On Monday, July 27, 80 artists, arts administrators, and arts admirers found refuge from the heat in the Frye Art Museum for the kick-off mixer of a new group – the Seattle Arts Leadership Team (SALT). I walked into the Frye café and joined the group of people circling around guest speakers Nancy Chang, director of Reel Grrls, and Lara Davis, Arts Education Manager at the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture.
The program featured a series of stories from local arts leaders. Elisheba Johnson took us back to a time when she owned a small art gallery, years before she had considered herself an arts administrator. She spoke to the importance and power that lies in the hands of artists, and our opportunity to become change agents in our community – specifically in regards to social justice. Nancy’s words were a sigh of relief – quirky and full of female empowerment; they were a reminder to young artists that we are powerful, we are strange, and that we deserve to be heard. Lara’s audio piece featured several young children, one of whom really stuck with me – a young boy, maybe five years old, who talked about his experiences flying in his dreams. As his voice spilled through the room, I could feel that lightness in my stomach, and suddenly I wasn’t an arts administrator. I was a five year old girl wearing my favorite black wig and black tights – a silly feeling of childhood déjà vu that reminded me of my creative freedom. The nods that trickled around the circle, and the brightness and attention of the group, vividly captured the community and the resource that SALT can become.
After the program, folks divided up into three groups based on years of experience: 0-5, 5-10, and 10+. I joined the newbies, where about 30 of us began introductions by stating our names, organizations, and the flavor of ice cream that best describes us as people (the biggest challenge of my week). Green tea, salted caramel and cookies and cream began to tell stories about the personality of each arts leader in the room. For me, the “name game” usually triggers immediate and uncontrollable memory loss, but I wanted to listen to these people, and I wanted to know them. Writers, painters, musicians, art students; people working at small nonprofits, small arts orgs, large arts orgs– there was such an interesting pool of people I wanted to engage. Honestly, I felt intimidated, but as soon as the group dispersed, three people immediately rushed over to me to ask more about my position, and how they could collaborate with me in my work.
In the café, large sheets of paper were spread on the tables, and folks were encouraged to write their current art projects in need of support or volunteers. Projects like Girl Gods, Seattle Turkish Short Film Festival, Voices of the Aquarium, and Espacio de Arte were spread all over, and each had a spattering of blue and pink sticky notes of support. By the end of the mixer, every project had at least one volunteer (and some had 10+). I left the event feeling empowered and excited to join such a talented network of people within the Seattle arts community.
The mixer was the first of many SALT events this year. All emerging arts leaders are encouraged to join us Monday, September 28 from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Frye Art Museum for the first program in the SALT speaker series. The book club will meet on October 12 from 6-7:30 p.m. We will be discussing “What We Made” by Tom Finkelpearl. RSVP for the book club here. For more information, visit the SALT website: SaltSeattle.org.
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Photos by Sunita Martini