Arts and Culture

Jenny’s Affordable Seattle Agenda

We are in danger of losing the very thing that makes Seattle so special because it is vibrant, energetic and rich with arts and cultural activities.

From the Jazz Age on Jackson Street to the Space Age of the 1962 World’s Fair to today’s Age of Virtual Reality where artists and scientists collaborate, arts and cultural activities have been a defining feature of Seattle. From small and mid-sized arts organizations to major Seattle institutions reflected the diversity and innovation of our community.

From events like Bon Odori and Juneteenth to citywide celebrations like Folk Life and Bumbershoot, Seattleites come together to celebrate their heritage and their common ground to search for the next big thing. We are a city enthralled by music, film, history, literature, science centers, theater, art, dance, zoos and new genres still in the making. Public art brings meaning and metaphor to our public spaces. It is no surprise that every neighborhood plan includes the arts as integral to the community. All contribute to the cultural wealth and economic vitality of the City.

Seattleites have always prided themselves on their grit, their scrappiness and inventiveness. Likewise, Seattle’s has a well-earned reputation as a creative hub where experimentation is embraced. Art and culture empowers people to engage in their communities in meaningful ways. It builds bridges between people and among communities. It contributes to the liveliness and spirit of our City.

Today, we are at a crossroads. As Seattle becomes more and more expensive, it becomes harder and harder for arts and cultural practitioners and organizations to exist here. Affordable space for production, rehearsal and presentation has largely disappeared. The lack of affordable housing for artists and arts workers and space for non-profits threatens their ability to continue to call Seattle home. We are in danger of losing the very thing that makes Seattle so special because it is vibrant, energetic and rich with arts and cultural activities.

The City has an important role to play in preserving, protecting and advancing our artistic and cultural life. Artists are vital to our culture and there have to be places for them to work and ready opportunities for others to view that work. Artists’ spaces need to be purposefully integrated into the central city, because artists will seldom be able to afford space where the highest concentration of people live and work. Yet, this is precisely where artists are most needed.

As Mayor, I will continue to advance the agenda of preserving, protecting, and growing this exceptional resource, our distinctive and idiosyncratic character, and the sense of community that arts and culture nurture in all of us.

• Arts and Cultural Organizational support

As Mayor, I commit to maintaining and increasing support of the arts through the Office of Arts and Culture. I will work with the cultural community to evaluate Access for All to determine whether we should pursue a Seattle-only option and to investigate possible alternative funding mechanisms that could mitigate financial impacts on those least able to pay. The purpose of Access for All, with its emphasis on arts education, is meant to ensure that regardless of financial means, every school child is able to access the arts. The cultural access fund would pay for student transportation and admission costs, provide free or reduced ticket programs and bolster the programming arts, science and heritage organizations provide. Access for All passed overwhelmingly in Seattle. We will continue to pursue making the arts available to the widest possible audience.

• Creative Space

As Mayor, I commit to working with the Office of Arts and Culture to advance the agenda of finding or creating affordable space to make, produce, present and exhibit cultural work and arts. Affordable artists’ spaces must be integrated into the central city where the highest concentration of people live and work. We need to examine our zoning codes, our public benefit policies, city-owned surplus property to see where and how we can increase opportunities for affordable arts and cultural spaces, while investing to maintain our existing arts facilities and institutions. We will explore writing into the land use code ways to encourage arts-related spaces in developments in addition to looking at expanding on the“1% for arts” idea. We will work with the private property and development communities to identify innovative ways to use vacant property.

• Artist Entrepreneurship

As Mayor, I will work with the City Commissions, the City Office of Economic Development and the nonprofit and private sectors to encourage incubator programs to advance the work of these creative artists, a vital part of our small business economy.

Today, many artists cross over between the nonprofit and commercial sectors. It is not unusual for a filmmaker to be working on an independent art film one day and a television commercial another. Likewise, musicians cross between playing a gig for a product launch and performing at a community festival. Young designers in fashion, product-design, furniture design, and the like need venues to hone their craft and build their businesses.

• Artist housing

Affordable housing for artists of all disciplines, including retired and aging artists and arts workers, is one piece of our housing affordability puzzle. In the recent past, Arts Space developed three model artist live/work projects for artists who qualify for subsidized housing. I commit to including artists and arts workers as part of our equation as we pursue our housing affordability agenda.

• City Infrastructure and the Environment

As Mayor, I will ensure that we continue with the next generation of art integration into the public realm leverages our Capital Improvements Program design teams to support the mission of the project with innovative thinking, cost-effective problem solving, and imaginative artworks. As our neighborhoods become denser and our needs for public open space we need to expand our thinking about the role that artists can play in the built environment.

• Artists on City Boards and Commissions

The City can benefit from the thinking of creative minds which can bring solutions that are “outside the box” to community problem solving. As Mayor, I will tap this rich resource. I will seek cultural leaders from a broad range of disciplines to serve on such boards and commissions as the Park Board, the Planning Commission, the Seattle Housing Authority, Community Police Commission, Move Seattle Oversight Committee, Seattle Center Advisory Commission, International Affairs Advisory Board, Seattle Public Library Board of Trustees and more.

 — Jenny Durkan