Genius Photos by Alice Wheeler

What is Genius? photo by Victoria Renard

Genius Logo by Andrio Abero/33 rpm

The four artists and two arts organizations that comprise the first generation of Stranger Genius Award winners were all notified via chocolate cake, each cake bearing the message "You're a Friggin' Genius!" We thought it only right that they be the first to know.

While none of the cakes arrived, as Emily Hall mentioned in her column last week, with any sort of explanation, we figured all of our geniuses would figure out what they meant. Our upcoming Genius Awards had been the talk of the arts scene for weeks, after all, and these people are all geniuses, right? But it took some of our geniuses a few days to figure out what the cakes meant--but, hey, they're genius artists, right? Not genius detectives.

Now it's time for the rest of Seattle to meet the Stranger Genius Award recipients. In this issue you'll meet the visual artist, the writer, the theatrical composer, and the filmmaker who will each receive $5,000--and not one cent of the money comes with a single string attached. We've also given two awards of $2,500 each to two arts organizations. The money is meant to encourage, to promote, and to thank these individuals and organizations for making Seattle arts that much better. These individual artists are free to use the money however they like--to pay the bills, to put up a play, to take a mind-expanding trip to Brazil, to stop taking temp jobs for a few months and finish that book. The organizations will use the money to continue their good works.

As we said when we announced the awards, we're doing this because there's no use sitting around and waiting for government spending on artists to increase. And because the arts here have been in a state of adolescence for too long, simmering without coming to a boil, and it's certainly not for lack of interesting people creating interesting work. What keeps an art scene, in whatever genre, from reaching a state of real generative self-sufficiency is a lack of money. And finally, the Stranger Genius Awards are another way for us to bring attention to, and recognize the contributions of, the outstanding artists in Seattle.

In addition to the artists and organizations we've chosen, we've also profiled other artists and organizations whose names came up in our conversations, e-mails from readers, and informal polls of local arts movers and shakers. These are the ones to watch.

To celebrate the geniuses, you're invited to come down to Consolidated Works this Friday night, October 10. The event is free, doors open at 9:00 p.m., and the Helio Sequence, Lifesavas, and DJs Are Not Rockstars (Princess Superstar and Alexander Technique 2x4 DJ set)--all geniuses in their own right--will perform. There will be an installation featuring art and ephemera highlighting the careers of all six Genius recipients, a cash bar, and a party that should last all night long.

Finally, this is the First Annual Stranger Genius Awards, which means we'll be doing this again next year. This year's recipients will be invited to help us select next year's winners--but you can help us pick next year's geniuses too. When you see locally written and produced plays, attend dance concerts, buy and read works by local writers, purchase or commission works by local visual artists, and see or invest in films by local filmmakers, you're helping to support new, established, and budding local geniuses. And next year, like this year, we'll be asking our readers for input. The more you've seen by then, the more you'll be able to bring to our attention.

And somehow we suspect that next year's Stranger Genius Award recipients will know what it means when the chocolate cakes start arriving on their doorsteps. --Dan Savage

The First Annual Stranger Genius Awards