The Mayor recently appointed Randy Engstrom to lead the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs (OACA) as its interim director. The Office’s previous director, Vincent Kitch, resigned recently after 18 months on the job. Kitch was selected as a result of a national search. The Mayor decided this time to hire locally. Some may question hiring a department head without government management experience. But, I trust Mr. Engstrom’s capabilities to run the department utilizing skills he developed as an arts management consultant and as co-founder and Executive Director of Seattle’s Youngstown Cultural Arts Center.
I got to know Randy when I appointed him to the Council’s Cultural Overlay District Advisory Committee (CODAC), which was charged with providing the Mayor and the Council recommendations on how to best address Seattle’s decline in affordable space for working artists, arts organizations and cultural activities. He and his co-chair Fidelma McGinn delivered the Committee’s recommendations in 2009.
One of CODAC’s recommendations was for more City support in developing arts facilities and cultural spaces throughout Seattle. Under the previous OACA director, a new capital funding program was established this year in response to Council direction. For 2011 and 2012, I sponsored budget legislation providing construction and capital acquisition funds for arts & cultural facilities. King County awards approximately $2M annually to fund arts and cultural capital projects. This year, the City of Seattle has a total of $150,000 to award. In a recent meeting with Randy, I was pleased to hear he supports the continuation of this modest yet critical new program.
Our arts office works closely with its advisory body, the Seattle Arts Commission (SAC). SAC provides its budget priorities to the Council both before and after the Mayor has crafted his annual budget. Understanding the Commission’s budget priorities helps the Council and Mayor better reflect the greater arts community as we build the City budget. The Commission’s stated priorities for the 2013-14 budget include the transfer of Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center from the Parks Department to OACA as well as support for OACA’s new cultural facilities capital funding program.
Speaking of SAC, it recently welcomed two new Commissioners. Terri Hiroshima has worked in Seattle’s non-profit sector for more than 18 years. She is currently Director of Marketing & External Relations at Crosscut Public Media, a civics-based online news outlet that focuses on in-depth coverage of Northwest issues. Her background in the arts includes marketing and communications roles at Seattle Theatre Group, Empty Space Theatre and One Reel.
Philmon Haile is the Commission’s “Get Engaged” member. Get Engaged is a partnership between the City of Seattle and the YMCA to place emerging leaders on public boards and commissions. Mr. Haile is a junior in college and was born in Sudan. His parents were both soldiers in the Eritrean War of Independence and sought refuge in the United States, where they moved when Haile was three. He started his undergraduate studies at Swarthmore College and recently transferred to the University of Washington where he is studying International Studies and Anthropology with a concentration in China studies. Haile is interested in exploring the intersection between art and social justice and the role of art in social movements.
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