Joe Nguyen, King County Executive Candidate — 2021 General Election

CANDIDATE: Joe Nguyen, King County Executive Candidate


Describe a meaningful arts experience that has stayed with you over time.  

Growing up I played jazz, specifically the alto saxophone. On the surface it may not have seemed like much but at the time we were struggling financially after my father’s car accident that left him quadriplegic. During that part of my life I didn’t get to participate in a lot of the experiences other children enjoyed. However, after asking over and over again my mother was able to save enough money to get me a saxophone. I played that instrument for hours on end, and it became part of my life. Being able to travel for jazz competitions or taking classes from legends like Clarence Acox Jr. were formative moments for me. To this day I believe that engaging in the arts changed my outlook on life and gave me the creative freedom to grow as a person.  

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

Depending on the neighborhood it’s the absence of the arts that speak the loudest. Art programs continue to be underfunded yet it is a vital tool to engage our youths and provide opportunities for community engagement. I was heartened to see recently in Burien, young people using art in public spaces to tell their stories and push back against violence. Access to the arts is a reflection of the opportunities afforded to a neighborhood and we need to make it a foundational part of the education for our young people.   

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

I think arts and the creative industry as a whole represents the future of this region. Creativity is not something you can automate, it’s a future proof skillset and part of a thriving community. We already set aside a portion of public investments to include art but we need to think bigger. We need to have affordable housing so artists starting out can live here. We need to have arts be part of our education system and we need to help tell our stories through art. By humanizing our experiences and sharing those values through art I believe we can break down barriers and work toward true equity.  

Tell us about your personal involvement in Seattle’s art and cultural life. How do you make art a part of your life? 

I’m more involved in the digital media and film side of the arts. Previously I worked at a startup and managed the creative department. It was an amazing experience to see people passionate about their work and using it in different ways. However, I also saw first hand that this region does not prioritize investments in this space, thus pushing artists away. In addition to providing opportunities for young people to get involved and cultivate their creativity I want to ensure we have the appropriate resources here to empower our artists as well.    

This survey from ArtsFund shows that the Seattle arts and cultural community has seen significant declines (over 50%) in income due to Covid. The arts already operate on a razor’s edge and many organizations may not be able to afford the cost of reopening. How will you support Seattle’s arts and culture sector in its reopening and revitalization? 

I helped advocate for relief funds specifically for the arts community at the state level but the biggest thing right now is quickly getting this pandemic under control so people can safely reopen. However, similar to relief for restaurant there should be resources in place to help businesses in the arts community reopen, with so many shut down during the pandemic there will be needs to make investments just to open doors again.