Crosscut Talks

Keeping Arts Alive in an Expensive City During a Persistent Pandemic

July 21, 2022

The city’s arts industry is returning to some semblance of normalcy. During a live Civic Cocktail event, four leaders survey the damage done and chart a path forward.

In the spring of 2020, many artists and arts organizations were already struggling to maintain a place for themselves in Seattle. The future of creative expression in the city was uncertain, but the challenges were well-defined. Then the pandemic hit and scrambled everything.

Audiences shifted to experiencing their arts and entertainment through screens as artists pivoted to a new digital reality. Many arts organizations, meanwhile, had to rely on philanthropy, government assistance and their own creativity to survive. 

Now, as a vaccinated and exhausted world presses on through year three of the pandemic, the arts are in the midst of a slow return to venues across the city. But the world that artists and arts organizations are encountering is very different from the one they faced when the arts shut down two years ago. 

For this episode of the Civic Cocktail podcast, we speak with four community arts leaders – Arté Noir founder and president Vivian Philips, Museum of Museums founder and director Greg Lundgren, Artist Home founder and owner Kevin Sur, and Northwest Folklife managing director Reese Tanimura – about the state of the arts now. They share their experiences leading organizations and businesses through the pandemic, outline new challenges of this late-pandemic era and offer prescriptions to keep the arts alive in Seattle. 

This conversation was recorded on July 13, 2022.

Civic Cocktail is a production of Seattle City Club and Crosscut.

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Host/podcast production: Mark Baumgarten

Event production: Jake Newman, Andrea O'Meara

Video production: Stephen Hegg