letter from the director: a turning point

We Partied Like It Was 5834 with 900 of our Closest Friends

Last night, June 28th, we finally got a chance to celebrate the passage of the lodging tax legislation, SB 5834, with many of our friends and colleagues at the fabulous Paramount Theatre.  It was a truly magical evening.

I was reminded over the course of the evening how important it is for the cultural community to come together, renew friendships and enjoy each other’s company.  “You should do this more often,” a refrain I heard repeatedly last night and today.

It was wonderful to see key elected officials mingle and converse with our crowd, filled with heritage specialists, preservationists, artists and enthusiastic citizens.  King County Executive Dow Constantine, Councilmember Larry Phillips, Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, Sen. Scott White, Rep. Ross Hunter and Sen. Ed Murray, former Rep. Louise Miller and current Board President, Dale Smith, all took a few moments to share remarks with the assembly.  We acknowledged our gratitude for the grass roots efforts of the citizen advocacy group, Advocate4Culture.  Their tireless efforts to encourage activism paid off in spades during the legislative session.  They did what public employees like me cannot do.

No party would be complete without entertainment and last night we showcased a small sample of the talented performers who bring art to the public in so many ways.  The lineup included percussionist Paul Kikuchi; the Seattle Youth Symphony Contrasts Ensemble; Abdoulaye Sylla and Message from Guinea; violinist Quinton Morris; two young poets, Slwan Logman and Hamda Yusuf from Chief Sealth High School International Poetry Club; Lucia Neare’s spectacular ensemble of cats, clocks, rabbits and horses who comprise her Theatrical Wonders; the Seattle SeaChordsmen an  acappella vocal group; and world music duo Correo Aereo.  They couldn’t have been more engaging and entertaining.   I hate to rub it in, but if you weren’t there you missed a great party.  Kudos to Josh LaBelle and his terrific staff for the use of the stunning historic Paramount Theatre.

The party is over, but the sweet hangover remains.  I can’t get the thought out of my mind that maybe, just maybe, we’ve reached a turning point.   Last night, I was in a room in which the possibilities seemed limitless.   There was a palpable sense that the collective “we” were responsible for this success.  Somewhere in the past several months, we passed a threshold from passive resignation that our fate was in the hands of others to active engagement with the knowledge that we could influence the decisions that determine the way culture is perceived and supported.

After a legislative session that was more difficult than any in recent memory, it was clear that the elected officials in the room were proud to have delivered this legislation and pleased to feel appreciated and recognized by the crowd.  This may be a game-changing moment.  What shall we do with it?

Photos © 2011 Scott Squire, NonFiction Media, nonfictionmedia.com