celebrate the late civil rights leader with a week of online events and classes culminating in the annual rally and march for racial equity at Garfield High School. If you don't want to go in person, the 5th Avenue Theatre will be hosting a livestream of a Kent MLK Day rally on January 15.

JANUARY 14

READINGS & TALKS

Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar: You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey
You may have seen Amber Ruffin on Late Night with Seth Meyers or on her own show on Peacock, and now you'll see her on Elliott Bay's virtual stage talking with her sister, Lacey Lamar, about their new co-authored book, You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories About Racism. The pair will appear in conversation with Naomi Ishisaka, The Seattle Times’ assistant managing editor for diversity, inclusion, and staff development. 

JANUARY 14-FEBRUARY 27

VISUAL ART

Traver Gallery Annual Group Exhibition
Traver Gallery is one of the best places in town to see innovative sculpture and glass art for free, as well as two-dimensional works, so you shouldn't miss their annual group exhibition if you have any interest in the medium. This year, you'll be able to admire pieces by Preston Singletary and other as-yet-announced artists. 
Traver Gallery (Pioneer Square)

THROUGH JANUARY 17

WINTER HOLIDAYS

WildLanterns
The Woodland Park Zoo is taking a more realistic approach to its beloved annual holiday light display by lining its paths with glowing lanterns in the likeness of tigers, snow leopards, aquatic creatures, zebras, and other exotic animals.
Woodland Park Zoo (Phinney)

JANUARY 17-MAY 2

PROTESTS & RESISTANCE

Abolition?
Local activist, attorney, and former Seattle mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver will teach a 15-week online course on abolition through readings, videos, podcasts, and hands-on exercises in partnership with Seattle University's School of Law. It's open to the public!

JANUARY 21

READINGS & TALKS

Spirited Stone: Lessons from Kubota's Garden
Poets and prose writers who contributed to the anthology Spirited Stone: Lessons from Kubota's Garden, which is dedicated to the work of landscape designer and gardener Fukitaro Kubota, will join Town Hall for a reading.

JANUARY 22

READINGS & TALKS

E.J. Koh with Cathy Park Hong
When EJ Koh was 15 years old, she and her brother were left in the United States when Koh's father took a job in South Korea and her mom went with him. The parents moved Koh and her 19-year old brother into a small house in Davis, California, where they more or less raised each other. Though her parents were physically absent, her mother asserted her presence in the form of two-page letters, which she sent to Koh every week. The letters are the heartbeat of Koh's memoir The Magical Language of Others, pulsing between chapters that reveal other details of Koh's life. Like any good poet, Koh uses up everything—every image returns, and every idea chimes with another, so that the book's short 200 pages contain the emotional and philosophical heft of a doorstop. RICH SMITH

Seattle Arts & Lectures Poetry Series presents Maggie Smith
Straying from her usual form, poet Maggie Smith's (Lamp of the Body, Good Bones) new book includes essays and quotes about "new beginnings as opportunities for transformation," according to press materials. Join her for an online reading and discussion with Seattle Arts & Lectures. 

JANUARY 22-29

MUSIC

Kodō: Legacy
Japan’s legendary Kodō drummers will introduce you to Taiko, a rhythmic blend of drumming and dance developed in ancient Japan that requires massive coordination, in this performance film presented by Meany Center for the Performing Arts.

JANUARY 24

MUSIC

Exhilaration
Philharmonia Northwest's second concert of the season features Seattle cellist Nathan Chan (who made his musical debut at the tender age of three conducting the San Jose Chamber Orchestra) and includes Tchaikovsky’s Andante Cantabile and an arrangement of David Popper’s Fantasy on Little Russian Songs. It also spotlights the acclaimed contemporary composer Jessie Montgomery with her piece Strum and concludes with Felix Mendelssohn's String Symphony No. 2 in D major.

JANUARY 25

READINGS & TALKS

André Aciman: Homo Irrealis
If you ask Italian American writer and Proust scholar André Aciman (Call Me By Your Name), the concept of time is an unwelcome guest when it comes to our memories and imaginations. Hear him draw from the likes of Sigmund Freud, Constantine Cavafy, W. G. Sebald, John Sloan, Éric Rohmer, and Fernando Pessoa in this online talk about his new book of essays, Homo Irrealis.

JANUARY 26

READINGS & TALKS

Alice Wong, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, and Elsa Sjunneson
Alice Wong, the founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project, will join up virtually with Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Elsa Sjunneson, who both contributed to the essay collection Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century

JANUARY 27

MUSIC

Mozart Birthday Toast
Google tells us that Mozart was a big, big fan of champagne, so pop open a bottle of bubbly and raise a glass to the long-dead Austrian composer on his birthday at this virtual Town Hall party. Byron Schenkman and friends will treat you to a medley of popular pieces for violin and piano, including Six Variations on Au bord d’une Fontaine and Quartet in G Minor, K. 478.

READINGS & TALKS

Seattle Arts and Lectures presents Madeline Miller
Madeline Miller's most recent work, Circe, which follows her Orange Prize-winning The Song of Achilles, offers a modern take on the Greek mythological sorceress and minor daughter of the sun god who turns Odysseus's men into pigs in Homer's The Odyssey. She's apparently working on a retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest, which she'll likely talk about in this Seattle Arts & Lectures virtual event.

THROUGH JANUARY 28

FOOD & DRINK

Peat Week 2021
Westland Distillery is celebrating their annual "Week of Reek" (seven whole days devoted to smoky, odoriferous peated whiskeys) online this year. The festivities include special whiskeys and cocktail kits, a symposium with a rare tasting sampler to try at home (now sold out) on January 26, and an online cocktail competition on January 28—attendees can order kits with ingredients to follow along with three different recipes at home, then vote for their favorite.

JANUARY 28

PERFORMANCE

Fannie
Cheryl L. West's staged profile of civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer (the co-founder and vice-chair of the Freedom Democratic Party, which she represented at the 1964 Democratic National Convention) is directed here by Henry Godinez and commissioned by Seattle Rep.

This Is Not The Little Prince
Whim W'Him retells Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince through the lens of Rene Magritte's classic surrealist painting "Ceci n'est pas une pipe," featuring music by Brian Lawlor and miniature art by Talia Silveri Wright, with filming and direction by movement photographer and videographer Quinn Wharton.

JANUARY 28-FEBRUARY 3

FILM

2021 Sundance Film Festival
For the first time since it began in 1978, the Sundance Film Festival will partner with the Northwest Film Forum. The seven days of programming will be available digitally due to COVID scuttling any in-person festival plans. The shift to an online festival will bring 70 plus features, 50 short films, and various Q&As right into audiences' homes. The festival will offer live showings of films that can also be viewed anytime within a three-hour window and for a second time two days after the premiere. Sure to be one of the more talked-about films is Passing. The directorial debut from longtime actor Rebecca Hall, it stars Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga in a thriller about two women living in 1920s New York City where one "passes" as white while the other does not. It is based on the 1929 novel of the same name by the late author Nella Larsen. What may be the film that caught my attention the most is On the Count of Three. It stars Jerrod Carmichael, more known for his incisive stand-up comedy, in what is also his directorial debut. Carmichael is Val, a depressed man who forms a suicide pact with his best friend Kevin, played by actor Christopher Abbott who looks starkly different from his most recent Possessor performance. Always a utopia for great documentaries, one selection to watch for this year is in many ways about just that: making a better world. Rebel Hearts follows a group of nuns who started the Immaculate Heart College to ensure women could access degrees previously out of reach. CHASE HUTCHINSON

JANUARY 29

PERFORMANCE

Andrew Stenson
Tenor Andrew Stenson returns to McCaw Hall's virtual stage for a solo recital following his performance in The Elixir of Love, which was full of "meltingly lyrical moments" according to the Seattle Times. 

JANUARY 29-FEBRUARY 5

MUSIC

Meklit: Live at Studio 124
Meklit Hadero is a very talented and enchanting Bay Area–based Ethiopian-born singer who in 2010 dropped an excellent solo album, On a Day Like This, and in 2012 dropped an equally excellent hiphop album, Colored People’s Time Machine, with the local rapper and activist Gabriel Teodros. Hadero moves between folk, traditional, indie rock, jazz, and hiphop with the ease that a water spider skips across a sunny pond, and she has a voice that is at once powerful and dreamy. Hadero has also worked with local jazzers Evan Flory-Barnes and D’Vonne Lewis, who happen to be half of the band Industrial Revelation. CHARLES MUDEDE

JANUARY 30

FOOD & DRINK

Keep It Surreal Soiree: Live from Our Pillow Fort!
Harness the energy of a child whose only goal is to build the most glorious pillow fort imaginable, then get to assembling with Cafe Nordo's plush kit that, depending on which package you choose, comes with a bunch of adult beverages and "Fort d’Oeuvres," as well as a virtual party where you can show off your whimsical structure. 

JANUARY 30-APRIL 25

VISUAL ART

Anastacia-Reneé: (Don’t be Absurd) Alice in Parts
This multidisciplinary online exhibition sees Alice Metropolis, a character that appears frequently in former Seattle Civic Poet Anastacia-Reneé’s writing and video work, creating a spiritual sanctuary dedicated the Lorde (read: Black feminist icon Audre Lorde) as a means of finding strength in an unjust world. 

JANUARY 31

MUSIC

Jérémy Jolley
Settle in for an evening of classical pieces that explore "the tension between being together and being apart, individualities and community, listening and being heard" with Seattle Modern Orchestra's co-artistic director Jérémy Jolley.