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Finalists announced for 2017 Mayor’s Arts Awards

Recipients will be presented at the Mayor’s Arts Awards ceremony
on Thursday, August 31 at 4 p.m.

Twelve finalists have been selected for the 2017 Mayor’s Arts Awards as part of the 15th anniversary of the award ceremony. Finalists were selected from a public nomination process and the recipients will be presented at the award ceremony on Thursday, August 31 at 4 p.m. at Seattle Center, as a kick-off to Bumbershoot weekend. The Mayor’s Arts Awards recognize the contributions of artists, creative industries and cultural organizations who contribute to Seattle’s reputation as a hub of creativity and innovation.

The 2017 finalists are:

  • Cultural Ambassador – Individual: Sharon Arnold, Ludovic Morlot and Assunta Ng
  • Cultural Ambassador – Organization: Gay City, Seattle Music Partners, and Tasveer
  • Arts & Innovation: Susie Lee, NFFTY (National Film Festival for Talented Youth), and Courtney Sheehan
  • Emerging Leader in the Field: Legendary Children, Leilani Lewis, and The Station

The recipients will be announced at the Mayor’s Arts Awards ceremony, on Thursday, August 31 at 4 p.m. at Seattle Center at the Mural Amphitheatre. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. Presented in partnership with Bumbershoot, the awards ceremony is part of the official opening of Bumbershoot 2017. For 47 years, Bumbershoot has served as Seattle’s annual end-of-summer party — a celebration of music, art and creativity held beneath the iconic Space Needle in Seattle.

In honor of the 15th anniversary of the award ceremony, the Office of Arts & Culture and One Reel will host two exhibitions, one at the Seattle Municipal Tower Gallery (July 11 – September 27, 2017) and the other at the Seattle Center International Pavilion (September 1 –3, 2017). Both exhibitions feature artwork by the visual arts award recipients alongside year-by-year panels listing all the awardees and their accomplishments. The Seattle Center International Pavilion exhibition will be held during Bumbershoot weekend. The artworks in both exhibitions are part of the city’s portable works collection. The city has been collecting artwork for 46 years and the collection is comprised of paintings, prints, sculpture, tapestries, photographs, installations, mixed media and video.

The Mayor’s Arts Awards are presented in partnership with Bumbershoot and One Reel with media sponsor City Arts and event sponsors The Boeing Company and Chihuly Garden and Glass.

For more information about the Mayor’s Arts Awards, including past recipients, visit

About the 2017 Mayor’s Arts Award FINALISTS

Cultural Ambassador – Individual

Awarded to an individual who has significantly contributed to Seattle’s arts and cultural community and raised the visibility of Seattle’s arts culture.

Sharon Arnold, Bridge Productions

Sharon Arnold is a Seattle-based writer, curator, and founder of Bridge Productions. Since 2009, she has independently curated in various nontraditional and commercial spaces, and was one of four curators for the inaugural 2015 landmark event Out of Sight, which continues to run alongside the Seattle Art Fair each year. Bridge Productions is a hybridized commercial/experimental space focusing on process-based work and projects by artists, curators, writers, and performers. This model’s dexterity provides an engaged platform for a broad range of projects including exhibitions, publications, happenings and activations, curatorial collaborations, and curated box sets fostering a rigorous exploration of artistic work and concepts. Bridge collaborates with emerging and mid-career artists, writers, and curators to create a local and national context for their work; building community across the Pacific Northwest and the US. Sharon is currently the author of Field Notes, a bi-monthly online arts column for City Arts Magazine.


Ludovic Morlot, Seattle Symphony

As the Seattle Symphony’s Music Director, Ludovic Morlot has been received with extraordinary enthusiasm by musicians and audiences alike, who have praised him for his deeply musical interpretations, his innovative programming and his focus on community collaboration. From 2012 to 2014 Morlot was also Chief Conductor of La Monnaie, one of Europe’s most prestigious opera houses. In the U.S., Ludovic Morlot has conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony. Trained as a violinist, Morlot studied conducting at the Royal Academy of Music in London and then at the Royal College of Music as recipient of the Norman del Mar Conducting Fellowship. Morlot was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in 2014 in recognition of his significant contributions to music. He is Chair of Orchestral Conducting Studies at the University of Washington School of Music.


Assunta Ng, Northwest Asian Weekly

Assunta Ng is the founder and has been the publisher of the Seattle Chinese Post and Northwest Asian Weekly, the only English-language Pan Asian weekly in the Northwest. Her award-winning newspapers are more than 35 years old and have been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for strength in content. Ng has also established several community projects and organizations including the Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation, an organization that designs leadership, community-building, and diversity training programs for youth and adults. Ng is the founder of Women of Color Empowered luncheon series, which showcased and celebrated women in power. Ng has received countless awards and honors, including the 2008 Wells Fargo Trailblazer Award for women in small business, the 2006 Hillary Clinton and Maria Cantwell Women of Valor Award, the 2005 Puget Sound Business Journal’s Women of Influence Award, and the University of Washington 1998 Multicultural Alumni Partnership Distinguished Alumnus Award.


Cultural Ambassador – Organization

Awarded to an organization that has significantly contributed to Seattle’s arts and cultural community and raised the visibility of Seattle’s arts culture.

Gay City

Gay City Arts is a program in which the arts and social justice values come together. We prioritize supporting and resourcing art by, with, and for Queer and Trans People of Color, Trans and Nonbinary People, LGBTQ People With Disabilities, Muslim LGBTQ People, LGBTQ Immigrants, LGBTQ Elders and Youth, Women, and LGBTQ Poor and Working Class People. As Gay City steps into our new role as Seattle’s LGBTQ Center, it’s essential that we reject the idea of a singular Queer narrative, and instead embrace the plurality of LGBTQ experiences and communities. Overwhelmingly, our arts seasons have not just involved, but benefited from the leadership of people living intersectional identities. People are craving opportunities to talk about the challenges and joys of living with multiple identities. Gay City Arts coming season, our fifth, features fifteen productions that involve theater, dance, music, poetry, spoken word, drag, burlesque, and film.

Seattle Music Partners

Seattle Music Partners cultivates a diverse and vibrant music-making community by providing youth with free music instruction and one-on-one mentoring. Through this unique combination of private instruction, mentorship, and collaborative ensemble experiences, SMP seeks to eliminate racial and economic barriers to quality music education. SMP hosts after-school programs two days a week at four elementary schools in the Central District, as well as an evening program for middle school musicians. Instruments, music books, music stands, and transportation are provided free of charge to participating students. Over 150 volunteers from more than 20 high schools, colleges, and community groups help make this work possible. SMP believes that the bonds formed through these musical relationships are fundamental to social change.


Tasveer is a non-profit film and art organization whose mission is to inspire social change through thought-provoking films, art, and storytelling. Tasveer was founded by two immigrant local South Asian women, Rita Meher & Farah Nousheen, in March 2002, after 9/11 as a need to dispel stereotypes of South Asians in the mainstream media. Their goal was to provide a platform for underrepresented South Asian voices, a non-judgmental space to engage in a community dialog on social issues relevant to South Asians.  Now Tasveer runs the largest social justice driven South Asian Film Festival in the world and the longest running South Asian Women Festival called Aaina which spotlights Yoni Ki Baat (a South Asian adaptation of the Vagina Monologues that empowers local South Asian women). Since then we have showcased over 1000 films on various social issues such as human rights, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, gender equality, class and caste discrimination, the environment and education.

Arts & Innovation

Awarded for originality, ingenuity, and resourcefulness within the creative sector. May include projects that weave together arts and technology, connecting new sectors, creative work in emerging industries, or transformational approaches to established genres. 

Susie Lee

Susie Lee has forged a socially engaged artistic practice of creative entrepreneurship, time-based new media, community convenings, and installations. Her work explores the amplification of human connection through technology. She received accolades from Frieze, Art News, the Guardian, CNN, NPR, Marie Claire, Engadget, The Washington Post, and ThinkProgress. Siren, the artist-driven app she co-founded, positively affected the lives of its thirty thousand subscribers, partnered with global brand Durex on a 37M view campaign, won Geekwire’s App of the Year, and received acclaim from influential arts institutions such asThe New Museum, Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, and International Center for Photography.  Lee has exhibited at a number of museums nationally and is included in notable collections. A graduate of Yale, Columbia and UW with degrees in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, science education and fine arts, Lee has been recognized as a TEDx speaker, Bonnie Bronson Fellow, Emerging Artist of the Year, Stranger Genius, and Artist to Watch.

NFFTY (National Film Festival for Talented Youth)

The National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY) is the world’s largest film festival for emerging directors and is the flagship program of The Talented Youth, a Seattle-based non-profit. The mission of The Talented Youth is the encouragement and acknowledgement of young artists working in the media arts – promoting their accomplishments through festivals and innovative programs and by celebrating the extraordinary young talent that exist and the compelling stories they tell. Each year, the 4-day festival showcases films by directors 24-and-under from across the globe and provides opportunities for filmmakers to explore emerging technologies like VR/360 filmmaking. NFFTY supports young filmmakers by offering professional level workshops such as a Works-in-Progress event, collaborative screenings, and other events year-round. Also, within NFFTY lies a creative production company, NFFTY Creative, that connects brands with emerging talent to produce original content. Through all the work of NFFTY, the organization aims to be at the forefront of addressing marked needs in education and networking for young artists – especially female-identifying artists and artists of color, and to expand opportunities for promotion of their work to a larger audience.

Courtney Sheehan, Northwest Film Forum

Courtney Sheehan is the executive director for Northwest Film Forum, the nonprofit film and arts center founded in 1995 and located in the Pike/Pine corridor of Capitol Hill. Courtney has curated and produced film programs for theaters and festivals on three continents. As a journalist, she covered events ranging from the world’s largest documentary festival to South America’s largest animation festival. Co-founder of Cine Migratorio, a migration-themed film festival in Spain, and the Seventh Art Stand, a national series of films from the countries and people affected by the travel bans, Courtney strives to build coalition through her work with film and media. She joined Northwest Film Forum first as a college intern, then as program director and artistic director, before becoming executive director in 2016. The Forum presents hundreds of films, community events, multidisciplinary performances, public discussions and workshops each year. In addition to producing the largest children’s film festival on the West Coast, the Forum offers a range of artist services and hosts fundraisers for community initiatives and nonprofits.



Emerging Leader in the field

Presented in honor of a newcomer who is shifting the field of arts and culture without legacy experience in the sector. Impacts may be artistic in nature, creating dialogue or spaces for dialogue, or bringing awareness to an under-represented topic. Contributions may be across a variety of disciplines and modes.

Legendary Children

Legendary Children is many things. It’s a special evening of afterhours arts programming that comes complete with high style and QTPOC (queer and trans people of color) communities in the main spotlight. Legendary Children is designed by our community members to be luxe, transgressive, and totally FREE, while also combining increased access to museums and fine art and libraries and information. Along the way we showcase community voices, prioritize equity and inclusion by standing at the intersection where the underground and arts and social justice meet. At Legendary Children QTPOC voices ringing loud and clear. Our audiences come for the live performances, the amazing performances by drag queens and drag kings, hot DJs, and the artistry of some of the Pacific Northwest’s most talented performers. And they leave with a sense that queer and trans people of color’s lives must matter in our broader communities. After all our beauty and leadership is legendary. Legendary Children is all ages, FREE and always by and for QTPOC.

Leilani Lewis

For Leilani Lewis, a career in the arts was inevitable: as a child, she spent countless hours exploring the Detroit Institute of Art, which instilled in her a reverence for the works, the artists, and the hallowed halls that housed them. Much later, this passion led her to the Northwest African American Museum shortly before its opening in 2008. Since then, Leilani, now at the University of Washington, has become a true homegrown leader who collaborates with artists of all disciplines to build community and provide opportunities for the public to engage with the arts. Through museum work and independent projects, Leilani established herself as a creative catalyst working on behalf of artists. Whether through independent curation, arts programming, advising, or just showing up, Leilani focuses on breaking down barriers to arts appreciation, strengthening the bonds that draw communities together, and giving her all to ensure a culturally vibrant future for the Northwest.

The Station

Hi my name is Luis Rodriguez, I’m an Immigrant from Mexico and the owner of The Station coffee shop in Beacon Hill, my wife Leona and I opened The Station coffee shop in May of 2010 for many reasons, the number one and most important reason was because we were trying to reclaim what belongs to us POC, number two my love for coffee thanks to my father introducing me to coffee at a such a young age and number three and very dear to my heart was to create jobs for my community! I truly love being an owner of my own business but mostly I love being the owner of The Station coffee shop!!