Cathy Tuttle, District 4 Candidate — Arts Platform

Candidate: Cathy Tuttle, Candidate for District 4


Seattle Arts Voter Guide: Describe a meaningful arts experience that has stayed with you over time.

Tuttle: About 15 years ago I was at Folklife. I saw a sign for an upcoming performance: Tiny Ninja Theater Hamlet. I went in with few expectations – based on the title I was anticipating something funny and a little bizarre. My first look as I walked in the door did nothing to dispel this thought. One man in black puppeteers’ coveralls stood near a little table at his eye level. It was covered in tiny ninja figurines and plastic farm animals. He was the only actor. Two video cameras brought the story to the audience. He was brilliant. It was a moving and memorable telling of the Hamlet story told with little plastic ninjas and animals and one person voicing all the parts. It blew me away.

This speaks to something I deeply appreciate about artists and art in general. The actor had certainly been rehearsing for ages to get Tiny Ninja Hamlet just right. The cameras and the drama of the piece were so expertly done. He’d embodied the play. The time, the dedication, the persistence, and even the obsessiveness of his art, and art as a whole, is so humbling. It speaks to a human need to not just do something practical, but to share something transcendental. Tiny Ninja Theater Hamlet struck this artistic need out of the park. If something so outwardly simple can do it – one actor with tiny ninja dolls – what amazing beings we humans are.

Self portrait by Cathy Tuttle

SAVG: How do the arts reflect the voices and perspectives in your own neighborhood?

Tuttle: When I first think of my neighborhood and my district, I don’t think of an outwardly artsy place. There are certainly extraordinary artists here, but it is not incorporated deeply into the exterior of the neighborhood. But the people here show a pragmatic approach to art and beauty. Walking down a street, I see how my neighbors like to build stuff, with their hands, but also make it beautiful. Our gardens are places of art with often exuberant palettes of color. People who are able have reconfigured old buildings as art pieces – old wooden houses, brick apartment buildings, and storefronts with intricate details in unexpected places.

We also have a strong musical thread – I know composers and rock musicians and bluegrass singers and jazz musicians who perform throughout the neighborhood and often throughout the country. More often, though, I see people who practice constructive arts: potters, quilters, sculptors who work in a vast range of materials. We have pastry and culinary artists – there are extraordinary works of art in bakery windows and restaurant tables. The production of alcohol and coffee here is also quite artistic.

The arts of this neighborhood show an undertone of practicality – we like to build things. But we also want to make them beautiful.

SAVG: How do you envision the arts as part of the Seattle, especially as part of education, equity, housing, transportation, culture, the economy, and/or community?

Tuttle: I went to Cal Arts in the 1970s and there I learned that the very best art I could make is art in collaboration with many kinds of artists. I was blessed to be in school with filmmakers, designers, musicians, painters, dancers, and sculptors and the best art I made was built together. I envision this for Seattle arts and for Seattle as a whole. I see us bringing artists to the table as we make decisions about where our city is moving and how we want to get there.

I later went on to get a PhD in city planning, with a focus on how people use streets. I use this artistic, collaborative perspective in that work. Public spaces and streets are artful. Most streets in this city right now are homogenized because we see them and use them only to carry and park the maximum number of vehicles. We need space for people and plants and housing and business and life. Not every street has to do everything, but right now we’re doing nothing with them. I see arts as being a critical part of this process of bringing Seattle to life. What would it mean to look at our city as a collaborative space for people to live and express themselves? Art and our city collide, collaborate, and come to life when we have the imagination to think of streets beyond cars.