This has been a remarkable "A" list year for the Office and Seattle Arts Commission. Here are some of the 2009 highlights:
. We had the honor of helping coordinate a far-reaching, community-wide celebration of the centennial of Seattle's first World's Fair—the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific (A-Y-P) Exposition
of 1909. Michael Herschensohn joined our staff to help lead the effort, which engaged 90 community organizations and individuals and leveraged more than $2.2 million in community investment. The centennial produced dozens of exhibitions, publications, Web articles, a TV documentary and events—ranging from the re-construction of an A-Y-P Viking ship to the re-enactment of the Igorot Village—a controversial A-Y-P exhibit that put a group of mountain people from the Philippines on display.
Americans for the Arts
. Seattle had the distinct honor of hosting Americans for the Arts'
annual convention. It was the first time in the organization's 49-year history that it held its national convention in Seattle. Despite the downturn in the economy, attendance surpassed projections. More than 1,200 arts leaders from across the nation came together under the theme of Arts in Sustainable Communities
, an appropriate banner for our region and our time.
Affordable Arts Space
. The Cultural Overlay District Advisory Committee
(CODAC), convened by members of the City Council, was charged with conceiving creative ideas to preserve and foster arts and cultural spaces in Seattle's neighborhoods. The citizen committee presented its findings to the City Council, which adopted a resolution in August to accept the committee's recommendations. We will continue the important work of securing affordable, dedicated arts space in 2010 and beyond.
. Our partnership
with Seattle Public Schools hit several milestones this year. We supported the completion of the first district-wide survey of arts education. The Wallace Foundation
took note of our work with the school district to ensure all students have access to a quality education that includes the arts. Stay tuned. In 2010, with the support of the Wallace Foundation, we hope to more broadly engage the community in this important effort.
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
. The Office was one of 16 local arts agencies nationwide to receive $250,000 in economic stimulus funds from the National Endowment for the Arts
(NEA) to help preserve jobs. The NEA had $50 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
to distribute nationwide. We re-granted the funds to 22 Seattle cultural organizations
. Last week, the City Council approved the city's 2010 budget. The package preserves funding for our core programs and underscores the importance of arts and culture in a healthy city. The council unanimously voted to accept a key piece of legislation
to increase the annual percentage of city-admission-tax
revenue dedicated for arts and culture from 20 percent to 75 percent. This shift in revenue is budget neutral, as our department will take an equivalent reduction in general-fund dollars.
The boost in admission-tax revenue not only provides a dedicated funding stream for the Office, it helps to buffer us from the year-to-year variability of the general fund, allowing us to maintain our current level of community investment in 2010.
Art in the public realm
. Water and a historic neighborhood bridge were the themes for several innovative temporary public art projects commissioned by the Office. Under the heading Water Calling
, artists and filmmakers created a series of temporary works and short films about water. And Fremont Bridge artist-in-residence Kristen Ramirez
completed her residency in one of the bridge towers and created Bridge Talks Back
, a temporary sound installation.
. Finally, we are very grateful for the strong support and trust of Mayor Greg Nickels and the entire City Council. Special thanks to outgoing City Council members Jan Drago and Richard McIver for their support of our work. And a shout-out goes to our Seattle Arts Commissioners who add important value to our policy work in arts education, cultural space and public art.
Best wishes for a peaceful holiday season, and all the best for a healthy and prosperous New Year.