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Creative Families - Charles & Elisheba Johnson

In our very first episode of doubleXposure, co-hosts Vivian Phillips and Marcie Sillman open with a discussion on creative families, featuring father/daughter duo Charles and Elisheba Johnson. Charles Johnson is a Macarthur Award-winning writer, educator, and cartoonist, author of "Middle Passage" and the recent short story collection "Nighthawks." Elisheba Johnson is co-founder of the Seattle community/cultural hub Wa Na Wari.

"Art is something that is part of our lives. This is our family legacy. I would always tell Elisheba there is nobody who has lived in this world like her. And there will never ever be anyone like her in this world again." -- Charles Johnson

Charles Johnson with his daughter Elisheba, as drawn by Charles.

Illustration of Charles & Elisheba Johnson by Charles Johnson


Charles Johnson is a novelist, essayist, literary scholar, philosopher, cartoonist, screenwriter, and professor emeritus at the University of Washington in Seattle. A MacArthur fellow, his fiction includes Night Hawks, Dr. King’s Refrigerator, Dreamer, Faith and the Good Thing, and Middle Passage, for which he won the National Book Award. In 2002 he received the Arts and Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Seattle.

For more on Charles visit:


Elisheba Johnson is a curator, public artist, and administrator heavily influenced by the Fluxes movement and accessibility of art experiences and objects. Ms. Johnson worked for the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture on capacity-building initiatives and racial equity in public art. In her six years at the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, she co-led the Public Art Bootcamp with Marcia Iwasaki.

​In 2018, Johnson started a public art practice with her collaborator Kristen Ramirez. They believe in creating opportunities that bring equity, accessibility, relevance, and engagement to a community, and they believe that every project ought to begin with meaningful engagement with the people who occupy the place, whether through questionnaires, story-telling, historical research, or celebration.

Johnson holds a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts and was the owner of Faire Gallery Café, a multi-use art space that held art exhibitions, music shows, poetry readings, and creative gatherings. Elisheba is a member of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Network advisory council and has won four Americans for the Arts Public Art Year in Review Awards for her work. She currently co-manages Wa Na Wari, a Black art center in Seattle’s Central Area that uses the arts to build community and resist displacement.

For more on Wa Na Wari visit:


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