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Mayor Harrell Launches National Search for Permanent Director of the Office of Arts & Culture

Seattle Ley Line Project by The Geo Group, Purchased with Seattle City Light 1% for Art funds.

Seeking innovative leader reflecting Seattle’s storied history of arts excellence, search will center community and creative voices, feature search committee of prominent Seattle arts leaders

Seattle – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced the City of Seattle will begin a nationwide search for the next permanent director of the City’s Office of Arts & Culture. To help guide a rigorous selection process, the mayor has appointed a committee representing a broad array of prominent Seattle arts leaders and stakeholders.

“Arts allow us to share feelings, values, and experiences across communities and shape the unique social character of our neighborhoods. Seattle has always been a hub for creatives and visionaries, and we need to continue to support and develop our world-class arts scene. The next permanent Office of Arts & Culture director must further strengthen our creative landscape – convening artists across mediums, expanding public arts, supporting a next generation of artists, and, most importantly, creating a culture in Seattle where arts are ever present in every community. I want to express my sincere gratitude to Interim Director royal alley-barnes for her work leading this office and her efforts to help our arts sector recover from the impacts of the pandemic.”

Mayor Bruce Harrell

The selection committee is made up of 16 members who represent different perspectives in Seattle’s diverse arts community. Selection committee members include:

  • Kate Becker, Creative Economy Director at Office of King County Executive Dow Constantine
  • Catalina Cantu, Board President and co-founding member La Sala, a multi-genre writer, interdisciplinary artist, Jack Straw Fellow and VONA/Voices Alum
  • Manuel Cawaling, Executive Director, Inspire Washington
  • Steven Eng, Accounting Services – Employee Representative, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture
  • Josh LaBelle, Executive Director, Seattle Theatre Group
  • Erika Lindsay, Chief Communications Officer – Employee Representative, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture
  • Aleksa Manila, Genderqueer performer, multiple drag pageant winner, and healthcare worker
  • James Miles, Assistant Professor, Seattle University; Executive Director of Third Stone
  • Nate Miles, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives – State Government Affairs, Eli Lilly and Company
  • Eric Nelson, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, National Nordic Museum
  • Tammy J. Morales, Councilmember, District 2, Chair Neighborhoods, Education, Civil Rights, and Culture
  • Sam Pailca, Associate General Counsel, Regulatory Enforcement Litigation, Microsoft
  • Dr. Judith Rayl, Fine Art Photographer and President of Board of Directors at Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA)
  • Steven Severin, Co-Owner, Neumos; Co-President and Director of Music Programming, New Rising Sun (Curator and Producer of Bumbershoot: Seattle’s Arts & Music Festival)
  • Earnest Thomas, President, Onyx Fine Arts Collective
  • Ellen Walker, Executive Director, Pacific Northwest Ballet

Throughout the spring, the committee will identify applicants, interview candidates, and recommend at least three finalists for the mayor. The position opened on March 9, 2023, and applications received by 4:00 P.M. PST on Tuesday, April 11, 2023, will receive first consideration.

The search process will also look to art-goers, creatives, and residents across the city to weigh in – seeking insight into what community members hope the office and its next director will elevate and champion. Seattle residents are invited to attend three community conversations to inform the search process. The events are open to the public and will be facilitated in partnership with City staff and arts organizations to create a space for residents to give feedback as to what priorities and values they would like to see in the next director. Residents can RSVP to the community conversations here.

Residents are also invited to complete an online survey to make their voice heard in the search process. The results of the survey will be shared with the search committee and Mayor’s Office.

“From the theater to the symphony, the SAM to Art Walk, Harbor Island to school classrooms, we must activate the screens, stages, and spaces across Seattle with art experiences for all neighbors. This search committee is designed to identify the director who can bring that vision to life – tapping into the lived experience and professional expertise of creative economy and development leaders, City staff and elected officials, and partners from local institutions.”

Mayor Bruce Harrell

Community Conversations for Office of Arts & Culture Director Search

  • Tuesday, March 28th, 6 – 7:30pm
    Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute 104 17th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144
  • Thursday, March 30th, 6 – 7:30pm
    National Nordic Museum 2655 NW Market St, Seattle, WA 98107
  • Friday, March 31st, 6 – 7:30pm
    El Centro de la Raza 2524 16th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144