Nearly 100 people attended the Mixer on Dec 4, to celebrate industry professionals and community stakeholders who took part in the conversations about the local creative ecosystem this year.
Sharon Nyree Williams, Executive Director of CD Forum, welcomed guests to the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute and shared a summary of key themes from this past year’s industry roundtables, identifying opportunities for city government to best support Seattle’s artists and creatives.
The community engagement conducted over the summer builds on research that the City supported in the last couple of years; looking at both statistical data and individuals’ stories to better understand Seattle’s creative economy and creative ecosystem. The main question posed during this process was: how can the City grow, support, and retain creatives while reducing disparities and inequities within the creative economy?
The research over the summer prioritized creatives of color for participation in focus groups. They represented various creative occupations, gigs, and other artistic endeavors. Over 150 individuals participated in 15 prioritized focus groups. In addition to focus groups, several OFM Mixers were hosted over the summer, as well as conversations with film community members, special events and festival producers, and arts journalism and media stakeholders. In total, 850 people provided feedback and input.
A series of themes emerged from these conversations. The most mentioned themes were:
- Lack of Opportunity, Resources, and Mentorship
- Structural Barriers
- Affordability and Wages
- A Desire to Deepen Collaboration with the Tech Sector
- The Need to Celebrate Arts & Cultural Media
- Strengthen Career Pathways
The themes provided a roadmap to 9 Proposed Actionable and Solution-Oriented Goals.
- Improve Quality of Life for Artists and Creatives: Creatives felt that the City must take the lead in creating a culture of reverence and respect for the vast creative community.
- Engage Harder to Reach Populations: Community engagement and mixer events reached over 850 individuals. This was a multi-ethnic, multi-generational and multi-arts genre group of creatives who want to use their skills and experiences to inform the work of our city government.
- Enhancing Existing Initiatives and Create New Initiatives: Further explore the recommended actions for incorporation into existing, expanded, or new opportunities. Use specific opportunities and existing models for increased support to existing assets.
- Access to Artistic and Creative Work Space: Actively develop and implement innovative approaches to improve housing affordability, venues, and workspaces for creatives.
- Bridge Artists, Technology and Creativity: To develop and execute comprehensive and sustainable activities that retain and promote a creative economy within the city, there must be a good understanding of the diversity among artists and their relationship with technology and creativity.
- Strategically Align the Work of the Commissions: The Seattle Arts Commission and Seattle Music Commission and their members are key stakeholders in the upcoming work of the creative economy in the city. Although they are independent bodies working with the City, they should be activated to further develop policy actions together to benefit the entire creative ecosystem of Seattle.
- Build More Strategic Collaborations Across City Departments: As the Office of Arts & Culture, Office of Film + Music, Office of Economic Development, Seattle Arts Commission and Seattle Music Commission continue to develop their collaborative and inclusive creative economy strategy, all of the independent bodies of work should be used to further develop final policy actions. Prioritize strategies to address the most frequently mentioned themes.
- Stimulate Innovative Thinking: Following the research conducted by a group of University of Washington Evans School grad students, build upon the strength of grounding any action plan in relevant criteria that bolsters the analysis and stimulates innovative thinking.
- Integrate Existing Research and Data into Decision-making: The sum of all relevant studies that happened this year should be interlaced with the findings outlined in the “road map” report (to be published in late Jan 2020) to create an overall strategy.
The program featured conversations with four artists who took part in the creative economy focus groups this year: Earnest Thomas, Zoser, Isabella L. Price and Nia-Amina Minor.
“I believe what [the ONYX Fine Arts Collective] are doing, is something really important in the community, by giving artists an outlet to show their artwork.” Earnest Thomas, president of ONYX, a collaborative of artists and supporters committed to celebrating and promoting the visual artwork of artists of African descent.
On activities that would benefit youth in the creative economy: “First, it’s great that we have a lot of people here,” notes Zoser, a young singer/songwriter who blends pop, folk, and hip hop. “But it would be good to have a lot more young faces to learn about the industry. Second, Seattle needs to help young people get on big stages because that will help them push forward with going for their dream.”
Regarding collaboration with tech companies: “Trying to work together with people in the tech industry, there is so much emphasis on data, the math and sciences,” said Isabella L. Price, filmmaker, writer, podcaster, host, performer, and youtuber. “And there is a weird separation between art and sciences, where there really doesn’t need to be… I think we really need to have more of those spaces that don’t really focus on art or tech, but both so that we can connect.”
On challenges of affordability and gig work in Seattle: “I am really kind of lucky, I have two positions with Spectrum [Dance Theater]; I am an artist and I dance with them full time, and I am their Community Engagement Artist Liaison. But that’s not always the case for a lot of artists,” said Nia-Amina Minor, movement artist and educator. “I dance, I teach, I accept a lot work, it becomes a lot of accepting work and your capacity to work is full. The theme that ‘you’re not making enough’ does have an effect. There’s a lot of exhaustion, there’s a lot of physical and mental toll… It becomes a thing, where the artist has to sacrifice to make this great work and you start to question that. What is a solution for that or will artists have to burn out?”
Thank you to all our featured artists, moderators, and everyone who was able to attend our December edition of the Mixer!
Everyone is invited to continue your involvement in this process to build an inclusive local creative economy.
Resources, presentations, and reports on the Creative Economy/Industries can be found here.
Save the date for the next Mixer on Wednesday, Jan 29, from 5-7 pm at Seapine Brewing Company Taproom (youth and pet friendly!) in SODO.