Over the last 10 days, tensions between Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, the City Council, Seattle Arts Commission (Commission), the Office of Arts and Culture (ARTS), and local Black arts community members have mounted following the mayor’s early September appointment of Royal Alley-Barnes as interim director of ARTS. The mayor made the appointment with a little more than 100 days left in her term and without having consulted with local arts community stakeholders about her decision.
Following the resignation of permanent ARTS Director Randy Engstrom in December 2020, the mayor agreed to a plan in which then Deputy Director of ARTS Calandra Childers would step in as interim director and oversee a committee of staff members and arts community members, called the Seattle Arts Director Advisory Committee, with the objective of centering community voices in the process of selecting a new permanent ARTS director.
“The Office of Arts and Culture [asked] me to co-chair the Seattle Arts Director Search Advisory Committee in early 2021, in hopes of ensuring there would be community input in the process [of finding] the new director of the Office of Arts and Culture,” said Sharon Nyree Williams, a storyteller and executive director of the Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas. “So that process began and … the mayor, at that time, had said that she would not be searching for a new director during her term.”
A round-up of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!
Hospital System ‘Stressed, Stretched, and Strained’ — State Health Officials Implore Residents to Mask, Socially Distance, and Get Vaccinated as Delta ‘Ravages’ State
At a Department of Health press briefing on Wednesday, Aug. 25, State health officials said Washingtonians need to support the “stressed, stretched, and strained” hospital system and pointed to the ongoing need for community members to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus to avoid serious illness related to COVID-19.
The highly infectious delta variant of the virus is responsible for the recent rise in contracted cases, but hospitalizations related to the illness are still overwhelmingly among those who are unvaccinated — with 95% of COVID-19 cases in those hospitalized from Feb. 1 to Aug. 3, 2021, being patients who were not fully vaccinated, according to Secretary of Health Dr. Umair A. Shah.
As a part of their soft reopening, ARTS at King Street Station presents“Close to Home,” an exhibit that explores how we understand the meaning of the word “home.”
Showcasing the work of 14 different BIPOC artists, the exhibit features work with a wide range of mediums, from painting and sculptures to textiles and artifacts.
The exhibit is assembled by Ricky Reyes, the ARTS at King Street Station gallery lead and public art project manager. He turned towards their collection of purchased pieces for inspiration.
“I looked through pieces we had purchased last year as part of the Seattle Together Initiative, which was a multi-departmental initiative really looking at how we support communities [during] COVID,” Reyes said. “We had purchased, last year, a bunch of artwork and I just looked through those [pieces] and tried to find a common theme throughout all of them so that we can exhibit these works and they don’t just stay in our storage when ideally they’d be shown, since they’re all just really beautiful pieces.”
There is a Coast Salish story about a number of neighboring villages, each speaking a different language but sharing the same land. While they did not understand one another, they had a shared challenge: When the Creator had made the world, he had left the sky a little too low. The village communities realized that though they spoke different languages, they had a shared word that could help them change the situation.
yəhaw̓ — a Lushootseed word meaning “to proceed” or “move forward.” Together they called out synchronously. Each time the word escaped their lips, a collective sound powerful and potent, the sky moved up just a little more.
This is the story behind yəhaw̓ Indigenous Creatives Collective, a newly birthed nonprofit which became a larger movement after beginning as a one-time art show at King Street Station in 2019.
“We felt like that was a really beautiful story in terms of art and the power of art and culture to unite communities and become a source of shared empowerment,” said Asia Tail, one of the collective’s three founders.
I began playing violin at age three, and growing up I participated in orchestras from elementary through high school. These orchestras were highly diverse, with students from a variety of racial and economic backgrounds. And yet, the composers we performed — from Bach to Mozart to Beethoven to Debussy — were almost exclusively dead white men.
Interloper (n) — a person who becomes involved in a place or situation where they are not wanted or are considered not to belong.
—Oxford English Dictionary
Interloper is a network of art exhibitions, community engagement events, and a conversation podcast all centered around rotating themes of controversial topics. Interloper’s current show, “THIS IS(NT) FOR YOU,” which premiered on March 29 in the Ravenna neighborhood, is a pairing of two solo exhibitions, each with an artist making work for their own community — communities alienated in different ways by language, location, and class expectations. By constructing the exhibitions using language and coded signifiers of the communities the work is for, each artist creates dual viewing experiences that immediately confront the viewer with a sense of (not) belonging.
The show asks the following questions: Who controls the narrative? Who is art for? Who is left on the outside looking in?
(This article was originally published by Real Change and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
Hunched over the screen of a glowing tablet, Fahmida Azim, a commercial illustrator, draws cartoonish figures of Rohingya women and children, depicting life in a refugee camp. This is one of the many illustration projects Azim has accepted, and, like most of her art, it has a personal connection to her. Never losing sight of who she is and the life she has experienced has helped this talented artist succeed in a highly competitive field.
“I grew up my whole life with people telling me that going into the arts was never going to happen,” said Azim, a resident of Seattle for three years. “There’s no other narrative of success for us.”
Election anxiety marked my beginning of last month. Like many others, I grew fixated on the results trickling in state by state, county by county, block by block across the week. That first November week felt endless, for lack of sleep and newly emerging, quickly chronic, routines. At midnight, and 3 a.m., and 5 a.m., I refreshed electoral maps of Georgia and Pennsylvania. With daylight, I watched television news on mute, while working on my laptop. At all hours, the buzz of “breaking news” kept my body on alert. When Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were finally confirmed on November 7, unfamiliar feelings of relief and elation emerged, nevertheless battling existing currents of anxiety and dread. Last week, I ate Thanksgiving dinner with my partner, thinking about the atrocities hidden by that holiday including stolen Indigenous land.