Beats & Eats 2022. Photo by Adam Lu.

Pier 62: The Place to be in 2022

The 2022 season of performance and activities on Pier 62 helped move Waterfront Park beyond the last few years of pandemic uncertainty, says Yoon Kang-O’Higgins, director of public programs for Friends of Waterfront Seattle. “We were seeing people behave differently, more confidently going out and about,” she says. “It was an exciting development as our program partners and community partners help inform us what the use of Waterfront Park, once it’s completed, can really look like.”

In 2022, Friends put on 163 events and activations attended by 81,761 people—a big increase from 33,901 in 2021. These events were held in partnership with a diverse group of 41 organizations and 177 artists and performers, who helped invite people from all cultural backgrounds to enjoy Seattle’s waterfront through inclusive and representational programming.

ADEFUA at a West African dance class and workshop at Pier 62. Photo by Adam Lu.

Afua Kouyate teaching traditional dance during ADEFUA’s Village Workshop. Photo by Adam Lu.

One of those partners was Afua Kouyate of ADEFUA Cultural Education Workshop. ADEFUA brought West African music and dance, via the Rainier Valley, to Pier 62. ADEFUA evoked a West African village on the pier, inviting joyous, diverse, multi-generational participation.

A typical ADEFUA performance began with five or more performers playing traditional music from Guinea, with djembe drums and the balaphon, a wooden xylophone that has been used in West Africa for generations. The music would bring in an audience and then become collaborative as Kouyate and her fellow performers began teaching songs and dance moves to the crowd. A large basket of rhythm instruments, shakers, and bells was on hand so that people who were not quite ready to sing and dance could easily take part. “If it was hot, and people were dancing and they wanted to cool down and relax a bit,” says Kouyate, “they could just grab a shaker and carry on.”

Kouyate has been involved in West African dance and music performance all her life, but when the pandemic lockdowns made travel and public performances nearly impossible, she decided to concentrate on unifying arts projects at home, for her South Seattle neighborhood. A few years on, she’s proud that the state-certified Rainier Valley Creative District she instigated is a reality. Now she has a new goal—raising funds to build a Rainier Valley African Cultural Arts Center.

Our program partners and community partners help inform us what the use of Waterfront Park, once it’s completed, can really look like. Yoon Kang-O'Higgins Director of Public Programs

Dancers with Northwest Tap Connection perform at Family Day at Pier 62 in 2022, with Ms. Melba providing support (behind). Photo by Sunny Martini.

Northwest Tap performs at Family Day 2022. Photo by Sunny Martini.

Another irresistible dance form that charmed waterfront audiences in 2022 was rhythm tap, brought to Pier 62 by Northwest Tap Connection and its artistic director, Melba Ayco. Known as Ms. Melba to students and the community, Ayco is carrying on a decades-long tradition that has trained generations of dancers and teachers at one dynamic Rainier Valley dance studio.

Ayco grew up outside of New Orleans and is a master Gullah Geechee storyteller as well as a teacher, artistic director, and community builder. She attended one of the South’s famously successful Black-run Rosenwald schools and brings a broad historical awareness to her work. “I usually tell people,” says Ayco, “that I grew up in segregation, survived integration, and came to Seattle to discover diversity.”

Northwest Tap Connection’s mission is to center social consciousness and create bridges between brown and Black communities through dance and travel. Its classes and performances draw on traditions across the African diaspora—Afro-Brazilian, stepping, modern, and hip-hop as well as rhythm tap, guiding youth development through the art of dance. Some of the kids who began classes at the studio when they were tiny are now the teenaged tap ambassadors who performed at Family Day on the pier in 2022.

Programs at Pier 62, and the dozens of partners who help bring them to life, help Friends infuse this developing place with a sense of community and belonging. 2022 gave us a glimpse of what’s to come with the completion of Waterfront Park in 2025—a major project that goes beyond infrastructure to create a place that brings people together, a place that belongs to everyone.

2022 Events & Programs in Photos

Salmon Homecoming 2022. Photo by Ravens Tale Studio.

Canoe Landing and Welcome Ceremony at Salmon Homecoming 2022. Photo by Ravens Tale Studio.

Africatown's Soul on the Water. Photo by Outside Thinc.

Seahawks drum line Blue Thunder performs at 2022 Waterfront Block Party. Photo by Jordan Somers.

2022 Indigiqueer Festival. Photo by Robert Wade.

Sound Journey Meditation led by Mary Ann Stancel. 2022.

Mary Ann Stancel leads Sound Journey Meditation on Pier 62. Photo by Outside Thinc.

Porter Ray at Pier Sounds 2022. Photo by of Sunny Martini.

Skate Like a Girl skateboard clinic on Pier 62. Photo by Adam Lu.

2022 Waterfront Block Party. Photo by Erik Holsather.

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