The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture is the City of Seattle’s executive office managing the city’s public art program, arts education program, art and cultural grant programs, racial equity programs, and the Langston Hughes Preforming Arts Institute. This office has seen tremendous growth and great success in its mission to sustain Seattle through arts and culture.
The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture began in 1971 through a City ordinance and evolved to become an executive City department working with the Mayor. It has been operating a public art program and grant programs since its creation. The office has now grown to a large department handling many aspects of arts and culture development across the city of Seattle.
Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, Seattle Arts Commission, Seattle Mayor’s Office, Various partnerships with other City, County, and State departments.
The primary funding for the office, about two thirds, comes from 80 percent of the revenue for the Seattle Admissions Tax. Totaling at about $6 million, this money is sourced from the 5 percent tax applied to for profit ticketed entertainment events. This money supports the overhead operating costs of the office, the grant programs, and the art education programs. The remaining third of the budget is sourced from and reserved for the City’s percent for art program. The office of Arts & Culture manages the fund with the incoming money from capital projects to implement the public art program.
Created through a city ordinance, the Office of Arts and Culture operates as part of the City of Seattle government. They support the art and cultural community of Seattle through various programs. The office supports 8 granting programs which offer resources to local artists and art organizations across various art practices. Each program utilizes peer review and a social justice lens for their selection process. Along with grants, the office manages the public art program, funded by the municipal percent for art program. The office usually has around 70 public art projects in the pipeline at any given time, while having completed more than 450 in the community.
Programs focused on the public realm include their specialized team who are focused on cultural space. This program is intended to preserve and create cultural space in the city of Seattle. This is done through working with developers to create cultural spaces in their projects, as well as working with artists and organizations to collaboratively think about the evolution of creative spaces. This program also offers a space finder tool that helps artists find workspaces online. The Office of Arts and Culture also manages a preforming arts facility, The Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, which offers a physical creative space for the community as well.
Social and Human aspects of art and society are also large parts of the work completed by the Office of Arts and Culture. They offer programs in professional development through creative thinking, youth programs in partnership with the school department, as well as social justice and racial equity focused programs.
The Seattle Office of Arts and Culture has had major growth over the last 40 years of its operation, growing its services and programs the Seattle community. They fostered new partnerships with other government offices to continue growth of equity in the city and promotion of arts and culture initiatives. Over the past several years the following areas have seen the most growth.
- Acquiring of a historical preforming arts center, and developing an operating model and program for it. The Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, is mow a community art center that can be rented for community events and programs, as well as partnering with LANGSTON, Cultural District Forum for Arts & Ideas, and Historic Central Area Arts & Culture District.
- Creation and expansion of arts education work and programs. Establishing of a shared staff position with the Office of Arts and Culture and the School District to operate Creative Advantage, a formal partnership that aims to restore arts education for K-12 students for all of Seattle by 2020.
- Improvement of Cultural Space by expanding on the previous grant funding by creating a position to manage a cultural space program. This position helped create a cultural district platform and an artist space finder platform, in addition to grant funding to preserve the affordability of artist and cultural space.
- Advancement of work on the City’s racial justice initiative by rooting all department project values in racial equity and social justice. The department also offers programs to those who have been systemically disadvantaged through funding and other means by offering funding and professional development and trainings.