Candidate: Lisa Herbold, Candidate for District 1 (Incumbent)
Arts and culture are critically important for Seattle’s vitality. It’s why many people live here, part of why so many young people come to Seattle, and part of why companies that need well-educated workers are located here.
The first art experience I had was when my grandparents took me to a play at a community college. It was a revelatory experience. Seeing the stage, scenery, acting and the story line opened a new world of possibilities for me.
I was later fortunate to move to Seattle at a time when the music scene was exploding and becoming world-famous.
In 2017, with the prospect of deep federal cuts, I co-hosted a forum titled “Why Art Matters,” along with KUOW and the Seattle Arts Commission, and representatives from the Seattle Symphony and Arts Corps.
Key themes discussed there were the important role the arts play in defining our identity and leading the way for racial equity, and how impactful federal grants can be in Seattle, for groups large and small, and for the School District, and the Creative Advantage program. I agree fully with what ARTS director Engstrom said: “The arts provide us with transformational experiences, opportunities to advance racial equity and social justice, and the means to better understand both ourselves and the world around us.”
District 1 has a number of venues that include cultural spaces. In addition to venues that have live music, we have ArtsWest, Youngstown, South Park Hall, Kenyon Hall, the Highland Park Improvement Club, and the Senior Center of West Seattle, that features cultural and music events; we also have the Southwest Historical Society. These are jewels that help define our communities.
What can we do in terms of new policy that preserve existing cultural spaces in a high-priced real estate market like West Seattle?
Preservation of cultural spaces is important in Seattle. Affordability, and avoiding displacement, is a critical question not only for housing people: it is also critical for keeping our cultural spaces. I am working to avoid displacement of residents, and also cultural spaces.
The Office of Arts and Culture published an innovative report, The CAP Report: 30 Ideas for the Creation, Activation and Preservation of Cultural Space. The report addresses the question of cultural space affordability directly. I held a briefing in the committee I chair, and I’ve worked to implement a number of the recommendations.
For example, I created a joint arts/permitting liaison position, to assist cultural space projects in navigating the permitting process. I’ve recently shared this with people in District 1.
Perhaps most exciting is the recommendation to “Create a Cultural Space Management PDA” (Public Development Authority).
This proposal in the report is to:
“Develop a new organization with the means and authority to manage large amounts of space for cultural uses. This new semi-independent organization can lease, develop, or purchase real estate for the purpose of subleasing to cultural users at subsidized rates.”
As noted in the report, a PDA can help preserve cultural spaces in a number of ways:
- Developers can point to secured long-term revenue from cultural tenants, which is attractive to financers
- Developers do not need to seek out cultural tenants and replace them, if necessary, over time
- Artists and cultural organizations can depend on consistent rental rates
- A PDA can serve as a source of information for those seeking cultural space
- PDA’s may be able to offer additional sources of revenue for cultural projects
- Grants and fundraising efforts can subsidize cultural organizations’ lease rates.
I passed a budget motion to require a report to the Council on whether development of a PDA is feasible, and the results of a racial equity toolkit analysis, and an implementation plan.
The Office of Arts and Culture (ARTS) published a preliminary report exploring this recommendation, Structure for Stability, that includes analysis on recommendations on potential paths forward involving a PDA, a non-profit, and the City. The report emphasizes the importance of keeping a focus on race, and being community-driven. I held a briefing on this report and, just in September, also on the final report, extended later this year, on the final recommendations.
It’s also important to give credit to private sector developers who have prioritized maintenance of cultural spaces. John Bennett has done great work to preserve cultural spaces in South Park and Georgetown, and keep rents affordable.
The Office of Arts and Culture has taken a new approach to grants, proactively seeking out smaller, diverse groups that may not have the resources or time to easily apply for grants, and providing funding without the need to apply. This is part of their race and social justice program, on which they have been true leaders.
Is there an existing model for public arts and cultural spaces that you’d like to see your district adopt?
As noted above, I think we need a new approach, given the unprecedented crisis of affordability.
The CAP report notes two successful example of non-profits: the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Seattle, Artspace owns and operates Tashiro Kaplan Artist Lofts/Tashiro Arts Building, Artspace Hiawatha Lofts, and Mt. Baker Artspace in Seattle.
The Structure for Stability Report notes the success of a shared ownership model, used in the Black and Tan Hall in Hillman City, and models in Portland and Pittsburgh. Change in federal tax law allows for something similar to a “crowdsourcing” model of ownership that was, until recently, prohibited.
The CAP Report includes numerous other recommendations worth considering.
How can communities better work with resources like The Creative Advantage to ensure equitable arts education for all students?
The Creative Advantage is a wonderful program. It’s a great model for leveraging resources, combining school, Office of Arts and Culture funds, along with grants. I’m glad to see it’s gone citywide. Delridge was one of the early areas where it served students.
I hosted an update on the Creative Advantage expansion in the committee I chair in June. The program positively impacts school culture, provides skills needed for 21st century.
This is an issue that goes well beyond arts education: it goes to equity of opportunity for Seattle students, as noted in the recent Creative Economy Report published jointly by the Office of Film and Music, the Office of Economic Development and the Office of Arts and Culture. The report highlights the disparities in creative work between genders, and most racial groups. Aligning arts and creative education with career paths–and understanding and overcoming barriers to entry–is important to helping all students have the chance to thrive.
From 2012-2017, growth in creative occupations was 15% to 23%. A median hourly wage for creative occupations is $30.76. Creative industries in Seattle contributed 18% to our gross regional product, compared to 4% of the U.S. gross domestic product. We need these opportunities to be accessible to all.
Beyond the inherent benefits of exposure to the arts, Creative Advantage helps more students have access to these career paths. The new director of the Office of Economic Development understands the importance of Creative Industries to our economic development and I am looking forward to working with him to better align our workforce development strategies to youth engaged in Creative Advantage programs in our schools.