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Significant change to the 2020 Mayor’s Arts Awards

Freeman leans against the concrete retaining wall next to his piece: a young Black girl spraying a stream of water from a hose.
Melvin Freeman with his public art piece, We Are Water in the Central District,
photo by Jason Huff

Our city is in a very different place than it was when the call for nominations for the 2020 Mayor’s Arts Awards was announced. Between the pandemic and the heightened tension of racial injustices that have plagued our nation, our spirit for the traditional celebration has been defused. In response to these unorthodox events, we believe it is best to pivot this year’s 2020 Mayor’s Arts Awards.   

The Seattle Arts Commission and the Office of Arts & Culture have had many conversations regarding this matter and concluded that the resources allotted for the Mayor’s Arts Awards be reallocated towards lifting up our Black arts community.  

Therefore, we will pilot a new program that will amplify work of the Black arts community to the broader Seattle community. We acknowledge that the Black arts community has been largely marginalized and that the time is now to uplift and celebrate the powerful and illuminating art that has been a constant force in our amazing city. We will launch this new program in the fall.   

Although we are transitioning from the traditional Mayor’s Arts Awards, we acknowledge the many individual artists and organizations who were nominated. We plan to honor all of the nominees in September and we appreciate the community for bringing forth so many wonderful people who continue to make valuable contributions to our vibrant arts scene.   

We also acknowledge that our decision may not be easy for everyone to fully embrace and agree with. However, it is imperative for us to empower and pay tribute to our Black arts community who continue to do outstanding work. We invite you to join us in solidarity as we move forward and embrace this new change. Our vision is to create a valuable and historic program that everyone can benefit from.   

We look forward to sharing details as they are developed and celebrating the voices of our Black arts community with you.  


Priya Frank and Dr. Quinton Morris, co-chairs, Seattle Arts Commission