Phil Tavel, District 1 Candidate — 2019 General Election Arts Platform

Candidate: Phil Tavel, Candidate for District 1


What is your arts platform? 

I am passionate about the arts and ensuring access for all is a priority for my campaign. Art breaks down barriers and creates an opportunity for people to come together to experience a particular image, sculpture, community parade or event.  My priorities also include restoring arts education to classrooms; expanding opportunities to engage youth with the arts; and addressing inequities in access.   I will support policies and programs to strengthen the arts and culture landscape.               

How do you envision the arts as part of Seattle, especially as part of critical issues including access, affordability, displacement, economic development, education, preservation, and racial equity?

Access to arts and culture experiences can transform lives. 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 our 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.  

Phil Tavel, Candidate for District 1

Seattle has experienced an extraordinary burst of growth over the past several years and has also struggled to address disparities ranging from lack of affordable housing, displacement, preservation and racial inequities, as part of that growth.   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, our transit lines, bike ways, sidewalks, parks and open spaces.  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 work 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.  My belief in, and passion for, the arts has been enhanced 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 65 years. 

We should expand partnerships locally and with other cities to foster a vibrant, accessible arts community. I’m concerned that all but the most established artists will no longer be able to afford to live or work in Seattle and contribute their vision, 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.  Redevelopment may improve a physical place, however without equity, people are left behind or many are displaced, with economic benefit to only a few.  

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.     

How do the arts reflect the voices, perspectives, and communities in your district? What are challenges and opportunities?

Art is a vital part of the District 1 landscape, sharing the culture and experiences in the District and across Seattle.  Annual festivals, events, installations and experiences occur across the District from Alki to South Park, reflecting D1 voices and perspectives to further connect and engage communities with arts and cultural experiences.From the West Seattle Murals, where I was fortunate to have worked with local businesses to help restore the murals, to Youngstown Cultural Center, the Annual Duwamish River Festival and Art in Nature Festival at Camp Long, to the Annual South Park Queer Pride Picnic, to Trivia Nights at Talarico’s,  that I have hosted for the past decade – the arts expose us to other perspectives and serve as a catalyst to foster deeper connections in our communities.

Challenges still exist in funding for the arts, high costs of living, displacement, lack of affordable space and inequities in access, and the ongoing need to prioritize the arts earlier and frequently in discussions across the City. Opportunities include fostering new and strengthening existing public / private partnerships to support the arts, connecting the arts with youth and leveraging the work of arts organizations to expand partnerships.  

How do you plan to work with governmental agencies including the Office of Arts and Culture and the Seattle Arts Commission?

I will attend or hold meetings to discuss these issues and request updates/briefings from the Office of Arts and Culture and Seattle Arts Commission. I will review workplans and materials to stay informed and seek input on a regular basis. 

Describe a meaningful arts experience that has stayed with you over time. How have the arts affected your life?

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 took me with them.  We visited Museums frequently such as the Guggenheim, and a collection of smaller galleries and museums when we traveled.  I developed a true love and respect for the arts because of the amazing childhood I had with parents.  My parents are retired educators and conveyed how important it was to ensure access for all to the arts and their passion inspired me.

When I first arrived to West Seattle over 20 years ago, I remember walking along Alki Beach and coming across the Statue of Liberty (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 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.  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.

I will be a strong advocate for the arts and hope you will consider voting for me in the General Election.