Phil Tavel, Candidate for District 1 — Arts Platform

Candidate: Phil Travel, Candidate for District 1


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

Tavel: My parents are huge supporters of the arts and I grew up enjoying the benefits of their season tickets at the Hartford Stage in Hartford, Connecticut.  Whenever there was a Shakespearean play or production slated for Broadway, they would take me with them as well.  We attended the Museum of Natural History, the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery, the Smithsonian and a collection of smaller galleries and museums whenever we travelled.  I developed a true love and respect for the arts because of the amazing childhood I had with parents who also loved and respected the arts and placed a very high value on a well-rounded education.  

Both of my parents are retired educators and conveyed how important it was to ensure access for all to the arts.  My parents both play instruments (my mother attended the Hartford Conservatory of Music for piano when she was growing up), and are both fantastic artists (my mother as a painter and my father works in pen and ink).  When I first arrived to West Seattle over 20 years ago, I remember walking along Alki Beach and coming across the Statue of Liberty (an installation donated by the Boy Scouts of America in 1952, re-cast in 2008) located near the site of the landing of the Denny Party; and I discovered West Seattle was originally named “New York Alki”. Being from New York, I felt an immediate connection with West Seattle.  When my parents moved out to Seattle in 2008, we immediately joined SAM and the Frye, and attended the Seattle Rep as well as the Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan Society performances together – things that I had discovered during my first decade in Seattle.  My whole life I have been incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by the arts, and to have a family so totally supportive of learning and exploring a profound love for art and culture.

Phil Tavel, Candidate for District 1

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

Tavel: Art is vital part of the landscape here and throughout Seattle.  Annual festivals, events, installations and experiences occur across the District from Alki to South Park, to further connect and engage communities with arts and cultural experiences.  A few are noted below:

  • The West Seattle Murals share the history of Seattle across the community.   I have worked with local businesses to help restore and revitalize the murals.
  • Youngstown Cultural Center is a model of historic preservation, affordable housing for artists, art spaces and performance spaces. 
  • Artswest– high quality theater performances
  • Annual Duwamish River Festival
  • Stagestruck Summer Camp – featuring shows performed by children learning the skills of musical theater
  • Annual Art in Nature Festival at Camp Long 
  • Annual South Park Queer Pride Picnic
  • Public Art West Seattle
    • “Walking on Logs” sculpture welcomes people home to Seattle every day.  celebrating our children.
    • The sculpture at Weather Watch Park
    • Handrails at Cormorant Cove Park – a connection to nature
    • Luna Girls near Salty’s – History of the beach and Luna Park amusement park
    • Concerts in Hiawatha Park  
    • Incorporation of old equipment from the former South Park bridge in the new South Park bridge – connects us to our past
    • SDOT’s pavement-to parks street mural at the South Park Library celebrates the culture of the neighborhood 
    • Constellations embedded in sidewalk near constellation park – connection to nature, sky, and place in the world
  • Live Experiences
    • The Musical Open Mic Night at Skylark Café – Often called the “best open mic in the city”
    • Trivia Nights at Talarico’s are legendary and I have been hosting this event for the past 10 years.

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?

Tavel: Cities provide vital services to help people survive and live their lives, however, the arts give life meaning and make life worth living. Arts are social infrastructure, not a luxury. The arts express who we are, commemorate our struggles, celebrate our pride, and challenge us.  Arts play a vital role in all our communities, regardless of where we were born, what we look like, or personal economies.  The arts expose us to many voices, which help communities become more vibrant, resilient, wise, and alive.  The arts help define a community and help strengthen people’s love for their neighborhood and their city.  

I envision a city where the arts are accessible for all, infused in all aspects of life, not simply as an afterthought. Music, dance, and theater should be part of every person’s education.  Arts should permeate our neighborhoods; our homes; and our transit lines, bike ways and sidewalks.  Our arts institutions should touch the lives of every Seattleite, including a family who cannot afford $100-$200 per visit or per performance.  Seattle must do a better job of promoting the many jobs and works skills provided by the arts.  From institutions such as SAM, Seattle Rep, Seattle Opera, Seattle Symphony, to the ecosystem of countless arts organizations which give Seattle its soul, numerous jobs are provided.

I have enhanced my love for and belief in the arts by serving as the VP of the Board of Allied Arts of Seattle, which has promoted a vibrant arts community, historic preservation and great public places for over 60 years.

We should expand partnerships with other cities to foster a vibrant, accessible arts community. I’m very concerned that all but the most established artists will no longer be able to afford to live or work in Seattle and contribute their perspectives and creations to the Seattle community.  We already see an exodus of arts and arts spaces to cities like Tacoma and to other regions. We need to create more workspaces and housing for artists so they continue to be our neighbors, not just guest performers or commuter-artists. One tool is to work with developers to help them see that providing affordable spaces for the arts and artists makes their development more affordable, as well as fostering a vibrant neighborhood.

The arts have always defined Seattle’s soul. We need to work harder than ever to keep Seattle from losing this vital part of us all.