Frederick Holmes welcomes the 2023 season featuring Jacqueline Tabor. Photo by Gene Trent
BY NATHAN BLUFORD
Just off of Jackson Street, Seattle’s historic jazz corridor, visitors to Pioneer Square will find the Frederick Holmes Gallery. Named for its owner and operator, this welcoming gallery is unique in its presentation of 20th century modern art from outside the Pacific Northwest alongside emerging regional talent. Holmes’ ongoing performance series “Hot Jazz at the Gallery” stages Seattle area jazz musicians against a backdrop of dazzling visual art from around the world.
Born in central California, Frederick Holmes has been in the art business since 1981. His career has taken him all over the United States. While Holmes proudly presents works by well-known masters like Picasso, Chagall, and Miró, he is most passionate about building audiences for lesser-known 20th century artists and exciting new talent.
When Holmes opened his Seattle gallery in 2013, he quickly noted that it had potential as a performing arts space. In 2019, Holmes invited drummer D’Vonne Lewis to perform amidst the Gallery’s colorful, abstract exhibits. Follow-up performances by other musicians were at first scheduled for every other month, but enthusiastic attendance led Holmes to increase their frequency.
After an interruption by the COVID-19 pandemic, “Hot Jazz at the Gallery” resumed in 2021. Performances now occur twice a month, with all proceeds from ticket sales going directly to the performers. The exciting fall schedule features vocalist Kim Maguire, saxophonist Elena Maque, and flugelhornist Dmitri Matheny.
Holmes carefully avoids positing himself as a jazz expert, but he displays an instinctive connection with the music. “There’s something about [live jazz] that creates a really visceral effect, and I feel it in my bones when it’s really good,” he says from a comfortable seat in the gallery.
Holmes also sees a direct kinship between jazz and the art he exhibits. “Visual art should either evoke or provoke – jazz should do the same thing,” he proclaims. “I often analogize abstract painting to jazz not only because they came of age at about the same time, but because they rely more on intuition and improvisation than they do on a formula.”
One of the Frederick Holmes Gallery’s star painters was a jazz fan himself. The Gallery is the exclusive representative of the art-historic estate of Walter Quirt (1902-1968), an American modernist painter who became enthralled and inspired by jazz while living in New York City. Like far too many jazz greats, Quirt is not well known outside of aficionado circles.
“Hot Jazz at the Gallery” is not exclusively targeted at connoisseurs, however. Holmes is determined to present art and music in a way that feels approachable to any audience. He is also eager to dispel spiraling misconceptions about Pioneer Square. Holmes delights in the consistently positive feedback he receives from guests who weren’t sure what to expect in a neighborhood that has been sensationalized by negative media coverage.
“At the beginning of every show, I make a point of encouraging people to tell their friends and neighbors: Pioneer Square is a really cool place to be, come down!” Jazz fans, new and old, are sure to enjoy performances at the Frederick Holmes Gallery, where the creative spirit burns bright year-round.