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Following National Search, Mayor Harrell Announces Renowned Arts Administrator to Lead Seattle Office of Arts & Culture

Informed by outreach-centering community and creative voices and priorities, award-winning interdisciplinary artist and creative economy leader Gülgün Kayim will serve as the next Director of the Office of Arts & Culture 

Seattle – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced that he has selected Gülgün Kayim to serve as the next permanent director of the Office of Arts & Culture (ARTS). A multi-disciplinary artist and former Stanford Arts Institute Creative Cities Fellow with decades of experience in public art administration, Kayim will begin the new role with the City on July 19. 

“Arts tell new stories, create enriching shared experiences, and bring neighbors together as the lifeblood of vibrant communities. The Office of Arts & Culture is a critical facilitator and partner to creatives and arts organizations across the city, helping us activate and sustain Seattle’s boundless creativity and innovative spirit. As the next director of the Office of Arts & Culture, Gülgün Kayim is well equipped to build strong partnerships that expand access to art citywide, increase opportunities for artists, and grow our creative economy. I look forward to the new energy and ideas she will bring to our team, helping build One Seattle through a commitment to uplifting the voices of those too often underrepresented, building trusted relationships in our arts community, and supporting a flourishing and inclusive creative landscape.” 

Mayor Bruce Harrell

Coming from the City of Minneapolis, Kayim was the founding Director of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, an office focused on powering Minneapolis’s economic and social growth through arts and cultural expression. During her time as director, she has overseen the creation of several arts recovery funds for organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and funds for restorative art in underserved communities.  

Prior to that, she was an Assistant Director at the Archibald Bush Foundation where she managed the selection of artist fellows and supported the fellowship program. She was also the co-founder and Co-Artistic Director of Skewed Visions, a Minneapolis-based performing arts organization. 

“I’m honored and excited to take on this leadership role at the Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture and help galvanize Seattle’s creative economy. Seattle is a city that is known for its world-class artists, creative entrepreneurs, and arts scene, and I look forward to working with them to make the arts more equitable and accessible to all.” 

Gülgün Kayim

A 16-member search committee representing diverse disciplines in Seattle’s arts sector was announced in March. Following the formation of the search committee, three community conversations were hosted by the City to engage with residents about the values and experience they wanted to see championed in a director. An online survey in both English and Spanish was also made available to art enthusiasts and eventgoers across the city.  

The results of both the survey and community conversation highlights were made available to the search committee to inform their deliberations and are available here. Both outreach efforts showed that a deep understanding of economic issues related to affordability in the creative community, the ability to build successful cross-sector collaborations and partnerships, and a proven commitment to equity were highly valued skills and qualities in the next director. 

The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture manages the city’s public art program, cultural partnerships grant programs, ARTS at King Street Station, the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, and The Creative Advantage initiative in the effort to foster a city driven by creativity that provides the opportunity for everyone to engage in diverse arts and cultural experiences.  

ARTS provides $3.7M in funding to arts and cultural organizations, artists, and creatives. In addition, the 1% for Art program invests more than $4M annually in the public realm. 

What People Are Saying

“After a robust national search, I’m excited to welcome Gülgün Kayim as the new Director of the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture. Art has the power to elevate voices, transform lives, and build bridges across communities. Supporting the arts has been a critical part of my portfolio throughout my first term, overseeing the Office of Arts & Culture through my Neighborhoods committee. I look forward to partnering with Director Kayim to make the arts more equitable and accessible to all.” 

Tammy J. Morales, Councilmember, District 2, Chair Neighborhoods, Education, Civil Rights and Culture 

“We look forward to building a culture of collaboration, creativity and sustainability with the next director of ARTS to help center artists in policy work that reflects the true diversity of our growing Seattle region. We, artists, underrepresented creative workers and arts nonprofit organizations have suffered much loss since the pandemic yet find great hope in our ability to leverage Seattle’s wealth of resources and appreciate the community-led, months long process implemented by the Mayor’s Office.” 

Vanessa Villalobos, Vivian Hua, Leslie Anderson, Ricky Groboski, Kayla DeMonte, and Holly Jacobson, Seattle Arts Commission Executive Committee 

“King County’s partnership with the Office of Arts & Culture is an important part of our commitment to building and sustaining a creative economy that provides access for all residents to the cultural life of our community. I extend my congratulations to Gülgün Kayim on this new role and look forward to our ongoing collaboration with her and the City of Seattle.” 

Kate Becker, Creative Economy Director for King County

“From our iconic music scene and venues to cultural organizations doing work in the community, Seattle’s arts ecosystem is fearlessly unique and an essential part of our city’s economy. We are excited to have the new director bring their expertise and passion to this critical leadership position at the City and look forward to partnering with them on efforts to revitalize our creative economy and support our workers.” 

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) 

“Seattle’s large, diverse, and interdependent arts and culture community needs a leader who can foster growth through collaboration. Gülgün Kayim’s background creating successful cross-sector partnerships and deep understanding of how the creative sector contributes to healthy communities shows that she is up for the task, and we look forward to working with her as the next director of the Office of Arts & Culture.” 

Ellen Walker, Executive Director, Pacific Northwest Ballet