Mayor's Arts Awards

Our city is in a very different place than it was when the call for nominations for the 2020 Mayor's Arts Awards was announced. Between the pandemic and the heightened tension of racial injustices that have plagued our nation, our spirit for the traditional celebration has been defused. In response to these unorthodox events, we believe it is best to pivot this year's 2020 Mayor's Arts Awards.

The Seattle Arts Commission and the Office of Arts & Culture have had many conversations regarding this matter and concluded that the resources allotted for the Mayor's Arts Awards be reallocated towards lifting up our Black arts community.

Although we are transitioning from the traditional Mayor's Arts Awards, we acknowledge the many individual artists and organizations who were nominated. We plan to honor all of the nominees in September and we appreciate the community for bringing forth so many wonderful people who continue to make valuable contributions to our vibrant arts scene.

2019 awards by KT Hancock.

Mayor's Arts Awards Shift to Support Black Arts Legacies

In 2020, the Seattle Arts Commission and the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture reallocated the Mayors Arts Awards resources to focus on supporting our Black arts community. What resulted was the creation of Black Arts Legacies, a digital archive highlighting local Black artists, curated and maintained by Crosscut. Black Arts Legacies aims to highlight the longstanding, vital, and ongoing role of Black artists and Black arts organizations in the cultural landscape of the Seattle region.

Black Arts Legacies Logo

Black Arts Legacies was the brainchild of Vivian Phillips, founder of Arte Noir and a longstanding advocate for Black artists, and Dr. Quinton Morris, director of chamber and instrumental music at Seattle University.

In 2022, Black Arts Legacies launched with a celebration at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute. For its debut, Black Arts Legacies featured 26 creatives spanning decades and artistic disciplines through written profiles, photos, videos, a podcast, and a newsletter.

Past Recipients

Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA)

Two performers in the gallery at CoCA

Fear of the Other
by Laura Rodriguez, 2017, Photo by Warren Woo

Seattle's Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA) serves the Pacific Northwest as a catalyst and forum for the advancement, development, and understanding of Contemporary Art. CoCA has been a vital part of contemporary art in the Northwest for nearly 40 years, and has operated galleries and produced events throughout the Seattle area since 1981 when over 100 artists, local business owners, and arts supporters formed the organization. CoCA has continued to question the status quo of the existing art scene by challenging the social and political meaning of art and artists in contemporary society. The organization, staff, board and members have encouraged experimentation from artists through gallery exhibits, music and dance performances, residencies and discussion forums. CoCA has a long history of providing an inclusive space for emerging and established artists to make and show their creative efforts. CoCA continues to champion diversity of community, culture, race, ethnicity, and gender for their Board, Volunteers, Staff, and Artists, and address the disparities that often challenge arts organizations and society. Executive & Artistic Director, Nichole DeMent; Gallery Manager, Katelyn Johnson, MA; Board President, Eddie Reed, EdD; and Board Chair, Judith Rayl, MD, PhD, currently manage CoCA.

Dani Tirrell

Dani Tirrell reaches a hand forward towards the camera

Dani Tirrell in FagGod, 2019 at CD Forum

Dani Tirrell (Seattle, WA) is A Black, Queer choreographer, dancer and movement guide. Dani has guided people in Detroit and Seattle as well as sharing movement practices in other cities in the United States. Currently Dani is the curator for the 2019/2020 season of Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas, this is Dani's second season as curator. Dani is the host and co-creator of Sunday Dinners, and served as the student advisor for the Arts Diversity Council at University of Washington (Seattle campus). Dani is the founder and current artistic director of The Congregation a movement/art collective that is led by mostly Black and Queer bodies. Dani is currently teaching at Northwest Tap Connection and University of Washington Seattle campus and Bothell campus (fall 2019). Dani has created work for Dance This (Northwest Tap Connection), Strictly Seattle (advance/professional track), Seattle Repertory Theater, Nina Simone Four Women (Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton). Dani also was at the helm of four sold out shows, for Dani's production of Black Bois (On the Boards). In 2019 Dani was the recipient of an Artist Trust Fellowship Award and a Dance Crush Award for Black Bois (performance). Dani also received a 2018 Arts Matter Fellowship grant. Dani current work FagGod in collaboration with Anastasia Renee and Naa Akua was presented in Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas 2019/2020 season.

Delbert Richardson

Delbert Richardson

Delbert Richardson

Delbert Richardson is an ethnomuseumologist, Second generation storyteller, and the founder of the American History Traveling Museum: The "Unspoken" Truths. This National Award Winning mobile museum is geared primarily towards the self-empowerment of Black and Brown COC (Children of Color). With the use of authentic artifacts, storyboards, and the ancient art of "Storytelling", Mr. Richardson's goal is to inspire youth in the areas of identity development and self-actualization. His multi-sensory "hands-on" exhibit creates a unique opportunity for attendees of all ages to appreciate the courage, perseverance, resilience, and determination, of Black/African American people and the many contributions that have made to the world. The "Unspoken" Truths American History Traveling Museum chronicles the rich history of Africans in Africa prior to American Chattel Slavery, the experiences and impact of American Chattel Slavery, Jim Crow Era, and the many contributions African Americans have had in scientific, cultural, and technological (inventions) innovations in the U.S. and the world.

Intiman Theatre

Two actors sit on the floor of the stage, one of them is trans

Production photo from HIR at ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery, 2018, Photo by John McLellan

Intiman Theatre's mission is to Wrestle with American Inequities. Intiman is a professional theater company in Seattle, Washington who in recent years was awarded three 2018 Gregory Awards for their Outstanding Production of a Musical (Dragon Lady),  three 2018-19 Teeny Awards for being an awesome org, creating work that most artfully illuminated a social issue or sparked civic dialogue, most transformative theatre experience as well as the 2006 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. Intiman is overseen by Artistic Director Jennifer Zeyl, Executive Director Phillip Chavira, and Board President Daniel Nye. The company retired a historical $2.7m in debt & obligations in 2018, with thanks to the community for keeping Intiman alive and flourishing. We are grateful to share a Free for Everyone ticketing initiative with our audiences made possible by our Community Ticket Project.   Since its founding in 1972, Intiman Theatre has presented 240 productions to Seattle audiences. Among the more recent of these are HIR by Taylor Mac, WILD HORSES by Allison Gregory, NATIVE GARDENS by Karen Zacarías, ANGELS IN AMERICA by Tony Kushner, TROUBLE IN MIND and WEDDING BAND by Alice Childress, and BOOTYCANDY and BARBECUE by Robert O'hara.   Intiman produces in various venues throughout Seattle, which include the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in Central District, The Erikson Off Broadway, 12th Avenue Arts, Velocity Dance Center, UW Jones Playhouse, Seattle Center Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, the Alhadeff Studio and Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center.

Marcie Sillman

Marcie Sillman

Marcie Sillman

Marcie Sillman, arts and culture reporter at KUOW, arrived at the station in 1985 to produce the station's daily public affairs program, Seattle After Noon. One year later, she became the local voice of All Things Considered, NPR's flagship afternoon news magazine. After five years holding down the drive-time microphone, a new opportunity arose. Along with Dave Beck and Steve Scher, Marcie helped create Weekday, a daily, two-hour forum for newsmakers, artists and thinkers. During her career, more than 100 of her stories have been heard on NPR's newsmagazines, as well as on The Voice of America. In 2005, she became KUOW's first special projects reporter. In this role, she produced in-depth audio portraits and documentary series about life and culture in the Puget Sound Region. In September, 2013, Marcie was part of the team that created The Record, a daily news magazine focused on the issues and culture of the Puget Sound region. Marcie writes regularly about Seattle's dance scene for national publications and at her blog, "And Another Thing." Her book "Out There: Jonathan Porretta's Life in Dance" was released in 2016 by Seattle Scriptorum publishing house.

Nominees for the 2019 Mayor's Arts Awards

Congratulations to everyone who was nominated* in 2019:

206 Zulu, African American Writers' Alliance, Africatown, Afua Kouyate, Al Doggett and Esther Ervin, Alana Skye Crawley, Amanda Manitach, Angie Hinojos Yusuf, Asia Tail, Ben Hunter, Bill Berry, Blue Cone Studios, Bushwick Northwest, C&P Coffee, Casey Weldon, Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA), Christiane Karefa-Johnson, Claire Michelle, Clarion West, Claudia Castro Luna, Creative Justice, Dani Terrill, Daniel Pak, Dante Felder, Degenerate Art Ensemble, Dina Blade, Delbert Richardson, Donte Felder, Duwamish Tribe, D'Vonne Lewis, Early Music Seattle, Eli Lara, Emerald Comics Distro, Eric Banks, Eric Nelson, Eric Salisbury, Esther Altshul Helfgott, Etienne Cakpo-Gbokou, Free2Luv, Gallery Onyx, Gary Faigin, Hallie Kuperman, Hanako O'Leary, Ijeoma Oluo, Intiman Theatre, Inye Wokoma, Jade D'Souza, Jayden Fennell, Jean Walkinshaw, Jeffrey Veregge, Jeffry Mitchell, Jennifer Zeyl, Jovino Santos Neto, Julie Chang Schulman, Julius Brandon, Kelly Kitchens, Kelly LaCombe, Kelly Lyles, Kimerly Rorschach, Larry Reid, Living Voices, Lorrie Scott Cardoso, Marcie Sillman, Marisol Sanchez Best, Markel Uriu, Martín Sepulveda, Miguel del Aguila, Mindie Lind, Music4Life, Nisi Shawl, Northwest African American Museum, Onyx Fine Arts Collective, Patti Curtis, Phoebe Bosché, Pramila Jayapal, Rain City Rock Camp, Richard Gold, Room Circus Medical Clowning School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts, Ryan Blackwell, Ryan Henry Ward, Sahra Farah, Sam Farrazaino, Sarah Fansler Lavin, Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, Seattle Walk Report, Seayoung Yim, Shaya Lyon, Stephanie Johnson-Toliver, Susan Silver, Tariqa Waters, Ten Grands, Seattle, Teresa Thuman, The AMP: AIDS Memorial Pathway, The Arboretum Foundation, The Residency, a program of Arts Corps, MoPOP and Macklemore, LLC, The Union, Verhanika Willhelm, Vincent Keele, Virginia Wright, Wa Na Wari, Witch Chat, Wyking Garrett  

*only eligible nominations are listed.


The 2019 Mayor's Arts Awards were presented in partnership with Bumbershoot and One Reel and event sponsors Chihuly Garden and Glass and The Boeing Company.

Tarik Abdullah

Tarik Abdullah, photo by J Coco

Tarik Abdullah is a chef, artist, innovator, and community activist. His culinary creations honor traditions from North Africa and the Mediterranean; and inspired by the tastes and flavors of his childhood. Growing up in a Muslim family and broader community where ethnic foods were the norm, his artistry comes through not only in his food, but in his everyday interactions with people - sharing his passion for cooking with the younger generation by teaching week long summer camps called "In the Kitchen with Chef T".  Abdullah also appeared on ABC's "The Taste," a competitive cooking show on which he spent six episodes winning Anthony Bourdain's favor, shortly after, "The MUNCHIES Guest to Washington State" on VICE, and more recently, a Visit Seattle and REVOLT TV co-production called Turning Tables, a new primetime series that connects music with food. He is a founding member of Black & Tan Hall, and a valuable member of the Hillman City Collaboratory.

Paula Boggs

Paula Boggs

Paula Boggs is a musician, public speaker, fundraiser and philanthropist. She is also a Board Member of numerous for-profit and non-profit organizations. Boggs and the 6-piece Paula Boggs Band traverse jazz, world, rock and Americana. Boggs is also a public speaker, volunteered for a presidential campaign as national surrogate, serves on boards, and raises or gives money in support of many causes - including music education, KEXP's New Home, veterans and civic engagement. President Obama appointed her to the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities where she served before resigning in August 2017. Her current civic and professional activities include serving on the boards of Avid Technology, Inc., Seattle Symphony; American Bar Association Board of Governors and Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University Advisory Board.

Fulgencio Lazo

Fulgencio Lazo

Artist Fulgencio Lazo works predominantly with acrylics on canvas at his studios in Seattle and in his hometown of Oaxaca, Mexico. He has had more than 50 solo shows throughout the United States, Mexico, and Japan and is represented by galleries in Oaxaca, Mexico City, Monterrey and Valle de Bravo. In Seattle, where he has lived since 1990, he is most known for his tireless work to create programs and spaces that are inclusive and reflect diverse audiences. He has co-founded some of Seattle's most iconic traditions within the Latino community, including Seattle's annual Oaxacan celebration known as Guelaguetza, International Children's Day, and the Day of the Dead celebrations at many venues, including the Seattle Art Museum.  Most recently he co-founded Studio Lazo, an organization of artists and community members creating a welcoming venue that especially showcases the creativity of Latino artists, writers and musicians. 

Jorge Enrique González Pacheco

Jorge Enrique González Pacheco

Jorge Enrique González Pacheco is a Cuban Poet and a Film Industry Professional. He came to the U.S. in 2003, living a couple years in Miami and then moving to Seattle in 2006.  Jorge Enrique is the Founder and Chief Programmer of the Seattle Latino Film Festival (SLFF), a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization.  From 1995 to 2003 he worked at the well-known Cuban Film Institute in Havana as a first assistant director and a screenplay researcher. Gonzalez Pacheco has published five books, including the Spanish and English poetry edition, "Under the Light of My Blood" ("Bajo la luz de mi sangre"). His poetry has been translated into French, English and Portuguese. He has taught contemporary Cuban literature and Latin-American cinema in universities of the United States, Spain, France, and Mexico. In Havana, Cuba, 1996, Jorge Enrique received the "Delia Carrera Poetry Prize". In San Francisco, 2015, he received a "HIPGivers Award" for his literary and entrepreneurial work, an award recognizing the philanthropic contributions of Hispanics. Through the SLFF, Jorge Enrique, in the 10 years of the festival has brought an art and social platform to Seattle where the non Latinx can learn more about Latin American societies.

Karen P. Thomas

Karen P. Thomas

Karen P. Thomas has served as the artistic director and conductor of Seattle Pro Musica since 1987. With Seattle Pro Musica, she has produced eleven critically-acclaimed commercial recordings and has received the Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence and the ASCAP-Chorus America Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music. She regularly introduces new music, including new commissions from living composers, and makes adventurous programming decisions. Thomas has led efforts to make Pro Musica fully welcoming for LGBTQ individuals and accessible for youth and low-income residents of the greater Seattle area. As a board member of Chorus America, she has also worked to help choruses throughout the US become welcoming and safe places for trans and non-binary singers. In addition to her conducting career, she is an internationally-performed composer of choral, instrumental, and stage works. She has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, Artist Trust, and numerous others.


The 2018 Mayor's Arts Awards were presented in partnership with Bumbershoot and One Reel with media sponsor City Arts and event sponsors Chihuly Garden and Glass and The Boeing Company.

Twelve finalists were selected for the 2017 Mayor's Arts Awards. Finalists were selected by the Seattle Arts Commission from over 160 public nominations and the winners were announced at the Mayor's Arts Award Ceremony on Thursday, August 31 at Seattle Center.

Cultural Ambassador - Individual

Awarded to an individual who has significantly contributed to Seattle's arts and cultural community and raised the visibility of Seattle's arts culture.

Sharon Arnold, Bridge Productions

Sharon Arnold

Sharon Arnold is a Seattle-based writer, curator, and founder of Bridge Productions. Since 2009, she has independently curated in various nontraditional and commercial spaces, and was one of four curators for the inaugural 2015 landmark event Out of Sight, which continues to run alongside the Seattle Art Fair each year. Bridge Productions is a hybridized commercial/experimental space focusing on process-based work and projects by artists, curators, writers, and performers. This model's dexterity provides an engaged platform for a broad range of projects including exhibitions, publications, happenings and activations, curatorial collaborations, and curated box sets fostering a rigorous exploration of artistic work and concepts. Bridge collaborates with emerging and mid-career artists, writers, and curators to create a local and national context for their work; building community across the Pacific Northwest and the US. Sharon is currently the author of Field Notes, a bi-monthly online arts column for City Arts Magazine.

Ludovic Morlot, Seattle Symphony

Ludovic Morlot

As the Seattle Symphony's Music Director, Ludovic Morlot has been received with extraordinary enthusiasm by musicians and audiences alike, who have praised him for his deeply musical interpretations, his innovative programming and his focus on community collaboration. From 2012 to 2014 Morlot was also Chief Conductor of La Monnaie, one of Europe's most prestigious opera houses. In the U.S., Ludovic Morlot has conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony. Trained as a violinist, Morlot studied conducting at the Royal Academy of Music in London and then at the Royal College of Music as recipient of the Norman del Mar Conducting Fellowship. Morlot was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in 2014 in recognition of his significant contributions to music. He is Chair of Orchestral Conducting Studies at the University of Washington School of Music.

RECIPIENT: Assunta Ng, Northwest Asian Weekly

Assunta Ng

Assunta Ng is the founder and has been the publisher of the Seattle Chinese Post and Northwest Asian Weekly, the only English-language Pan Asian weekly in the Northwest. Her award-winning newspapers are more than 35 years old and have been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for strength in content. Ng has also established several community projects and organizations including the Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation, an organization that designs leadership, community-building, and diversity training programs for youth and adults. Ng is the founder of Women of Color Empowered luncheon series, which showcased and celebrated women in power. Ng has received countless awards and honors, including the 2008 Wells Fargo Trailblazer Award for women in small business, the 2006 Hillary Clinton and Maria Cantwell Women of Valor Award, the 2005 Puget Sound Business Journal's Women of Influence Award, and the University of Washington 1998 Multicultural Alumni Partnership Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Cultural Ambassador - Organization

Awarded to an organization that has significantly contributed to Seattle's arts and cultural community and raised the visibility of Seattle's arts culture.

Gay City

Gay City

Gay City Arts is a program in which the arts and social justice values come together. We prioritize supporting and resourcing art by, with, and for Queer and Trans People of Color, Trans and Nonbinary People, LGBTQ People With Disabilities, Muslim LGBTQ People, LGBTQ Immigrants, LGBTQ Elders and Youth, Women, and LGBTQ Poor and Working Class People. As Gay City steps into our new role as Seattle's LGBTQ Center, it's essential that we reject the idea of a singular Queer narrative, and instead embrace the plurality of LGBTQ experiences and communities. Overwhelmingly, our arts seasons have not just involved, but benefited from the leadership of people living intersectional identities. People are craving opportunities to talk about the challenges and joys of living with multiple identities. Gay City Arts coming season, our fifth, features fifteen productions that involve theater, dance, music, poetry, spoken word, drag, burlesque, and film.

RECIPIENT: Seattle Music Partners

Seattle Music Partners

Seattle Music Partners cultivates a diverse and vibrant music-making community by providing youth with free music instruction and one-on-one mentoring. Through this unique combination of private instruction, mentorship, and collaborative ensemble experiences, SMP seeks to eliminate racial and economic barriers to quality music education. SMP hosts after-school programs two days a week at four elementary schools in the Central District, as well as an evening program for middle school musicians. Instruments, music books, music stands, and transportation are provided free of charge to participating students. Over 150 volunteers from more than 20 high schools, colleges, and community groups help make this work possible. SMP believes that the bonds formed through these musical relationships are fundamental to social change.



Tasveer is a non-profit film and art organization whose mission is to inspire social change through thought-provoking films, art, and storytelling. Tasveer was founded by two immigrant local South Asian women, Rita Meher & Farah Nousheen, in March 2002, after 9/11 as a need to dispel stereotypes of South Asians in the mainstream media. Their goal was to provide a platform for underrepresented South Asian voices, a non-judgmental space to engage in a community dialog on social issues relevant to South Asians.  Now Tasveer runs the largest social justice driven South Asian Film Festival in the world and the longest running South Asian Women Festival called Aaina which spotlights Yoni Ki Baat (a South Asian adaptation of the Vagina Monologues that empowers local South Asian women). Since then we have showcased over 1000 films on various social issues such as human rights, LGBTQ rights, women's rights, gender equality, class and caste discrimination, the environment and education.

Arts & Innovation

Awarded for originality, ingenuity, and resourcefulness within the creative sector. May include projects that weave together arts and technology, connecting new sectors, creative work in emerging industries, or transformational approaches to established genres. 

Susie Lee

Susie Lee

Susie Lee has forged a socially engaged artistic practice of creative entrepreneurship, time-based new media, community convenings, and installations. Her work explores the amplification of human connection through technology. She received accolades from Frieze, Art News, the Guardian, CNN, NPR, Marie Claire, Engadget, The Washington Post, and ThinkProgress. Siren, the artist-driven app she co-founded, positively affected the lives of its thirty thousand subscribers, partnered with global brand Durex on a 37M view campaign, won Geekwire's App of the Year, and received acclaim from influential arts institutions such as The New Museum, Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, and International Center for Photography.  Lee has exhibited at a number of museums nationally and is included in notable collections. A graduate of Yale, Columbia and UW with degrees in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, science education and fine arts, Lee has been recognized as a TEDx speaker, Bonnie Bronson Fellow, Emerging Artist of the Year, Stranger Genius, and Artist to Watch.

NFFTY (National Film Festival for Talented Youth)


The National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY) is the world's largest film festival for emerging directors and is the flagship program of The Talented Youth, a Seattle-based non-profit. The mission of The Talented Youth is the encouragement and acknowledgement of young artists working in the media arts - promoting their accomplishments through festivals and innovative programs and by celebrating the extraordinary young talent that exist and the compelling stories they tell. Each year, the 4-day festival showcases films by directors 24-and-under from across the globe and provides opportunities for filmmakers to explore emerging technologies like VR/360 filmmaking. NFFTY supports young filmmakers by offering professional level workshops such as a Works-in-Progress event, collaborative screenings, and other events year-round. Also, within NFFTY lies a creative production company, NFFTY Creative, that connects brands with emerging talent to produce original content. Through all the work of NFFTY, the organization aims to be at the forefront of addressing marked needs in education and networking for young artists - especially female-identifying artists and artists of color, and to expand opportunities for promotion of their work to a larger audience.

RECIPIENT: Courtney Sheehan, Northwest Film Forum

Courtney Sheehan

Courtney Sheehan is the executive director for Northwest Film Forum, the nonprofit film and arts center founded in 1995 and located in the Pike/Pine corridor of Capitol Hill. Courtney has curated and produced film programs for theaters and festivals on three continents. As a journalist, she covered events ranging from the world's largest documentary festival to South America's largest animation festival. Co-founder of Cine Migratorio, a migration-themed film festival in Spain, and the Seventh Art Stand, a national series of films from the countries and people affected by the travel bans, Courtney strives to build coalition through her work with film and media. She joined Northwest Film Forum first as a college intern, then as program director and artistic director, before becoming executive director in 2016. The Forum presents hundreds of films, community events, multidisciplinary performances, public discussions and workshops each year. In addition to producing the largest children's film festival on the West Coast, the Forum offers a range of artist services and hosts fundraisers for community initiatives and nonprofits.

Emerging Leader in the field

Presented in honor of a newcomer who is shifting the field of arts and culture without legacy experience in the sector. Impacts may be artistic in nature, creating dialogue or spaces for dialogue, or bringing awareness to an under-represented topic. Contributions may be across a variety of disciplines and modes.  

Legendary Children

Legendary Children

Legendary Children is many things. It's a special evening of afterhours arts programming that comes complete with high style and QTPOC (queer and trans people of color) communities in the main spotlight. Legendary Children is designed by our community members to be luxe, transgressive, and totally FREE, while also combining increased access to museums and fine art and libraries and information. Along the way we showcase community voices, prioritize equity and inclusion by standing at the intersection where the underground and arts and social justice meet. At Legendary Children QTPOC voices ringing loud and clear. Our audiences come for the live performances, the amazing performances by drag queens and drag kings, hot DJs, and the artistry of some of the Pacific Northwest's most talented performers. And they leave with a sense that queer and trans people of color's lives must matter in our broader communities. After all our beauty and leadership is legendary. Legendary Children is all ages, FREE and always by and for QTPOC.

RECIPIENT: Leilani Lewis

Leilani Lewis

For Leilani Lewis, a career in the arts was inevitable: as a child, she spent countless hours exploring the Detroit Institute of Art, which instilled in her a reverence for the works, the artists, and the hallowed halls that housed them. Much later, this passion led her to the Northwest African American Museum shortly before its opening in 2008. Since then, Leilani, now at the University of Washington, has become a true homegrown leader who collaborates with artists of all disciplines to build community and provide opportunities for the public to engage with the arts. Through museum work and independent projects, Leilani established herself as a creative catalyst working on behalf of artists. Whether through independent curation, arts programming, advising, or just showing up, Leilani focuses on breaking down barriers to arts appreciation, strengthening the bonds that draw communities together, and giving her all to ensure a culturally vibrant future for the Northwest.

The Station


Hi my name is Luis Rodriguez, I'm an Immigrant from Mexico and the owner of The Station coffee shop in Beacon Hill, my wife Leona and I opened The Station coffee shop in May of 2010 for many reasons, the number one and most important reason was because we were trying to reclaim what belongs to us POC, number two my love for coffee thanks to my father introducing me to coffee at a such a young age and number three and very dear to my heart was to create jobs for my community! I truly love being an owner of my own business but mostly I love being the owner of The Station coffee shop!!


The 2017 Mayor's Arts Awards were presented in partnership with Bumbershoot®: Seattle's Music & Arts Festival.
Presenting Partner: One Reel
Media sponsor: City Arts magazine
Event sponsors Chihuly Garden & Glass & Boeing

This year 11 finalists have been selected for the 2016 Mayor's Arts Awards. Finalists were selected from over 350 nominations and the winners were announced at the Mayor's Arts Award Ceremony on Friday, September 2 at 12 p.m. at Seattle Center, just prior to Bumbershoot opening.

The Seattle Arts Commission recommended the finalists from a pool of more than 350 public nominations. The Mayor's Arts Awards recognize the contributions of artists, creative industries and cultural organizations who contribute to Seattle's reputation as a hub of creativity and innovation.

The 2016 winners are:

  • Cultural Ambassador: Kabby Mitchell
  • Arts & Innovation: Hedgebrook
  • Philanthropy Award: Huong Vu
  • Legacy Award: Annex Theater

About the 2016 Mayor's Arts Award finalists
Cultural Ambassador Award Finalists

Awarded to an individual who has significantly contributed to Seattle's arts and cultural community and raised the visibility of Seattle's arts culture.

Kabby Mitchell (winner)

Kabby Mitchell

Kabby Mitchell, III is a choreographer, educator and performer. He has also been a dance instructor for more than 35 years, having taught ballet, modern, jazz and Afro- Haitian dance at schools and dance academies in Seattle, Iowa and Mexico. In Seattle, he has worked with Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB), Cornish College of the Arts, University of Washington, Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences, DASS Dance, Spectrum and Ewajo Dance Workshop.

He frequently contributes his time to help programs that support the development of young urban dancers, and is a supporter of local art and theatre companies whose goals are to serve the underserved community through the arts.

In 2007, as part of PNB's 1st Celebrate Seattle Festival, Mitchell was honored for his significant contributions to the Northwest dance scene and for being the first African American to dance with PNB. Also in 2007, he was featured on the cover of Colors NW magazine August issue and Arthur Mitchell, the director of Dance Theatre of Harlem, asked him to be a part of the "Masters and Mentors" program. DASS Dance also honored Mitchell for his contributions to Contemporary Dance in the Northwest.

Most recently Mitchell directed and choreographed Ballet Bellevue's Nutcracker; choreographed Seattle Opera's Porgy and Bess and last summer he choreographed Langston Hughes teen summer musical entitled Roll of Thunder: Hear My Cry. He is also a featured teacher at the Northwest Dance Intensive held annually in Olympia, WA. His signature choreography has been seen in Black Nativity since 2000. He has danced with Dance Theatre of Harlem, Nederlands Dans Theater, Civic Light Opera, Oakland Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Professor Mitchell is currently on faculty of The Evergreen State College where he teaches Dance and African American Studies.

Diana Adams

Diana Adams
Diana Adams has cultivated and contributed to the Seattle arts and culture scene for 24 years. She has been a successful creative entrepreneur in many different fields including photography, publishing, e-commerce and hospitality. Her current gallery, Vermillion, is in the heart of Capitol Hill and in its eighth year.

Wayne Horvitz

Wayne Horvitz

Wayne Horvitz is a composer, pianist and electronic musician. He is the recipient the 2016 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award. Horvitz is also the leader of The Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble, The Gravitas Quartet, Electric Circus, and Sweeter Than the Day.

Arts & Innovation Award Finalists

Awarded for originality, ingenuity, and resourcefulness within the creative sector.

Hedgebrook (winner)


Hedgebrook is a global community of women writers and people who seek extraordinary books, poetry, plays, films and music by women. A nonprofit, their mission is to support visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. They offer writing residencies, master classes and salons at their retreat on Whidbey Island, and public programs that connect writers with readers and audiences around the world.

Over 28 years, Hedgebrook's reputation and impact has quietly grown, as writers have generated thousands of works in their cottages. Alumnae are authoring change in other mediums as well: through TEDTalks, OpEds, blogs, articles and essays seen and read by millions of people.

They have a strong commitment to racial equity: more than 50% of their alumnae are women of color, and they come to Whidbey from all over the world. Each year, 40 writers are awarded residencies out of nearly 2,000 applicants. Many of them are not yet published or produced.

Now a global force of storytellers, Hedgebrook alumnae include Pulitzer Prize winners, MacArthur Genius Fellows, Man Booker finalists, PEN/Faulkner and PEN/Hemingway awardees, Obie, Emmy, Oscar and Grammy winners-many of whom penned their early work in their cottages. Celebrated alumnae include Gloria Steinem, novelists Ruth Ozeki, Karen Joy Fowler and Deborah Harkness, transgender writer and spokeswoman Janet Mock and poets Carolyn Forche and Suheir Hammad.

Louie Gong

Louie Gong

Louie Gong (Nooksack) is a Seattle-based artist and entrepreneur known for merging traditional Coast Salish art with influences from his urban environment to make strong statements about identity. Gong's artwork and products reflect the lived experiences of Native peoples today, challenging stereotypical views of what Native art - or Natives - should look like.

Seattle Music Partners

Seattle Music Partners

Seattle Music Partners is dedicated to bringing more music-learning opportunities to students in low-income schools. They do this by offering a free after school program that uses music and mentorship to empower young people. Their unique program matches skilled volunteers from the community, one-on-one, with as many as 100 students who wish to learn how to play an instrument and become part of a vibrant music-making community.

Philanthropy Award Finalists

Recognizing an individual or organization that has generously contributed to the arts and cultural field through grant making, donations or other investments.

Huong Vu (winner)

Huong Vu

For the past two decades, Huong Vu has been a philanthropy manager and curator. She has directly managed almost $100M in philanthropic investments for foundation, corporate giving and national regranting programs. These investments include programming, youth development, arts education, capital campaigns, capacity building, technology, economic development, training, and civic engagement grants. Since 2009, Vu has led Boeing Commercial Airplane's Pacific Northwest Region arts, culture, and civic engagement grants portfolio. (In 2015, Boeing and its employees contributed more than $50M in Washington State to arts, civic engagement, early learning, K-12 education, environment, and health and human services. Boeing's combined global giving exceeded $175M.) Vu also serves as adjunct faculty at Seattle University in the MFA Arts Leadership Program; she teaches Advanced Fundraising Strategies.

Prior to Boeing, Vu was the senior program officer at The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, guest curator at contemporary performance center On the Boards, director of grants programs at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, fellow at the National Endowment for the Arts, and an organizer of visual arts exhibitions. Vu is a graduate of the University of Washington where she studied Business Administration and Visual Arts. In 2007, she earned a program certificate from the Stanford University/Graduate School of Business. Vu currently serves on two boards: Seattle Parks Foundation (President) and the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. Past board service includes Grantmakers in the Arts, Seattle Arts Commission, and the National Performance Network. Vu is the co-chair of the Rainier Beach Urban Farm & Wetlands capital campaign which raised $2.7M to address food security in underserved communities; community partners include the Seattle Parks Foundation, Seattle Tilth, Friends of the Rainier Beach, and City of Seattle. She speaks Vietnamese, English and French. Her personal passions center on immigrant refugee rights, social justice, equity, and mentoring the next generation of leaders.

Ellen Ferguson

Ellen Ferguson

Ellen Ferguson has a long history in arts and culture, both professionally and in volunteer service in the Seattle area. Ferguson currently serves on the board of the Burke Museum Association and Co-Chairs the Campaign for the New Burke.  She is also the Co-Chair of the Wing Luke Asian Museum board and has held leadership positions on the boards of the Washington Museum Association and the Western Museum Association and has received lifetime achievement awards from both.

Legacy Award Finalists

Recognizing an individual or organization with a rich and enlightening career in the arts, whose contributions have made for a more vibrant city.

Annex Theater (winner)

Annex Theater

Annex Theatre is a democratic collective of theatre artists dedicated to creating bold new work in an environment of improbability, resourcefulness, and risk. They will celebrate their 30th Anniversary in September 2016.

For the last three decades, Annex has been an accessible laboratory for new writing and performance work in Seattle, generating dozens of world premiere plays and providing crucial early-career development for hundreds of artists. In 2013 Annex received the Theatre Puget Sound Gregory Award for Theatre of the Year (one of only two fringe theatres to have received this honor).

Annex is committed to inclusivity and accessibility, keeping ticket prices low and producing an enormous variety of programming year 'round, and hosting an open RFP every spring to discover new talent. In its past few seasons, Annex Theatre has doubled down on its commitment to telling stories under-represented in mainstream theaters; almost 40% of the artists this year are people of color and/or LGBTQ, and most shows are written and directed by women. Annex is committed to developing the next generation of American theater artists -- and making sure it looks more like America.

Alfredo Arreguín

Alfredo Arreguín

Alfredo Arreguín was born in Mexico and developed as an artist in Seattle (BA 1967, MFA 1969-University of Washington), where he has resided since 1956.  Over the last four decades, Arreguín has amassed a long and distinguished list of accomplishments that features many awards, exhibitions in France, Mexico, Spain, and the US. His works are included in many important private and public collections, including the National Museum of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery.



Seattle-based Fantagraphics Books is celebrating its 40th year as one of the world's leading publishers of comix, graphic novels, and "badass" books. Specializing in contemporary cartoonists, classic comic strips, foreign translations, and the history of the comics art form Fantagraphics is among our city's most successful and colorful cultural institutions.

2015 Recipients

  • Dr. Robin K. Wright - Cultural Ambassador

    Dr. Robin K. Wright

    Dr. Robin K. Wright is an expert on the Native arts of the Pacific Northwest. She has taught art history at the University of Washington and served as Curator of Native American Art at the Burke Museum since 1985. Since 2003, she has directed the Bill Holm Center for the Study of Northwest Native Art, a learning center dedicated to increasing Native and public access to research resources and fostering appreciation and understanding of Native art of the Pacific Northwest Coast.

  • Akio Takamori - Arts & Innovation

    Akio Takamori

    Takamori, Akio (born 1950, Nobeoka, Japan; lives in Seattle) studied at the Musashino Art University in Tokyo before apprenticing with a traditional folk potter in Koishiwara, Japan. He came to the United States in 1974. Takamori studied at Kansas City Art Institute, receiving his BFA in 1976 and earned his MFA from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 1978. His work is represented in many public collections, including the Seattle Art Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Nelson-Adkins Museum of Art, and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK. Takamori was awarded National Endowments for the Arts grants in 1986, 1988, and 1992. In 2001 he was awarded the Virginia A. Groot Foundation grant and in 2006 he received the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award. In 2011 he was awarded a USA Ford Fellowship. Takamori is professor emeritus at the University of Washington.

  • Densho - Cultural Preservation


    Densho is a digital, public history organization. They work to preserve and share stories of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II by recording firsthand accounts, digitizing historical images and documents, and developing classroom resources. They make these materials available to the public for free so that they can be used to explore issues of democracy, intolerance, wartime hysteria, civil rights, and the responsibilities of citizenship in our increasingly global society. They encourage use of these resources to expand awareness of our country's diverse history, to stimulate critical thinking, to develop ethical decision-making skills, and to help ensure that democratic principles are upheld now and in the future. Densho's work is nationally acclaimed with awards from the American Library Association, Society of American Archivists, and the Oral History Association.

  • Seattle JazzED - Future Focus

    Seattle JazzED

    Seattle JazzED empowers students of all skill levels and backgrounds to realize their full potential through exceptional music education. We were founded on the belief that this education should be accessible to all students, regardless of ability to pay. As a result, any student can get financial aid for any program at JazzED. Seattle JazzED programs include big band ensembles, master classes, workshops and summer camps, and we are known for innovative educational initiatives like the New Works Ensemble, Girls Ellington Project and Summer Jazz Ambassadors. Along with musical skills, JazzED students learn the values of discipline, focus and teamwork. JazzED also develops citizenship by providing students with opportunities to perform, volunteer and mentor in the broader community. Our goal is to instill a set of values in every child that makes them not only a successful musician but a successful human being.

  • Daniel Brown - Creative Industries

    Daniel Brown

    Daniel James Brown taught writing at San Jose State University and Stanford before becoming a technical editor at Microsoft. He now writes narrative nonfiction books full-time. His primary interest as a writer is in bringing historical events vividly and accurately to life on the page. Daniel's most recent book—The Boys in the Boat—has spent over a year on the New York Times bestseller list. The Boys in the Boat was the ABA's 2014 "Indie's Choice" nonfiction book of the year and won the 2014 Washington State Book Award in nonfiction. His two previous books—Under a Flaming Sky and The Indifferent Stars Above—were also finalists for the Washington State Book Award. Daniel lives in the country outside of Seattle with his wife, two daughters, and an assortment of cats, dogs, chickens, and honeybees. When he is not writing, he is likely to be birding, gardening, fly-fishing, reading, or chasing bears away from the beehives.

2014 Recipients

  • Alan Chong Lau

    Alan Chong Lau is a poet, painter, editor, and sometimes curator and coordinator of arts events. As a poet, his work is represented by publications in numerous anthologies as well as individual titles such as "Songs For Jadina" which won a Before Columbus Award, and "Blues and Greens - A Produce Worker's Journal." As a visual artist, he has shown in Seattle since the early 1980s represented by Francine Seders Gallery until her recent retirement. He is also the Arts Editor for the International Examiner, a Seattle-based Asian American community newspaper. He believes that the arts play a vital role in society and through his various occupations facilitates culture throughout Seattle. He is a freelance coordinator and curator around town, creating "pop-up" arts events and shows in venues as diverse as Wing Luke Asian Museum, Kobo at Higo's, Elliott Bay Book Company, and the M. Rosetta Hunter Art Gallery.

  • MOHAI & Leonard Garfield

    MOHAI has grown to become the largest private heritage organization in Washington State and attracts more than 200,000 visitors annually. MOHAI is dedicated to enriching lives through preserving, sharing, and teaching the diverse history of Seattle, the Puget Sound region, and the nation. The museum engages communities through interactive exhibits, online resources, and award-winning public and youth education programs. Executive director Leonard Garfield directs all activities at the museum, working with the Board of Trustees, MOHAI staff, and the community to ensure MOHAI achieves its mission. Mr. Garfield holds an M.A. degree in American Culture from the University of Michigan and has more than 25 years of experience managing regional cultural organizations, including 15 years as executive director at MOHAI and six years as executive director of the King County Office of Cultural Resources (now 4Culture). In February 2014, Garfield was one of Seattle Business Magazine's Executive Excellence Award recipients.

  • Path with Art

    Path with Art transforms the lives of adults in recovery from homelessness, addiction and other trauma by providing opportunities for in-depth arts engagement and positive community connection. Since 2007, Path with Art has helped students find their voice through the power of artistic expression. Today, the organization partners with 28 social service partners such as Plymouth Housing Group, Recovery Café, and Harborview Medical Center to offer 30 eight-week studio art classes taught by professional teaching artists across 18 disciplines. Through its Access Art program, Path with Art collaborates with leading arts organizations, to connect participants to arts and cultural events throughout the city. Quarterly art exhibitions and showcases invite the broader community to engage with students through their art and individual stories, fostering a dialogue about the issues surrounding homelessness and recovery, seeing individuals beyond the lens of statistics.

  • Snoqualmie Indian Tribe

    The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe is a federally recognized tribe in the Puget Sound region of Washington State. Known as the People of the Moon, Snoqualmie Tribal members were signatories of the Treaty of Point Elliot of 1855. The Tribe owns and operates the Snoqualmie Casino in Snoqualmie, WA. To date, the Tribe has donated over $4 million dollars to non-profit organizations located in Washington State. Over fifty arts and culture organizations including the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle International Film Festival, the Genius Awards, Seattle Symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet, EMP, Vera Project, Seattle Children's Theatre, and Longhouse Media have received donations from the Snoqualmie Tribe. The Tribe seeks to support these and other exemplary arts organizations in the Puget Sound area and collaborate with them to expand open-access programming that allows underserved communities the opportunity to enjoy these regional treasures.

  • Stephen Stubbs

    After a thirty-year career in Europe, Stephen Stubbs returned to his native Seattle in 2006 as one of the world's most respected lutenists, conductors, and baroque opera specialists. Previously, he was based in Bremen, Germany, as a Professor at the Hochschule für Künste and director of Tragicomedia, which toured worldwide and recorded numerous CDs. Stubbs is the permanent artistic co-director of the Boston Early Music Festival (BEMF). With his colleague Paul O'Dette, Stephen directs all BEMF operas and recordings, three of which were nominated for Grammy awards. In 2007 Stephen founded Pacific MusicWorks in Seattle, reflecting his lifelong interest in early music and contemporary performance. Other recent appearances include Gluck's Orfeo in Bilbao, Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte in Hawaii, and Handel's Messiah with the Seattle Symphony. His discography includes well over 100 CDs. In 2013, Stephen was appointed Senior Artist in Residence at the University of Washington School of Music.

  • TeenTix

    Since 2004, TeenTix has been the central office of a community-wide effort to engage young people in civic life through the arts. The organization believes that arts institutions have a crucial role to play in building better futures for the youth in our community, and as such, they provide teens with tools to become empowered arts audiences, critics, leaders, and influencers. With a consortium of 54 regional arts-presenting organizations, TeenTix has facilitated the sale of over 45,000 $5 arts tickets to teens over the past decade. Members of the TeenTix Press Corps have written over 400 arts reviews for the TeenTix Blog, the region's best source of teen-centric arts coverage. Graduates of their arts leadership training program, The New Guard, have gone on to take up positions in arts, culture, and civic organizations both locally and nationally. Their vision of a healthy community includes diverse civic leaders who value, support and participate in a thriving arts community.

2013 Recipients

  • 826 Seattle

    Video Profile

    826 Seattle, working with about 3,000 students annually, is a writing and tutoring center that helps young people acquire and strengthen writing skills and express themselves through publishing opportunities. With the help of hundreds of trained volunteers, 826 Seattle offers writing workshops, support for teachers in classrooms, theatrical writing field trips and a vibrant afterschool tutoring program. At 826 Seattle, imagination is key, as is the belief that young people are more likely to grow into compassionate, successful adults if they possess the skill and confidence to share their stories. 826 Seattle inspires learning and creativity in a number of ways, starting with its whimsical storefront: The Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company, complete with atomic teleporter entry into the writing center. This sense of wonder permeates all 826 Seattle programs. Opportunities to have their writing published in anthologies inspires students to do their best work.

    City Arts Profile

  • Barbara Earl Thomas

    Video Profile

    Barbara Thomas is a visual artist and a writer with a longstanding record as an arts administrator in the Northwest. She has overseen programs for the city of Seattle and the Northwest's largest arts festival, Bumbershoot. Currently she is the Major Gifts Officer of the Northwest African American Museum where she has served since 2008. Thomas has exhibited artwork consistently since 1982 and her work is included in several prestigious public and private collections including the city of Seattle, Seattle Art Museum, Safeco and Microsoft. As an award-winning writer her essays have appeared in numerous publications and anthologies, including What to Read in the Rain an 826 anthology, Raven Chronicles, Arcade Magazine, Gathering Ground, A Single Mother's Companion, Calyx, Intimate Nature: The Bonds Between Women and Animals, The Gift of Birds: True Encounters with Avian Spirits and Writing Down the River: Into the Heart of the Grand Canyon.

    City Arts Profile

  • Frye Art Museum

    Video Profile

    The Frye Art Museum was founded in 1952 as the living legacy of Seattle philanthropists Charles and Emma Frye, who gifted their collection of European art to the people of Seattle in the belief that access should always be free and for all. In its desire to be deeply relevant to the diverse communities it serves, the Frye supports and presents the work of contemporary artists from Seattle and around the globe as well as historical exhibitions celebrating the enduring values of its Founding Collection. The Frye Art Museum's investment in the well-being of our cultural community inspired and is reflected in recent exhibitions which featured more than two hundred exceptional Seattle artists spanning generations and disciplines. One hundred and twenty years after Charles and Emma Frye first envisioned a public art museum in Seattle, the Frye is seeking to transform the role of the art museum in the twenty-first century.

    City Arts profile

  • Pongo Teen Writing Project

    Video Profile

    Pongo Teen Writing Project is an 18-year-old Seattle nonprofit that facilitates personal poetry by distressed teens inside jails, homeless shelters, psychiatric hospitals, and other sites. The majority of Pongo's writers have suffered early childhood trauma, such as abuse and neglect. And this trauma affects the teens deeply, making it hard for them to express themselves. However, Pongo has developed its own teaching approach to help young people write about painful experiences—often for the first time—in a way that promotes insight and healing. Pongo has worked with over 6,000 teens, published 13 anthologies, given away 14,000 copies, and talked to over 10,000 Seattleites about the poetry and lives of our authors. In addition, Pongo is serving youth nationally and internationally through the writing activities on its web site, teacher trainings, an upcoming book on its methods, and ongoing research about the therapeutic power of creative expression.

    City Arts Profile

  • Preston Singletary

    Video Profile

    The art of Preston Singletary has become synonymous with the relationship between European glass blowing traditions and Northwest Native art. His artworks feature themes of transformation, animal spirits and shamanism through elegant blown glass forms and mystical sand carved Tlingit designs. Singletary learned the art of glass blowing by working with artists in the Seattle area, initially focusing on mastering the techniques of the European tradition. He developed his signature style over the last 30 years, combining European techniques with Native American designs and forms to create pieces that are unmistakably his own. Recognized internationally, Singletary's artworks are included in museum collections such as The British Museum (London, UK), The Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA), The Seattle Art Museum (Seattle WA), the Corning Museum of Glass (Corning, NY), and the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC). Singletary maintains an active schedule by teaching and lecturing internationally.

    City Arts Profile

  • Seattle Repertory Theatre

    Video Profile

    The Rep celebrates its 50th anniversary with the 2012-2013 season. The theatre was founded in 1963 and is led by artistic director Jerry Manning and managing director Benjamin Moore. One of America's premier nonprofit resident theatres, Seattle Repertory Theatre has achieved international renown for its consistently high production and artistic standards and was awarded the 1990 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. With an emphasis on entertaining plays of true dramatic and literary worth, Seattle Rep produces a season of plays along with educational programs, new play workshops and special presentations. Under Manning's leadership, the Rep has renewed its commitment to investing in Seattle playwrights and serving as an artistic home for the development and production of their work. Through the New Play Program, the Rep has commissioned, workshopped, and/or premiered works by Seattle writers Cheryl L. West, Robert Schenkkan, Elizabeth Heffron, Justin Huertas, Stephanie Timm, and many others.

    City Arts Profile

2012 Recipients

  • Freehold Theatre Lab/Studio

    Freehold Theatre Lab/Studio

    Freehold Theatre Lab/Studio engages people from all walks of life in cultivating audacity of spirit through the practice of theater. A creative haven since 1991, Freehold is a thriving collective of artists, teachers and students collaborating to explore both the mind and the heart. Through education, experimentation and performance, Freehold works toward a theater practice that illuminates the human condition and serves the full, diverse spectrum of the theater community. Freehold provides a place that nurtures risk in all aspects of the practice. Freehold is a laboratory for working professionals, a studio for emerging artists, and above all, a destination where anyone with an inquisitive spirit can join in the celebration of the inherent risk of being human.

  • KEXP 90.3 FM

    KEXP 90.3 FM

    KEXP 90.3 FM is more than a radio station—it's a dynamic arts organization that provides rich music experiences on air, online and on the streets. KEXP's unique services benefit music lovers, artists and the arts community. Beginning as a tiny 10-watt station in 1972, KEXP has grown into an innovative, influential cultural force in the Seattle community and beyond that brings national attention to Seattle as a music city. KEXP's programming features variety and specialty shows with the emerging sounds and long-time favorites from the Pacific Northwest, the country and throughout the world. Artists championed by KEXP are not typically supported by traditional media outlets. They are inventive, contemporary musicians creating new work in popular genres that include rock, hip hop, reggae, country, Latin, modern global and more.

  • Li Hengda

    Li Hengda

    Choreographer and artistic director Li Hengda fuses Chinese and Western dance to form a unique dance style. Founder of the American Asian Performing Arts Theatre and Hengda Dance Academy in Seattle, Li has created more than 20 popular dance works and directed 25 large-scale professional performances combining local and international Chinese artists together to promote the Chinese performing arts. Performances have included the Sichuan Earthquake Relief Performance in 2008 and the world-class performances of the China National Acrobatic Troupe in 2009. Officially recognized in China as a "National Premier Dancer" in 1987, Li was a main soloist with the Pacific Northwest Ballet from 1991 to 1996. Li was also a recipient of the 2011 Artist Trust Fellowship award for his exceptional original work and its impact on the community.

  • Lucia Neare's Theatrical Wonders

    Lucia Neare's Theatrical Wonders

    Lucia Neare is artistic director of Lucia Neare's Theatrical Wonders. Since 2006, her company has created acclaimed, free, large-scale, site-specific theatrical works, bringing living dreams to thousands of audience participants. These site-based, participatory, outdoor performances involve hundreds of performers, giant set pieces, larger-than-life costumes, and live orchestra and dance. The works unfurl across the landscape of the city, its waters and the calendar year, drawing people of all ages into parks, beaches and urban thoroughfares. Works include Ooo La La: a May Day Spectacular, which transformed downtown Seattle into a grand corridor of delight in 2008, and Lullaby Moon, a year-long series of performances that brought bedtime whimsy to Seattle's public spaces on each new moon beginning in 2008.

  • Seattle Arts & Lectures

    Seattle Arts & Lectures

    For 25 years, Seattle Arts & Lectures (SAL) has presented transformative programs with acclaimed writers that foster diverse ideas, the imagination and a love of reading and writing. SAL's Literary Arts Series brings outstanding authors to Benaroya Hall's Taper Auditorium. SAL Presents features the best fiction and non-fiction writers speaking about their latest books at venues in Seattle and on the Eastside. The Poetry Series debuted in 2000, as did SAL U, offering courses for adults taught by distinguished University of Washington professors. Since 1994, Writers in the Schools (WITS) has placed local, professional writers in public school classrooms to develop writing and reading skills. WITS annually serves 5,000 students at 25 schools throughout the region and at Seattle Children's Hospital.

  • Buster Simpson

    Buster Simpson

    Buster Simpson, an active artist since the 1970s, has worked on major infrastructure projects, site master planning, signature sculptures, museum installations and community projects. Simpson is a recipient of numerous awards including National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and the Americans for the Arts Artist of the Year Award in 2009. Installations include Effluence of Affluence (1991) at Seattle Art Museum; Face Plate (1989) at Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; and Incidence (2003) at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma. Simpson often melds social and ecological issues into an aesthetic to inform lasting public works. Recent completed commissions include Bio Boulevard (2011) at the Brightwater Treatment Plant in Woodinville and Carbon Veil (2011) at SeaTac International Airport.

  • Three Dollar Bill Cinema

    Three Dollar Bill Cinema

    Since 1996, Three Dollar Bill Cinema has been the premiere arts organization representing LGBT film and media in the Northwest. The organization provides access to films by, for and about LGBT people and their families, and is a forum for LGBT filmmakers to share and discuss their work. Three Dollar Bill's chief program is the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. Celebrating its 17th year, the 11-day festival has become the largest of its kind in the Pacific Northwest and has garnered national recognition for showcasing extraordinary and award-winning work. Three Dollar Bill Cinema also hosts many film events for the community, including the free, summer film series in Cal Anderson Park, celebrating diversity in a family-friendly environment.

  • TilibSedeb (Singing Feet)

    TilibSedeb (Singing Feet)

    TilibSedeb (Singing Feet) is the Duwamish Tribe's language and culture group. The youth group teaches the Duwamish Tribe, especially the children, their ancestral Puget Sound language Lushootseed and their heritage through singing, dancing, oratory and cultural traditions. Duwamish Tribe Chair Cecile Hansen founded the group in 2001 to instill Duwamish family and community values, recruiting Puget Sound Salish educator ?esweli (The Emerging One), also known as Zeke Zahir, to teach the Duwamish children their language and traditions. The group was founded on the belief that learning traditional values and taking pride in accomplishments can help youth avoid drug and alcohol addiction and become contributing members of their community and society. The group also presents to other First Peoples and the broader Seattle community.

  • The Vera Project

    The Vera Project

    The Vera Project is an all-ages, volunteer-fueled music and arts venue. By engaging participants at all levels of music production and community organizing, Vera fosters a participatory creative culture through popular music concerts, arts programs, experiential learning and volunteer opportunities. Vera's programs focus on young people ages 14 to 24 and include audio engineering training, youth-driven governance, visual art exhibits, live and studio recording, leadership training, silkscreen printing/classes, event production training and weekly concerts. Vera's programs and volunteer-driven structure give youth the skills necessary to pursue their creative and professional passions. Vera engages thousands in the arts, helps develop the future of the music industry.

  • Olivier Wevers

    Olivier Wevers

    Choreographer and artistic director of contemporary dance company Whim W'Him, Olivier Wevers is a creative force in Seattle. One of Pacific Northwest Ballet's (PNB) most beloved dancers for 14 years, Wevers has performed lead roles in major classical ballets as well as contemporary works by the world's most noted choreographers. In 2009 he founded his dance company Whim W'Him. The company premiered at On the Boards to sold-out houses and critical acclaim. He has choreographed works for companies in the United States and abroad, as well as PNB and Spectrum Dance Theater. In 2011, he received a Princess Grace Choreography Fellowship, a prestigious award given to only two choreographers in the United States each year. Presenting his work both locally and internationally, Wevers helps bring awareness to Seattle as a world-class center of dance.

2011 Recipients

  • Donald Byrd

    Donald Byrd

    Acclaimed choreographer and artistic director of Spectrum Dance Theater, Donald Byrd left New York for Seattle nearly a decade ago because he was attracted to Spectrum's mission "to make dance accessible, without limitation to the community."

    Byrd has transformed Spectrum, a former jazz-dance group, into a groundbreaking modern dance company, which supports local talent and offers dance classes at its rehearsal studio on Lake Washington to more than 500 students of all ages each week.

    Byrd has created more than 80 works for his former company of nearly 25 years, the New York-based Donald Byrd/The Group, Spectrum and many major dance companies including The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

    Through Byrd's leadership, Spectrum partners with many Seattle arts groups, including The 5th Avenue Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet and most recently Seattle Art Museum, which tapped Byrd to help enact performance "invasions" by dancers wearing artist Nick Cave's otherworldly sound suits.

  • Jack Straw Productions

    Jack Straw Productions

    Jack Straw Productions—the Northwest's only nonprofit multidisciplinary audio arts center—will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2012.

    Jack Straw's mission is to foster the communication of arts, ideas, and information to diverse audiences through audio media, including radio, theater, film, video, music and literature.

    A community-based resource, Jack Straw provides a top-tier production facility for local artists who work creatively with sound. The organization offers artist residencies, a writers program, a new media gallery, and education programs for all ages. Jack Straw also collaborates with arts and heritage organizations to integrate sound and music into their programs.

    Jack Straw's youth education programs give students hands-on experience in a recording studio, allowing them to create their own audio programs including radio theater, oral histories and music recording projects. Many of the participants are disabled or immigrant youth whose access to arts training is limited.

  • Dr. Quinton Morris

    Dr. Quinton Morris
    Quinton Morris at Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony.

    Quinton Morris enjoys a multifaceted career as a concert violinist, chamber musician, professor, director and founder of The Young Eight String Octet, the nation's only string octet comprised of distinguished African American string players from the nation's most prestigious music schools. Morris earned a Master of Music degree from The Boston Conservatory and a Doctor of Musical Arts at The University of Texas at Austin.

    Morris is the Director of Chamber and Instrumental Music and Assistant Professor of Music at Seattle University, where recently he won the Outstanding Scholarship and Creative Work Award from the College of Arts and Sciences.

    According to one nominator, "Morris' long list of achievements and awards is impressive, but even more impressive is his determination to make a difference for aspiring young musicians—particularly for youngsters of color who do not always have role models close at hand in the classical community."

    Morris has performed solo and chamber music performances across the country and around the globe, and recently marked his New York City recital debut with soprano Indra Thomas and pianist Maimy Fong to a sold out audience at Carnegie Hall.

  • On the Boards

    On the Boards

    According to a recent article in The New York Times, "On the Boards (OtB) is one of America's best theaters for contemporary performance. Its stages are graced by top-tier artists from around the world, as well as locals."

    Founded by artists in 1978, OtB's mission is to introduce audiences to international innovators in contemporary dance, theater and music while developing and presenting new work by Northwest performing artists.

    OtB has featured breakthrough performances by art stars including Laurie Anderson, The Wooster Group, Sankai Juku, Romeo Castellucci and Mark Morris and locals Pat Graney, Reggie Watts, Crystal Pite, Dayna Hanson, and Zoe Scofield and Juniper Shuey.

    Through performance series and a festival, OtB provides artists room to grow and take risks. OtB's programs include the experimental 12 Minutes Max series; the curated NW New Works Festival; the Northwest Series, which features regional artists and companies; and the Inter/National series which presents artists from around the world.

  • Pratt Fine Arts Center

    Pratt Fine Arts Center

    Pratt Fine Arts Center makes art accessible to everyone, offering a place for spirited exchange, self expression and personal transformation through creativity.

    Founded in 1976 to provide high quality visual arts training in Seattle's Central District, one of the city's most economically and ethnically diverse neighborhoods, Pratt creates opportunities to learn, make, and experience the visual arts through equal access to free and subsidized classes, a low-cost studio rental program, and free exhibitions, lectures and events.

    Pratt offers hands-on instruction in glass, sculpture, jewelry, printmaking, painting, and drawing, giving individuals of all ages their first exposure to making art and teaching aspiring, emerging and established artists new techniques and skills.

    Pratt's ARTSpark Program provides free art classes to more than 600 underserved children and youth. Throughout its 35-year history, Pratt has served as a creative hub for working artists, arts patrons, and community members to share ideas and learn new skills.

  • Tet in Seattle

    Tet in Seattle

    Tet Festival is a free community celebration held annually as part of Festál, a series of world festivals at Seattle Center.

    For the past 15 years, Tet Festival has celebrated the Vietnamese Lunar New Year and Vietnamese culture through the visual and performing arts and cuisine unique to Vietnam. The volunteer-run festival attracts 10,000 to 15,000 participants each year in late January or early February.

    Tet in Seattle's mission is to preserve and promote Vietnamese culture and to help bridge gaps between first and second generation Vietnamese immigrants as well as help foster cross-cultural understanding and appreciation.

    As part of the festival, Tet in Seattle publishes a bilingual magazine that features Vietnamese history and stories. The organization also helps develop future leaders in the Vietnamese community and is committed to public service year-round, including participating in the International District /Little Saigon clean up, creating a Vietnamese community float for the Seafair Torchlight Parade and participating in fundraising campaigns for cancer research.

2010 Recipients

  • Juan Alonso

    Video Profile

    Growing up, Juan Alonso never had any intention of embarking on a career as a visual artist. Born in Havana, Cuba, Alonso arrived in the United States in 1966 as a boy. His father sent him to live with an aunt and uncle in Miami, Fla., in the hopes that Alonso would have a chance at a better life.

    It was music that Juan first took up professionally, singing and playing guitar in Florida nightclubs in the late 1970s. He moved to Seattle in May of 1982, where his interest in painting and drawing flourished. Alonso's artwork harkens to his homeland. His paintings draw on childhood memories of Cuba and have evolved over the years from his trademark sensuous floral works to weathered abstractions inspired by the faded facades of Havana's ornate, historic buildings and currently focus on the foundation and inner workings of architectural structures.

    Since his inclusion in a group show of Latin-American artists in 1986 at Seattle Center, what started out as a strong interest in the visual arts, became a lifetime commitment. This commitment is not exclusive to his career, however. Alonso promotes and mentors other artists, advocates for minority artists, is very involved with several arts organizations and spearheads fundraising efforts for various community causes.

    Alonso's work has been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the United States, Canada and Latin America. He received a Neddy Fellowship in 1997 and the Morrie and Joan Alhadeff PONCHO Artist of the Year Award in 2007. His work is in public collections, including the city of Seattle, state of Oregon, Washington state's art in public places program, city of Everett, IMG Inc. in Tokyo, Microsoft, Safeco, AIDS Housing of Washington, Museum of Northwest Art and the Tacoma Art Museum. He has completed public art commissions for Qwest Field, Sea-Tac Airport, the King County Housing Authority's Greenbridge Neighborhood Park and Sound Transit's Columbia City light rail station.

  • Book-It Repertory Theatre

    Video Profile

    Book-It Repertory Theatre celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to transforming great literature into great theatre and to inspiring its audiences to read.

    The seeds for Book-It were sown in 1987, when a group of Seattle actors gathered at a Capitol Hill acting studio in the hopes of launching a troupe devoted to bringing literature to life on stage. The theater began as an artists' collective adapting short stories for performances and touring them throughout the Northwest. A few years later in 1990, Book-It Repertory Theatre was born.

    Book-It's trademarked style preserves the narrative text as it is spoken, not by a single "narrator" but as active dialogue by the characters in the production. The company's spare production aesthetic serves the adapted literature by mirroring the reading experience, inviting the audience to participate fully with their imaginations.

    Today, in addition to offering four to five fully-produced theatrical productions each season, education plays an integral role in Book-It's work. Book-It All Over, the theater's educational touring program, aims to improve reading and writing skills by making a visceral connection between the written and the spoken word. Its four annual touring performances and school residencies reach more than 60,000 young people every year by travelling to schools, libraries, and community centers around the state.

    Under the leadership of Founding Co-Artistic Directors Jane Jones and Myra Platt, Book-It has produced more than 60 world-premiere adaptations of classic and contemporary literature for the stage. The company has carved out a unique niche in Seattle's theater community. Over the years, Book-It has formed relationships with many great living authors whose works they have adapted, including John Irving, Tom Robbins, Amy Bloom, David Guterson, Maya Angelou, Jim Lynch, Stephanie Kallos, Pam Houston, Isabel Allende, Jonathan Raban, Ivan Doig and Dinaw Mengestu.

  • Dennis Coleman

    Video Profile

    Dennis Coleman has been a leader in Seattle's LGBT and arts communities for nearly three decades. His commitment to using the arts to achieve social justice goals has been a driving force in his life.

    He is best known for his work as artistic director (since 1981) of Seattle Men's Chorus (SMC), having led the Chorus to a position of prominence as the largest community chorus (in audience and budget size) in the United Sates. Seattle Men's Chorus, founded in 1979, is the largest gay men's chorus in the world, with more than 300 singing members. The Chorus, on the occasion of its 30th anniversary season, has built bridges of understanding through the "power of music, touching hearts and changing minds." It performs to more than 20,000 patrons annually and has performed in many of the world's most prestigious halls, including New York's Carnegie Hall and Barcelona's Palau de Musica Catalon.

    In 2002, Coleman became founding artistic director of Seattle Women's Chorus (SWC). Since its inception, SWC has grown to more than 250 members. The diverse membership of SWC provides a model by which lesbian and straight women work together toward a common mission and vision of acceptance.

    Coleman has been active as a civic leader in Seattle. He initiated and continues to direct the downtown Westlake Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration, was the music director of Seattle's Goodwill Games, and served on the advisory board guiding the design of Benaroya Hall. The Pride Foundation created a scholarship fund in his name to provide funding to LGBT students pursuing a degree in music.

  • Reel Grrls

    Video Profile

    Founded in 2001 by Malory Graham, Reel Grrls is an award-winning program devoted to empowering young women through media production.

    Reel Grrls' mission is to cultivate voice and leadership in girls at a vulnerable time in their development. The participants don't just drop into a computer lab after school - they develop lasting relationships with women filmmakers and learn skills that propel them to leadership roles in their community, college scholarships and careers in the media industry. More than 60 percent of participants, many of whom are low income and at-risk teens, receive scholarships.

    Reel Grrls offers a variety of hands-on workshops in specific skills including animation, cinematography, script writing and more. The organization offers day camps, weekend and after-school workshops, and an apprenticeship program in which advanced students provide professional video production services to Seattle-area nonprofits.

    In addition to providing young women with access to resources that allow them to create meaningful films, Reel Grrls helps teens showcase their work at festivals and local public screenings. Reel Grrls films have been screened and honored at more than 80 film festivals in the United States and abroad. Recent highlights include winning two Student Emmys from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and official selections in the Los Angeles Film Festival, the San Francisco International Film Festival, the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival and the Seattle International Film Festivals.

    For the past two years, Team Reel Grrls, a group of 10 Seattle-area women filmmakers who also serve as Reel Grrls mentors and staff, have received top honors in the International Documentary Challenge. In 2008, Team Reel Grrls won best film out of a pool of 150 international contestants and took home two 2009 jury awards, including best editing.

  • Sergei Tschernisch

    Video Profile

    Sergei Tschernisch, president of Seattle's Cornish College of the Arts, is a dynamic and respected arts educator. Tschernisch assumed his Cornish job in 1994 and has significantly expanded the campus, enrollment and reputation of the private college that focuses on degree programs in the visual and performing arts. He will retire from his post at the end of the 2010-11 academic year.

    Tschernisch boldly instigated and presided over a period of remarkable expansion of Cornish. Enrollment has grown from 500 students in 1994 to about 800 in 2010. And the school's big plans to add and modernize facilities were realized, despite limited dollars.

    Tschernisch has orchestrated a Cornish renaissance. Under his leadership, the school has achieved yearly balanced budgets, key faculty and staff appointments, curricular changes and new programs. The transformations are most dramatically apparent with the relocation and expansion of the campus from Capitol Hill to the Denny Triangle/South Lake Union area in downtown.

    He served three terms on the Seattle Arts Commission and played an integral role in advancing the commission's commitment to arts education in Seattle Public Schools.

    Tschernisch is an artist, educator and administrator whose professional career includes initiating and shaping some of the country's most progressive arts programs, including a 12-year tenure at CalArts and work at regional theaters in Boston, New York, Seattle and Los Angeles. His vision and energy has enabled Cornish to expand beyond Seattle and take its place as the premier visual and performing arts college of the Northwest.

    His vision and energy carry on the legacy of Cornish - since its founding in 1914 - to serve as an incubator for emerging artists and offer them a deep grounding in the skills of their profession (dance, music, theater, visual art) and the personal confidence and determination to succeed.

  • Velocity Dance Center

    Video Profile

    Seattle has one of the most active dance communities on the West Coast. It is home to dozens of independent choreographers and is renowned for producing innovative, cutting-edge work. Velocity Dance Center embodies the cornerstone of Seattle's dance ecosystem and contributes significantly to the national and international field of dance. It's Seattle's only dedicated contemporary dance venue where groundbreaking work and disciplined practice coexist.

    Launched in 1996 by dancer/choreographers KT Niehoff and Michele Miller, Velocity quickly grew into a vital force alongside the Seattle dance community. It offers a full schedule of classes for beginner through professional-level dancers, eight artist development programs, and affordable rehearsal and performance space to local dance companies and choreographers.

    Velocity is also home to the hugely popular Strictly Seattle, a three-week summer intensive that draws dancers from all over the country to participate in three weeks of classes and workshops taught by Seattle-based choreographers and culminating in public performances.

    In 2006, Niehoff and Miller stepped down, and Kara O'Toole took over as executive director of the contemporary dance studio, where the founders remain active as teachers and mentors.

    In 2007, Velocity's former home in the Odd Fellows Building on Capitol Hill was sold to a developer who raised the rent, making it impossible for the organization to remain in the space. So, under the leadership of O'Toole, Velocity launched a capital campaign to raise funds to relocate to and renovate a space just around the corner at 1621 12th Avenue. The organization moved into its new home in March 2010.

    Velocity Dance Center has over 15,000 site visits a year. It serves at least 5,000 individuals: including 3,000 adult students, 100 dance companies and individual artists, and the majority of Seattle's leading contemporary choreographers. Velocity maintains an audience of approximately 2,000 dance enthusiasts and keeps Seattle squarely on the contemporary dance map.

2009 Recipients

  • Artist Trust

    Video Profile

    Artist Trust is a Seattle-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting Washington state artists working in all disciplines. Founded in 1987 by a group of arts patrons and artists who were concerned about the lack of support for individual artists, Artist Trust has distributed more than $5 million through grants and professional development resources to thousands of the state's most promising and respected musicians, visual artists, writers, dancers, craft artists, filmmakers, cross-disciplinary artists and more.

    Through financial grants, professional development training, resources and artist networking events, Artist Trust provides artists the time and resources necessary to prosper. Its Grants for Artist Projects (GAP) Program provides up to $1,500 in support for artist-generated projects, and the Artist Trust/Washington State Arts Commission Fellowships recognize professional artists of exceptional talent and demonstrated ability with a merit-based $7,500 award. Additionally, each year the organization honors a Washington state female visual artist, age 60 or over, who has dedicated 25 or more years of her life to creating art with the Irving and Yvonne Twining Humber Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, an unrestricted award of $10,000.

    In addition to financial awards, Artist Trust delivers vital professional development information to thousands of artists through print and online resources, including a searchable database of current and ongoing opportunities ranging from grants to job postings to workshop offerings and listings for studio space and housing.

    Professional development training includes the EDGE Professional Development Program, a 50-hour training program for visual, literary and film/media artists, the I Am An Artist Professional Development Weekend, and free grant-writing and resources workshops offered across the state for artists of all disciplines.

    Artist Trust also serves as a clearinghouse for legal resources, health care information, and emergency assistance programs. Artist Trust has taken the lead on addressing the issue of health care for artists through the Washington Artists Health Insurance Project (WAHIP), an ambitious effort to forge new strategies to improve artists' access to health insurance. This year, the organization developed a pilot partnership with Country Doctor Community Clinic on Capitol Hill, where uninsured artists can apply for subsidized primary and preventative care.

  • Jesse Higman

    Video Profile

    Jesse Higman launched his career as an artist during the Northwest's grunge-music heyday of the early nineties. He started out painting leather jackets and guitars and graduated to illustrating album art and posters for local bands including Heart, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam. Several of his early pieces are in the collections of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Experience Music Project.

    Higman himself is as inspiring as his artwork. A quadriplegic, he has limited use of his hands. Twenty-four years ago he swerved to miss a squirrel in the road, wrecked his car and broke his neck. Today, his paintings have become larger in scale, and he often relies on the assistance of others to make his art. For Higman, the collaborative process is a driving influence in the visual outcomes of his work.

    Higman's more recent artistic endeavors include "alluvium" art, which he named after the geological term for fine sediment deposited by flowing water. He is most interested in the "physics of life" and is inspired by "nature's patterns, waves, ripples in sand, folds of mountains and iridescent oils on wet parking lots." His paintings could be considered watercolors, since he uses washes of water to deliver pigment. But the real medium according to Higman, is the systems from which things evolve - including weather, electrical, vascular, or ecosystems. Higman is planning a 20-year retrospective of his work at the Moore Theatre later this year.

  • Speight Jenkins

    Video Profile

    Speight Jenkins, celebrating his 25th season as general director of Seattle Opera, is recognized nationally as a politically active arts advocate, a leading authority on opera and one of the nation's most influential and accomplished general directors.

    Under Jenkins' leadership, Seattle Opera's productions have captured international acclaim, boosting the economy and raising the profile of Seattle as a thriving arts city. He has strengthened and extended the opera's reputation as a Wagner center—producing all 10 of Wagner's major operas—including two very different Ring productions. In August, the opera will again present the Ring cycle, generating more than $8 million in economic benefits. This summer's production will bring visitors to Seattle from 22 countries, 46 states and eight Canadian provinces.

    Jenkins led a Seattle Opera team that was instrumental in helping to design and build Marion Oliver McCaw Hall in 2003, raising more than 70 percent of the building costs in tandem with Pacific Northwest Ballet and Seattle Center.

    Jenkins has also championed a nationally acclaimed education program that brings young opera artists to elementary schools and encourages thousands of high school students to learn about opera by attending dress rehearsals. Since its inception in 1998, the Opera's Young Artists Program has helped to launch the careers of many singers. Former Young Artists have gone on to perform on Seattle Opera's mainstage and have appeared with major opera companies throughout the United States and Europe.

    Prior to his work at Seattle Opera, Jenkins wrote for the New York Post, was an editor of Opera News and hosted the Metropolitan Opera telecasts.

  • Northwest Tap Connection

    Video Profile

    A South Seattle urban dance studio which trains and inspires young dancers, Northwest Tap Connection is committed to enriching the lives of its students (ages 5 to 19) through dance, while developing self-discipline, instilling self-confidence and encouraging achievement and goal setting.

    Louisiana native and tap dance historian Melba Ayco serves as program and artistic director, striving to incorporate the mood of "Down South" roots into the choreography performed by the company. While rhythm tap is the primary dance form, the school also offers a variety of dance styles, including jazz, modern, hip-hop, ballet, African, and swing.

    Ayco has worked hard to create an environment where dancers can grow artistically and technically, and at the same time develop leadership skills, a sense of social responsibility and knowledge of the history and art form of dance.

    Intermediate and advanced students perform works by emerging and master choreographers and are encouraged to participate in an annual tap festival. Dancers have traveled to Chicago, Ill.; Denver, Colo.; Minneapolis, Minn.; New Orleans, La.; New York, NY; Los Angeles, Calif.; and Washington D.C. Some of the senior students have danced with tap legends such as the late Gregory Hines and Savion Glover.

  • Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras

    Video Profile

    Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras (SYSO) is the largest youth symphony organization in the United States. Founded in 1942, it serves more than 1,100 diverse students a year through four orchestras, three summer programs and partnerships with local public schools. Through its financial aid programs, SYSO makes sure every talented child can receive excellent music education, regardless of their financial resources.

    For many of the region's young musicians, SYSO is their first taste of a musical life, and some have gone on to perform in the world's great concert halls.

    Last fall, The Wallace Foundation awarded SYSO a four-year $500,000 award to support SYSO in the Schools program. Developed in partnership with Seattle Public Schools, the program aims to introduce new instrumental music programs in elementary schools, and ultimately increase the number of middle school orchestra programs in the school district. The project is expected to serve between 6,000 and 10,000 students with instrumental music lessons, in-school concerts and free tickets to Seattle Youth Symphony performances.

    SYSO in the Schools sprung from the Endangered Instruments Program (EIP), founded by SYSO in 1990 as an in-school program to encourage music students to learn less commonly played instruments. EIP provides school music departments with weekly free group instrumental lessons for students in the early stages of learning on instruments such as the oboe, viola, tuba and French horn. The program is designed to increase the size, diversity and quality of school band and orchestra programs.

    SYSO's academic-year orchestra program serves more than 470 students through four full orchestras. Comprised of the organization's most advanced players, the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra is SYSO's flagship orchestra and one of the premier youth orchestras in the country. Under the baton of Music Director Stephen Radcliffe, the orchestra's repertoire includes a variety of styles from early music to world premieres. The orchestra performs three regular season concerts in Benaroya Hall.

2008 Recipients

  • 14/48: the world's quickest theater festival

    Video Profile

    In its 11th year, 14/48 is Seattle's beloved theater marathon. Twice a year, it boasts 14 plays conceived, written, designed, scored, rehearsed, and performed in 48 hours, thus its official nickname - "the world's quickest theater festival."

    Founded in 1997 by Michael Neff and Jodi-Paul Wooster, the festival has evolved from a one-night one-time-only event to a twice-yearly, two-weekend-long theatrical bonanza that features Seattle's most fearless theater artists with occasional guests from Los Angeles; Vancouver, B.C.; and New York. Participation is by invitation only and ranges from experienced fringe theater artists to Seattle's performance elite. Each festival, 14/48's Steering Committee strives to comprise the artist pool of at least 30 percent new participants - or "14/48 virgins" as they are called.

    Here's how the 14/48 process works. On the night before the festival, all participants for that weekend meet and choose a theme at random. Seven writers have one night to write a 10-minute play based on that theme. In the morning, seven directors gather and each randomly draws one play. One half-hour later, the directors blindly choose actors to cast the show. And then the band shows up to provide music and sound throughout the festival. The directors and their casts spend the day in rehearsal and tech and mount seven brand new plays that evening. At the end of the night, the audience, inspired by the seven world premieres they just experienced, chooses a new theme, and the adrenaline-charged theater-a-thon kicks in again.

    Ticket sales and grant dollars cover the festival's operating costs. Participants aren't paid but are rewarded with food, beer, and a theatrical experience they will never forget.

  • Coyote Central and Marybeth Satterlee

    Video Profile

    Marybeth Satterlee, an inspired middle-school teacher, co-founded Coyote Central in 1986 with fellow teacher Greg Ewert. Their goal - to offer the richness of creative discovery to all kids.

    Today, Satterlee and Claudia Stelle lead the organization, which targets middle-school-age students through weekend and summer workshops led by artists and other professionals in real-life settings. Students become filmmakers, hot glass artists, treehouse builders, fashion illustrators, photographers, welders, pastry chefs, furniture makers, painters, cartoonists, public artists, and much more.

    Since it was founded, more than 10,000 kids have taken part in Coyote's three programs: Studio Coyote, a year-round series of intensive workshops; Hit the Streets, a summer public art project aimed at low-income youth in the Central District and south end; and City Works, collaborations with local businesses and agencies that commission Coyote artists to make site-specific public art.

    Coyote's engaging projects attract young people from diverse backgrounds all over the city. No student is turned away. A scholarship program and a system of auction trades and barters ensure all kids can participate.

  • Hugo Ludeña

    Video Profile

    Photographer Hugo Ludeña has been shining a lens on Latino culture in the Northwest for 15 years. His documentary photography creates a colorful visual narrative of everyday activities and celebrations - from weddings to quinceañeras and community festivals.

    When Ludeña arrived in the Northwest in 1993, he was struck by the cultural separation between Latinos and other cultural groups. His photo essay "Latinos in the Northwest: A Cultural Journey," widely exhibited throughout the region in 2007, aimed to break down barriers between cultures and celebrate local Latino life.

    Two years ago, Ludeña launched Latino Cultural Magazine to highlight Latino contributions to arts and culture. The quarterly fine arts publication also serves as a networking tool for artists.

    Ludeña grew up in Lima, Perú and moved to the United States at the age of 18. He studied graphic design and photojournalism. His people and bilingual skills landed him a youth outreach job in Seattle in the early '90s.

    Today, Ludeña continues to mentor youth through the medium of photography. Last year, as a teaching artist for Youth in Focus' South Park PhotoVoice Project, he helped connect young residents of the South Seattle neighborhood to their culture and community through photography.

  • Nonsequitur

    Video Profile

    Nonsequitur Foundation, a new music nonprofit, recently transformed a chapel space into a hopping hub for experimental music.

    Founded by Steve Peters and Jonathan Scheuer in 1989 in New Mexico, Nonsequitur moved to Seattle in 2004. After a few years of renting venues around town on a per-event basis, the organization struck a long-term deal with Historic Seattle to use the renovated Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford. In early 2007, Nonsequitur presented its first official show in the new venue.

    Nonsequitur presents adventurous and experimental music ten times a month in the Chapel, sharing most of those nights with a cadre of like-minded artists and organizations at a very reasonable semi-subsidized rate. If ticket sales are under $200, the 20-percent rental fee is waived.

    The Chapel quickly struck a chord in the music community. The hall has hosted more than 100 innovative, experimental music performances and is booked well into 2009.

    Dedicated to the presentation of experimental music and sound art, Nonsequitur began as a CD publishing project and about a decade ago shifted its focus to live events and sound installations. A composer and sound artist, Peters' own work is often site-specific, made with recorded sounds of the environment and found objects, traditional instruments, and spoken text. He performs with the Seattle Phonographers Union and also works as a freelance producer, writer, and curator.

  • Cathryn Vandenbrink

    Video Profile

    Cathryn Vandenbrink has dedicated the past dozen years of her career working to carve out long-term affordable space for artists and arts organizations in Seattle. In her role as regional director of Artspace Projects, Vandenbrink gives artists room to create in the face of a common scenario - artists settle in the low-rent neighborhood, the neighborhood becomes hip, artists are forced out by rising prices.

    Artspace is the nation's leading nonprofit real estate developer for the arts, based in Minneapolis with an office in Seattle. Vandenbrink was at the helm of the most recent Artspace project in Seattle. The Artspace Hiawatha Lofts in the Central District opened in March and features 61 affordable live/work studios designed to meet the needs of the creative community. In 2004, Vandenbrink oversaw the rehab of the Tashiro Kaplan Artist Lofts in Pioneer Square, reversing a trend of disappearing artist live/workspace in the neighborhood. Both projects feature space for ground-floor retail, galleries, and arts organizations.

    Prior to joining Artspace, Vandenbrink was deputy director of the Pioneer Square Community Development Organization. Previously, she worked as a self-employed jewelry artist for 20 years.

  • Wing Luke Asian Museum

    Video Profile

    It began as a modest museum for more than 40 years. Today, the Wing Luke Asian Museum has grown into a nationally acclaimed institution for Asian Pacific American history, art, and culture. Last month, the museum entered a new era when it opened the doors to its new home in the historic East Kong Yick Building in the Chinatown/International District.

    The museum embarked on a $23.2 million capital campaign to rehabilitate the Kong Yick Building built by Chinese immigrants in 1910. The 60,000-square-foot, four-story building is more than eight times larger than the museum's previous home in a former parking garage less than one block away.

    The museum has set itself apart with its community-driven approach to exhibits. Instead of relying on professional curators to organize shows, museum staff seeks input from community members. The museum's new home features community spaces - a reception hall and theater and galleries with exhibits that address contemporary and historic issues. Guided "Historic Immersion Tours" take visitors back 100 years to a one-room apartment, a neighborhood store, a communal kitchen, and more.

    After 17 years at the helm, Executive Director Ron Chew retired in December 2007. A self-taught curator, he steered a grassroots museum into a nationally acclaimed institution for Asian Pacific American history and culture. Beth Takekawa, CEO of the museum, took over as executive director early this year.

    A Smithsonian Institution affiliate, the museum is the premier pan-Asian Pacific American museum in the country. Its namesake, Wing Luke, served on the Seattle City Council from 1962 to 1965. He was the first Asian American elected to public office in the Pacific Northwest. He was 40 when he died in a plane crash in 1965.

2007 Recipients

  • Clarence Acox Jr., Jazz Musician and Director of Jazz Bands at Garfield High School

Video Profile

Clarence Acox Jr., an instrumental figure in the Seattle music scene, has nurtured young musicians for the past 35 years as director of jazz bands at Garfield High School, where he leads the renowned Garfield Jazz Ensemble, winning dozens of awards and making regular appearances at national and international venues.

A native of New Orleans, La., Acox came to Seattle in 1971 straight out of Southern University, where he was recruited by Garfield High School to revive its moribund music program. Garfield's Jazz Ensemble has twice taken first place (in 2003 and 2004) at New York's Essentially Ellington National Jazz Band Competition and Festival at New York City's Lincoln Center — the country's most prestigious high school jazz competition. Under Acox's direction, the jazz ensemble has swept every major competition on the West Coast, including the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow, Idaho, and Oregon's Mt. Hood Jazz Festival.

Acox, who also directs Seattle University's Jazz Ensemble, was named "Educator of the Year" by Down Beat Magazine in 2001. In 2004, the Seattle Music Educator's Association awarded him its "Outstanding Music Educator" award.

An accomplished and in-demand drummer, Acox co-founded the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra in 1995 and performed with the Floyd Standifer Quartet (now Legends Quartet) at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant for more than two decades.

  • Earshot Jazz and John Gilbreath, Executive Director

Video Profile

Earshot Jazz, the Seattle nonprofit arts organization best known for its fall jazz festival, was formed in 1984 to support jazz artists, students, and audiences in the Seattle area. Over the course of more than 20 years, Earshot Jazz has played a pivotal role in Seattle's music community by bringing jazz innovators to the region, championing local and emerging artists and providing quality education programs.

At the organization's helm since 1991, Executive Director John Gilbreath has shaped Earshot's varied programs, including a year-round slate of concert series, an annual Golden Ear Award recognizing the accomplishments of Seattle jazz artists and a monthly news magazine devoted to the region's jazz scene.

Under Gilbreath's leadership, the Earshot Jazz Festival, a two-week marathon featuring dozens of jazz concerts at an array of Seattle venues, has become one of the largest jazz festivals on the West Coast. The festival attracts artists from around the world to Seattle's stages and hosts them alongside exceptional local musicians.

Earshot has been selected for major national funding initiatives from the Lila Wallace and Doris Duke foundations as well as the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Earshot is a noted partner of the NEA's Jazz Masters on Tour Initiative. Gilbreath has also fostered countless creative collaborations with Seattle cultural organizations and community partners, including a jazz film series at Northwest Film Forum, and Art of Jazz, an evening concert series at Seattle Art Museum.

  • Jean Griffith, Pottery Northwest, Founding Member and Former Director

Video Profile

Jean Griffith, a founding member of Pottery Northwest and its director for more than 30 years, has played a major role in promoting contemporary ceramics in the Northwest.

Pottery Northwest, a non-profit ceramics center on the edge of Seattle Center, offers a unique communal learning and working environment. Griffith didn't set out to be its longtime director. In 1966, she became one of the first instructors for the new non-profit educational institution. Griffith was hired in 1971 as the director, a position which she held, with one brief retirement, until 2003 when she became president of the board. She stepped down from the board in the fall of 2006, shortly after Pottery Northwest celebrated its 40th anniversary.

It wasn't until her mid-30s that Griffith got involved in clay. As a graduate student at the University of Washington and president of the Seattle Clay Club, she brought initial attention to raku, then an unexplored area. Her early work also included large-scale, slat-glazed sculptures and raku wall reliefs, monumental for their time.

Lauded for her contributions in ceramics, Griffith has been heralded as Seattle's "muse of clay." She set her artmaking aside to lead Pottery Northwest, managing its finances, overseeing classes, hiring instructors, setting up workshops, lectures and exhibitions. Widely praised for her leadership, Griffith's honors include being named an Honorary Fellow of the American Craft Council in 1996.

  • Longhouse Media's Native Lens Program

Video Profile

Longhouse Media's Native Lens program teaches Native youth not only how to make films but how to collaboratively tell stories that challenge stereotypes about Native Americans while bridging a gap between Native youth and digital media. In addition to providing life skills, alternative education and career development in the media field, this program offers youth an opportunity to express the stories they want to tell while giving back to their communities.

Longhouse Media was launched in January 2005 by Executive Director Tracy Rector and Artistic Director Annie Silverstein with the support of the Swinomish Indian Tribe. It houses the Native Lens program, which got its start in 2003 in the Swinomish Tribal Community. Since its inception, Native Lens has reached youth across the country and around the world.

In just over two short, dynamic years Longhouse Media has introduced hundreds of students — many who come from low-income and at-risk backgrounds — to the art of writing and filmmaking. Much of Longhouse's success hinges on partnerships with regional tribes, funding agencies and other nonprofit organizations. In a partnership between Longhouse Media and the Seattle International Film Festival, Longhouse produced the first youth Superfly Filmmaking Experience in Seattle. Superfly is an exciting 36-hour challenge where youth from around the country come to Seattle to plan, write, shoot and edit four complete films. The resulting production is screened at SIFF to an audience of 850 film goers.

With a mission to catalyze indigenous people and communities to use media as a tool for self-expression, cultural preservation, and social change, Longhouse Media's Native Lens program is one of a handful of programs across the nation that focuses specifically on empowering Native youth via film and digital media.

  • Massive Monkees, B-boy Crew

Video Profile

Massive Monkees, a Seattle b-boy (break-dancing) crew, is a local favorite on the international performance and competition circuits.

The world champion breaking crew has wowed audiences around the globe with its spectacular flow and combinations, all the while serving as Seattle ambassadors. In 2004, the group beat out 32 teams at the world championships in London to take the top prize at the World B-Boy Championship. Currently, the Massive Monkees are the subject of a documentary film project, are appearing as part of the sold-out Vans Warp Tour and recently captured a second-place finish at R16 Sparkling Seoul B-boy Competition in Seoul, South Korea.

Closer to home, Massive Monkees are dedicated to teaching their craft to the next generation through weekly free dance-studio classes at Beacon Hill's Jefferson Community Center. They lend their services to elementary schools to raise awareness about the effects of drugs and alcohol on a healthy lifestyle, host voter registration drives, organize battles for teenagers that need outlets for their angst and perform as the Sonics Boom Squad at Key Arena during the Seattle SuperSonics' home games.

Massive Monkees recipe for success is the chemistry within the crew; outsiders note that it seems more like a family. The group formed in 1999, but many members got their start around 1995 thanks to the teachings of Seattle legend Fever1. Today the crew boasts more than two-dozen dancers, DJs, producers and graffiti artists. Nearly all grew up in Seattle's South End neighborhoods. The way Massive Monkees sees it, b-boys are more than just the athletic competitors in hip-hop. They are buzz generators, innovators and role models for Seattle hip-hop.

  • Richard Hugo House

Video Profile

Seattle is the nation's most literate city, according to an annual ranking called America's Most Literate Cities. Although Seattle is a place known for its writers and bookstores, no central "hub" existed for writers and readers to meet until a decade ago, when Richard Hugo House — the inspiration of three Seattle writers hoping to establish an urban writer's retreat — opened its doors.

Hugo House, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in September 2007, has supported poets, journalists, prose writers, storytellers, spoken word artists, zine makers, graphic novelists, bloggers and more.

Today, the Capitol Hill literary arts center is fast evolving into a regional and national force, with a focus on nurturing new writing through classes, literary events and residencies for writers. Hugo Writing Classes and the Hugo Literary Series are at the heart of programming. In the former, writers hone their writing skills; in the latter, writers of regional and national reputation are invited to bring new writing to the House and present it to the public. Other programs include the Hugo Writers Fund, which co-sponsors more than 50 literary events each year; creative writing classes for young people ages 8 to 18; a regular publishing series called InPrint; and the Hugo Zine Archive and Publishing Project, which maintains a library of over 18,000 handmade and independent publications.

Hugo House's residencies offer established writers stipends and/or space to support their work; in exchange, these writers hold office hours and consult free of charge with anyone in the city and region who seeks their expertise.

In 2008, Hugo House will expand its current residency program to include two theater residencies, with the purpose of helping build strong, viable theater companies committed to presenting innovative new work.

  • Seattle Art Museum and Mimi Gardner Gates, Director

Video Profile

For more than seven decades, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) has been one of the Pacific Northwest's leading visual arts institutions, experiencing explosive growth in the past year. When SAM opened its doors in Volunteer Park in 1933, the museum's collection focused primarily on Asian art. Today, the Seattle Art Museum has matured into a world-class arts institution with a global perspective.

The opening of the expanded downtown Seattle Art Museum in May 2007 marked the completion of two major capital projects and the beginning of a dynamic new era for the museum. The museum's striking new building more than doubles the museum's space. In January 2007, the museum opened the highly acclaimed Olympic Sculpture Park, transforming downtown Seattle's largest undeveloped waterfront property from a former industrial site into a free and vibrant green space for art and people. The Seattle Asian Art Museum, the museum's original facility at Volunteer Park, is a lively center for Asian art and culture.

The mastermind behind the museum's renaissance is Mimi Gardner Gates, who joined the Seattle Art Museum as director in May 1994. A scholar of Asian Art with a strong interest in Chinese painting, ceramics and the history of ornament, she had formerly served as director of the Yale University Art Gallery.

During her tenure, Gates has led the museum forward, organizing major exhibitions, publishing scholarly publications and embarking on significant capital projects. In honor of SAM's 75th anniversary in 2008, the museum received an unprecedented series of gifts from prominent museum patrons and collectors. The gifts — nearly 1,000 works from 40 collections — significantly enhance SAM's holdings and reinforce the museum's dedication to artistic excellence.

2006 Recipients

Seattle Children's Theatre and Artistic Director Linda Hartzell
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Northwest Folklife and Executive Director Michael J. Herschensohn
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Rainier Vista Cambodian Youth Program
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Gerard Schwarz, Music Director, Seattle Symphony
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Michael Spafford, Elizabeth Sandvig, and Spike Mafford, a family of Northwest artists
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Reggie Watts, musician and comedian
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2005 Recipients

David Brewster and Town Hall, Cultural Catalyst
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Peter Donnelly, Tour de Force
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Sara Liberty Laylin and Adams Elementary School, Innovation in Integrated Arts Education
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Alden Mason, Northwest Legacy: Visual Art
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The Tsutakawa Family: Gerard, Deems, Marcus and Mayumi, A Generation of Artistic Inspiration & Leadership
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Reverend Patrinell Wright and Total Experience Gospel Choir, Soul of the Community
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2004 Recipients

Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas
Outstanding Contribution to the Community

The Seattle Foundation
Outstanding Arts Philanthropy

Tim Summers
Unsung Hero, Outstanding Individual Commitment to the Arts

Sub Pop Records
Excellence and Innovation by the Next Generation

Kent Stowell & Francia Russell
Special Lifetime Achievement

2003 Recipients

The Allen Foundation for the Arts
Outstanding Arts Philanthropy

Arts Corps
Outstanding Contribution to Arts Education

Vinson Cole
Outstanding Individual Achievement and Commitment to the Arts

Consolidated Works
Excellence and Innovation by a Next Generation Arts Organization.

Arts & Culture

Gülgün Kayim, Director
Address: 303 S. Jackson Street, Top Floor, Seattle, WA , 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 94748, Seattle, WA , 98124-4748
Phone: (206) 684-7171
Fax: (206) 684-7172

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The Office of Arts & Culture promotes the value of arts and culture in, and of, communities throughout Seattle. It strives to ensure that a wide range of high-quality artistic experiences are available to everyone, encourage artist-friendly arts and cultural policy.