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A message of hope and resilience

2020 is nothing like any of us expected. Our city, our friends, our family and community are experiencing one of the most difficult and unprecedented times we’ve ever lived through. I’m so proud to work for a City that is doing everything possible to protect public health, and the personal health, of all our residents, while also working to mitigate the economic impacts for one of the hardest hit sectors as much as possible.  A large part of the work we are doing now is to keep our city together and strong so that we are ready for recovery and revitalization. This is especially true for the cultural sector.  

speaker at a podium
Randy Engstrom, Director of the Office of Arts & Culture speaks at the 2019 Mayor’s Arts Awards recipients on Thursday, August 29 with Mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle Arts Commissioners, at Seattle Center. Photo by Marcus R. Donner © 2019

In times of great adversity we see great leaps in creativity and innovation, and that is certainly true today. Watching the artists, cultural organizations and creative businesses pivot, transition, re-imagine and continue to create, support and uplift in the middle of a crisis has been nothing short of revelatory. We will need this passion, this creativity and this innovation to help our City and our community shape the future.  

In 1971 Mayor Wes Uhlman was in office during the worst recession in Seattle’s history; in one-year Boeing laid off over 65% of their workforce. A billboard went up next to Boeing Field that read “Will the Last Person Leaving Seattle Turn Out the Lights?”.  

It was in this context that 35-year-old Mayor Uhlman established the Seattle Arts Commission and, later that year, what would become the Bumbershoot Festival. Mayor Uhlman was later asked why he chartered a local arts agency in the shadow of Seattle’s worst recession and he replied, “Because we had to give people hope.”  

We are in this together and there is no better group of people to imagine what the future holds, and build it together than our artists. I hope you are staying well and healthy and connected to your community from the safety of your homes, and I look forward to partnering with you to use arts and culture as a civic recovery strategy on the other side.  


Randy Engstrom 
Director, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture