Call on Mayor Durkan to Collaboratively Work with the Arts Commission on Priorities
Council President M. Lorena González (Pos. 9) and Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Pos. 8) concur with the short-term appointment of Royal Alley-Barnes as Interim Director of Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture, with the caveat that the Arts Commission be involved in the selection of the permanent Director. This is a temporary appointment, and Ms. Alley-Barnes will serve in this role pending the appointment of a permanent director by the next Mayoral administration.
Mayor Jenny Durkan transmitted Ms. Alley-Barnes’s nomination to the Council on Thursday September 9, 2021, and then announced her interim appointment, before the Council was able to take formal action to concur or otherwise engage with the Mayor regarding her interim appointment. At the same time, the Co-Chairs of the Arts Commission reached out to members of the City Council asking the Councilmembers to hold on taking any action on this appointment until the concerns of the Commission, and wider arts community, could be addressed as it related to the process by which the Mayor made this interim appointment. In the following days staff from Council offices met with commissioners to hear their concerns, and work to find a solution that was in alignment with the process to find a permanent Director previously committed to by the Mayor’s office.
“It would have been my hope that the Mayor would have fulfilled the commitments made to the commission and broader arts community,” González said. “In taking time to thoughtfully engage with commissioners and the broader arts community, it was my goal to put the City, the Arts community, and Ms. Alley-Barnes on a path towards establishing a shared vision for the future leadership of the Office of Arts and Culture. I believe that Ms. Alley-Barnes’ previous years of service can bring great value to the priorities expressed by the Arts Commission. With an interim director in place, the City will be able to search for a permanent director via a process that includes and honors input from commissioners and community members, whose role it is to advise elected officials in decisions such as these.”
“We are thankful for the attention of the Council in response to the Mayor’s breach of process in appointing an interim director and believe in the checks and balances afforded by the very structure of our City government. Our 15-member commission was appointed by the Mayor’s Office and the Seattle City Council to support the City by advocating for arts policy, creating access for equitable participation in the arts, and fostering enriching arts engagement for all residents,” said Seattle Arts Commission co-chairs Dr. Quinton Morris and Sarah Wilke. “As we are rebuilding our arts and cultural sector during the global health crisis, it’s important to keep the continuity of programming and services provided by the Office of Arts & Culture. It is our hope that these priorities are reflected in the Mayor’s budget, which will be transmitted to Council in the next week, and through the distribution of the American Recovery Plan Act funds. We also hope an inclusive and community-led hiring process for a permanent director can begin immediately”.
“While the Executive has the prerogative to lead a process, it should not be a unilateral decision by the Mayor without strong advice and counsel from our Arts community,” Councilmember Morales said. “The very community who will collaborate with – and be subject to – a new interim director was not consulted. As chair of the committee which oversees the Office of Arts and Culture, I remain concerned that the decision-making process categorically excluded the Arts Commission and the artists involved in some important economic development work for the creative sector over the last few years – this work must continue with the interim director so that momentum is not lost. Nevertheless, the role of Council is to review and approve candidates. Therefore, I will continue to work with the Arts Commission and the Office of Arts and Culture to ensure that community voices, particularly Black and brown voices are centered in the work.”
“Especially in the wake of COVID, which has so decimated our creative industries and entrepreneurs, we have an obligation to invest in the arts and cultural community. In our upcoming 2022 Budget deliberations, Council will be evaluating the Mayor’s proposed investment with regards to arts and culture, and ensuring that this critical component of our local economy is supported and strengthened – no matter who is a the helm. We thank the Co-Chairs and members of the Seattle Arts Commission for collaborating with Council and community in advocating for a fair process going forward, and look forward to our future work together on the upcoming budget,” said Councilmember Mosqueda.
“We have heard from arts leaders, commissioners and community members that they are prepared to move forward, and focus on the work of recovery of this crucial sector of our economy, and our shared culture. I share their urgency and focus on this necessary and critical work,” Council President González emphasized.
As of the time of this release, Council President González and Budget Chair Mosqueda concurred with Mayor Durkan’s decision to appoint Ms. Alley-Barnes as the Interim Director of the Office of Arts and Culture and calls upon Mayor Durkan to collaboratively and urgently work with the Arts Commission and the broader arts community on the priorities outlined above.