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By Sam Fletcher  Western students and Bellingham residents came together at a new venue on Saturday, April 14, to listen to live hip-hop and funk performances, watch artists paint, take part in open mics and dance circles. Revival Events, hosted by Bellingham artists Skai Johnson, Gabriel Swanson and others, is a new event collaborative putting on shows of different themes. Saturday’s theme, Underground at the Underdark, took place at a new venue in the York Neighborhood. It enabled diverse artists from across the Pacific Northwest to come together and showcase their talent. Johnson, with a Bachelor’s degree in dance performance from California State University Northridge, initially wanted to create a dance studio, he said. After coming across difficulties in trying to join and evolve what community members were already doing, he went back to the drawing board. “This is the solution,” Johnson said. “Bring them all to me.” Johnson said he has worked in dance studios his whole life and has even auditioned for So You Think You Can Dance. When he isn’t dancing, he writes and performs spoken-word. The goal of Revival Events is to fuse these passions in a way that is open for all to come and showcase their work. Attendees of Revival Events walk into couches, merchandise booths and live magicians. Step into the main room and many painters work on canvases while audience members paint on a collaborative sheet on the back wall.

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Skai Johnson, host of Underground at the Underdark on Sunday. // Photo by Sam F
On the stage, meanwhile, are live performances of grungy underground hip-hop. Western students join the most of people dancing, freestyling and appreciating diverse art on various platforms. Johnson has gone from venue to venue trying to find a perfect place, he said. And he doesn’t intend on slowing down. “Tonight is the marker for a festival,” Johnson said. “I want to talk to the city. I want to make this big.” Western alumnus Samuel Johnson (Sammy J), provided the venue. He spent the night painting in front of an audience. Samuel was interested in providing the venue because it represents a new type of event in the Bellingham community, he said. It’s a no-pressure zone working against alcohol and drug culture. “It’s people looking to have a good time without getting smashed,” Samuel said. “The focus is on the art and the community and interacting with one another.” Western junior Kian Hausken heard about the event through Facebook. He liked it much better than a typical house show. “I think the goal is to expose art as opposed to going to an event to turn up,” Hausken said. “It feels really raw and real.” Samuel has been painting since the second grade. He said he likes to paint portraits for important people in his life and has been successful selling his work at Olympia’s Art Walk. Samuel’s art goes beyond a hobby or entertainment, however. In our current political climate, he thinks art is the best way to combat the divisiveness, he said. “In times like these it’s important to be able to tap into artistic and creative sides,” Samuel said. “It expresses ideas and emotions that are too complicated for conversation. Art is a way of having these difficult dialogues in ways that are less scary.” Johnson believes what they are doing goes so much further than just another performance venue. “The most important thing is that we are creating a collective,” he said. “If you come and support, you are supporting a movement.”   This story has been updated. "Underground at the Underdark" is the theme of the event not the venue. 


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