When did the story of Seattle
stop including the story of the arts?
A dear, wise friend and fellow arts administrator posed this question. We were discussing the loss of institutional support for the arts, the diminishing media coverage of the arts, and the failure of most of our political leaders to even acknowledge the arts.
Homelessness, affordable housing, equity, a deteriorating natural environment, and more; there is no question that these are vital, crucial issues for our city. But support of the arts is essential as well. Supporting the arts does not mean we aren’t addressing these other issues. In fact, the solutions work together.
The performing arts — theatre, dance, music, opera, musical theatre, spoken word, and all — provide us a place to come together and discover our shared humanity, where everyone should be respected. Where we can tell our stories. Stories of how we are so similar and how we are so very different. Where we can laugh together. Where we can cry together. Where we can celebrate together. Where we can explore, as artists and audiences, what it means to be human, in all its different, wonderful, amazing forms.
Today, Seattle boasts arts organizations that are known and respected around the world, but we need to act to keep these phenomenal benefits of Seattle vital and growing.
So, this is what I’m asking of you:
First, go to a performance. And another. Take in theatre and dance and music and more. Try something new and different.
Second, be an informed voter. This fall, seven of the nine Seattle city council seats are up for election and there are some key races for the King County Council. Go to live forums or participate in online discussions. Ask the candidates: Where do the arts fit in your priorities? What are you going to do to make this a more vibrant city for the arts? How will you better recognize the arts? What performing arts have you attended in the past month? Make your voice heard.
Third, be an advocate. Share your experiences through social media, email, or simply talking with people over coffee, a drink, or a meal. Post a comment on a review. Tell your family, your friends, your colleagues about your most recent arts adventure and what it meant to you — invite them to join you the next time.
Finally, make art! Whether you take a class, self-study, doodle in the margins, dance in your pajamas, or pin poems to trees — creative habits improve health and well-being, and you deserve to experience that firsthand.
Do these and you’ll make a difference. Thank you!
Art Advocacy Talking Points
In our STEM-centric culture, art is often stigmatized as non-essential. Here are some of the ways (yes, supported by data) that the arts help tackle society’s challenges:
Art Gives Youth Brighter Futures
Regardless of socio-economic class, high involvement in the arts at school increases grades, test scores, college attendance, volunteer participation, voter turnout, and raises career goals — all while lowering school dropout rates.
Art Develops Emotional Intelligence
Exposure to art enhances empathy, tolerance for ambiguity, and socialization skills. Inmate participation in prison art programs improves relationships, emotional control, self-esteem, problem-solving, motivation, and time management — personal development skills that are reflected in reduced recidivism.
Art Helps Healthcare
Art programs integrated with healthcare reduce pain, increase addiction recovery success, help alleviate depression and anxiety, reduce healthcare costs, shorten hospital stays, and increase employee retention.
Art Grows Economies
Nonprofit art events, on average, bring an extra $24 per attendee to local businesses in meals, parking, and childcare. Nationally, arts nonprofits generate $135 billion in economic activity annually and
$22 billion in government revenue.