In 2011, the city of Seattle marks 40 years of advancing the arts. The 40th anniversary of the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs is a celebration of the extraordinary creative community that has shaped our city for many years. The city agency was founded in 1971 during hard economic times because people believed that support for the arts would enrich urban life and help propel Seattle from the cultural outpost it once was to the leading-edge city it is today.

Read an essay about Seattle Arts Commission/Office of Arts & Culture at

Here's a chronology of highlights:

1970 - Mayor Wes Uhlman supports a line item in his proposed budget establishing the Seattle Arts Commission, now known as the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, with one paid, full-time position.

June 1971 - The Seattle City Council approves the formation of a commission to "initiate, sponsor or conduct... public programs to further development and public awareness of, and interest in, the fine and performing arts" and provides the commission a budget of $22,500 and office space at Seattle Center.

Sept. 1971 - The city produces the inaugural Mayor's Arts Festival, the precursor to Bumbershoot.

1973 - Allied Arts, headed by future Mayor Paul Schell, proposes an ordinance prescribing that one percent of every municipal capital improvement project's budget be dedicated to the purchase of public art for the city. The funds are held in a new Municipal Arts Fund administered by the Seattle Arts Commission.

1974 - The city allocates $507,000 for Seattle Arts Commission programs and administration, and the National Endowment for the Arts provides additional funding for several commission-supported projects, including the Independent Creative Artists Project, designed to offer individual artists information about work opportunities and workshop space. The commission also launches "Artists in the Classrooms" and "Poets in the Schools."

1976 - Mayor Wes Uhlman separates the Seattle Arts Commission from Seattle Center, elevating the commission to equal standing with other city departments and giving it even greater autonomy.

1977 - Michael Heizer's Adjacent, Against, Upon is completed at Myrtle Edwards Park. The commission accepts Richard Beyers' Waiting for the Interurban as a gift from the Fremont Public Association.

1979 - The first major integrated public art project is completed at City Light's Viewland/Hoffman Electrical Substation, launching the commission's reputation for innovation in public art.

1980s - Much of the Seattle Arts Commission's attention focused on the need to stabilize funding for "resident performing institutions" such as the symphony and opera, which were then facing large operating deficits. The commission worked with partners to craft new strategies to coordinate public and private support for the arts.

1982 - Jack Mackie's Dancers' Series is completed, inlaying various dance patterns in the sidewalk.

1984 - The Seattle Arts Commission's general-fund budget reaches $1 million. A decade earlier, the commission's general-fund budget was $350,000, which then constituted one-tenth of what the city's major arts organizations raised and spent annually. In 2011, $3.4 million supports the Office's funding programs and general operations (excluding public art).

June 1991 - The Seattle Arts Commission and Seattle Art Museum (SAM) launch an ambitious public art program called In Public: Seattle 1991 to "celebrate the opening of the long-awaited downtown Seattle Art Museum." Highly provocative, In Public projects—including Jonathan Borofsky's Hammering Man sculpture—stir citywide debate about art and its place in our daily lives.

1993 - A band of guerilla artists attach a huge metal ball and chain to Hammering Man's ankle on Labor Day. The stunt makes national headlines.

1996 - Commission receives the Governor's Arts Award.

2001 - Twenty percent of eligible admission tax revenues are directed to the Seattle Arts Commission.

Sept. 2002 - Mayor Greg Nickels proposes the Seattle Arts Commission be revamped as the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, while the 16-member volunteer advisory group retains its name as the Seattle Arts Commission.

Jan. 1, 2003 - The Seattle Arts Commission debuts as the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs.

2003 - Mayor's Arts Awards is inaugurated. The Office and commission host the first Arts Education Forum.

2004 - Seattle Presents, the free lunchtime concert series at City Hall, begins.

May 2004 - King County Superior Court Judge Sharon Armstrong rules "Seattle City Light... can not participate in the 1% for Art program."

Dec. 2005 - The Washington State Court of Appeals reinstates the percent-for-art ordinance as applied to City Light, and by extension, Seattle Public Utilities.

2005 - The state court of appeals reaffirms City Light's participation in 1% for Art, reversing portions of a lower court ruling.

2006 - Seattle OnHold debuts, playing a rotation of music by Seattle artists when callers to the city are placed on hold.

2008 - The Office and Seattle Public Schools launch the Arts Education Partnership, a five-year initiative to ensure a quality arts education for all students.

2009 - The Office led a citywide effort to commemorate the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific (A-Y-P) Exposition—Seattle's first world's fair. The nearly year-long celebration brought together more than 90 partner organizations and featured exhibitions, events and publications.

June 2009 - 1,200 arts leaders from across the nation attend the 49th annual Americans for the Arts convention in Seattle. The Office serves as local host.

Jan. 2010 - The Mayor and City Council authorize 75 percent of city admission tax revenues to support arts and culture. The dedicated funding source emphasizes the importance of the arts to Seattle's economy and quality of life.

May 2011 - The Office marks its 40th anniversary with Seattle as Collector: Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs Turns 40, a retrospective exhibition featuring works by 112 Northwest artists spanning five decades of the city's portable works collection, which includes 2,800 artworks.