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Revisiting the first ever Mayor’s Arts Awards

15 years ago on a sunny Friday in August, the Office of Arts & Culture held the first ever Mayor’s Arts Award at Seattle Center, honoring five luminaries, Vinson Cole, Consolidated Works, Allen Foundation for the Arts, and Arts Corps in the Seattle arts community. That afternoon marked the beginning of the City acknowledging the amazing work and impact that individuals, artists and organizations have on our city, community and country. Each of the award recipients have created a legacy for our city and defined Seattle in innumerable ways.

2003 Mayor’s Arts Awards and Bumbershoot opening ceremonies. The Space Harp.

Three mayors and 82 award recipients later and the Mayor’s Arts Awards are still proving that Seattle’s arts and cultural community is integral to the strength and heart of the city. Please join us as we take a trip down memory lane celebrating all award recipients of the Mayor’s Arts Award. We will be highlighting each year’s award winners now through August as we lead up to the 2017 Mayor’s Arts Awards.

Nominations are open now and this year’s ceremony will take place on Thursday, August 31 at the Seattle Center Mural Amphitheatre at 4 p.m.


In case you need help remembering what 2003 was like here are some highlights:


Top NW albums, September 2003: Beautiful Bird – The Lights; Pretty Girls Make Graves – The New Romance; Lifesavas – Spirit in Stone (KEXP)

Best at SIFF, 2003: Best Film: Whale Rider; Best Short: Misdemeanor; Best Documentary: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Seattle International Film Festival)

Seattle Reads, 2003: A Gesture Life — Chang Rae Lee (Seattle Public Library)

Commissioned public art, 2003: Snaking Root Ceiling by Dan Corson

Snaking Root Ceiling by Dan Corson

Celebrating the first Mayor’s Arts Award recipients

VINSON COLE – Outstanding contribution by an individual – honors an artist or community member whose achievement and commitment to the arts have made a significant impact on our community.

Vinson Cole is an internationally acclaimed, African-American tenor who has resided in Seattle for more than a decade.

Cole has served on the voice faculties at the UW School of Music, the board of Seattle Opera, and as advisor to Seattle Opera’s Young Artists Program, and he has numerous recordings. Cole’s exceptional contributions and achievements enrich the musical/artistic life in Seattle immeasurably.

Consolidated Works – Next generation in the arts – honors a promising individual artist or emerging arts organization that have demonstrated artistic excellence and innovation.

Consolidated Works was an urban contemporary arts center, that developed and presented work by artists engaged in the exploration of theater, visual art, film, music, and other arts disciplines. Founded by Matthew Richter, Consolidated Works program’s and facility encouraged artists, audiences, and community partners in the process of multi-disciplinary discovery.

ALLEN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS – Outstanding arts philanthropist – honors an individual or organization whose financial generosity and participation has had a significant impact on the arts in our community.

Founded in 1988, the mission of the Allen Foundation for the Arts is to strengthen the Pacific Northwest’s cultural community and encourage its creativity and vitality. The Allen Foundation for the Arts has a strong interest in supporting projects and organizations that address social, cultural and political issues. The foundation looks for projects that strengthen an organization’s infrastructure, reach new constituents and encourages public participation and the promotion of critical thinking.

 ARTS CORPS – Outstanding contribution to arts education – honors an individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to arts education for young people, either in the classroom or out-of-school.

Founded in May 2000 as a nonprofit organization, Arts Corps is dedicated to providing quality arts education programs free to youth, particularly in underserved, low-middle income neighborhoods. Their vision is that art has a transforming effect on youth enabling them to believe in their own capacity to learn, take risks, persist and achieve. This in turn, creates a ripple effect in the community, building communities that are more compassionate and innovative. Arts Corps is also an integral partner in The Creative Advantage, a city-wide initiative to establish equitable access to arts education for each and every student in Seattle Public Schools.