Mayor Nickels announces $1 million for arts and culture

This week (Sept. 17), Mayor Greg Nickels proposed his 2008 budget which increases investments in arts and culture by $1 million.

The proposed increases include investments in arts education, history and cultural heritage, cultural facilities, additional funding for arts and cultural organizations and community projects, and a new arts project manager to advise on transportation projects.

Here's a breakdown of the mayor's increased support to the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs.

Arts and cultural organizations
The mayor's budget adds $300,000, a 23-percent increase, to the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs' Civic Partners program. This program, the most far-reaching in the office, awarded $1.3 million to 119 arts and cultural organizations of all sizes in 2007.

"We appreciate Mayor Nickels' support. The nonprofit cultural sector makes enormous contributions to Seattle's creative and economic vitality," said Seattle Arts Commission Chair Dorothy Mann. "The mayor's off-year increase sends the message that the public sector, private sector and individuals all have an important role to play in keeping arts and culture strong in Seattle."

smART ventures
The mayor's budget also includes $36,000 to double funding for smART ventures, an innovative pilot program prioritizing diverse and underserved artists and communities. The program offers awards of $500 to $1,000 to fund one-time cultural offerings, nurture new ideas and widen cultural participation.

Arts Education
A $100,000 investment will seed a partnership with Seattle Public Schools helping to provide access to quality arts education for all students. The school district will match city funds to build an arts education leadership team under the direction of a newly hired district arts manager. The team will work to increase equity of arts opportunities across all schools and integrate arts into district strategies for increasing academic achievement.

"The mayor's investment in arts education validates the arts commission's work and partnership with the district over the past several years to ensure that a quality arts education is available to every student in Seattle Public Schools, especially in underserved communities," said Deborah Semer, chair of Seattle Arts Commission's Education Committee. "The arts are about educating the entire person. Creativity is an essential 21st century life skill, which can be nurtured through the discipline of arts training."

History and Cultural Heritage
In 1909, Seattle opened its doors to the world with the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (AYPE), a seminal event in the young city's history. To mark the centennial of this important milestone, $200,000 will launch a major new heritage initiative by investing in the planning of exhibitions, publications and events by more than 30 regional community partners, including Canada and Alaska. The centennial theme is "Celebrating the Past - Creating the Future." The AYPE, the first World's Fair to feature the Pacific Rim, attracted millions to what has since become the University of Washington campus.

Cultural Facilities
The mayor's budget provides funding for cultural facilities, including $150,000 to complete the purchase of Town Hall, and $150,000 to support major facility upgrades and complete the purchase of ArtsWest theater.

Integrating public art in transportation projects
The mayor's budget authorizes a new full-time arts project manager in the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) tasked with realizing recommendations outlined in the SDOT Art Plan adopted in 2005. The arts manager will identify opportunities to enhance transportation projects by integrating art and the work of artists into the routine work of the department. The position, estimated at $85,000 with benefits, will be funded with half SDOT 1% for Art funds and half Bridging the Gap transportation levy dollars.

The mayor's increased support of the arts responds to the findings of an economic study released in June, which showed local nonprofit arts organizations generate $330 million in direct spending every year in Seattle. While Seattle stacked up well compared to other U.S. cities, the study revealed there is room to grow public and private investment in arts and culture. The report, Arts & Economic Prosperity III, was part of a national survey conducted by Americans for the Arts. Read the study on our Web site.

In other arts-related budget news, the mayor's proposed budget includes $2.7 million to remodel the west wing of Building 30 at Warren G. Magnuson Park to create a multi-arts facility. This continues the city's commitment to restore facilities at the former Sand Point Naval Air Station for use by artists and other community groups. Renovations would include upgrades to three floors (approx 28,000 square feet), including studios, exhibition and office space for arts organizations.

The mayor's budget is a balanced budget. It is before the City Council for review. The Council is expected to approve the city's budget by Thanksgiving.

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