In the fourth year of the pandemic, Seattle’s Arts and Culture Authority will spend about $3 million less on pandemic recovery programs when Mayor Bruce Harrell proposed budget for 2023-24 is accepted.
Funded primarily by Seattle’s 5% sales tax and the City Light 1% Arts Fund, the Arts and Culture Authority (ARTS) promotes the value of arts and culture, administers programs that provide public access to the arts, and makes grants. ARTS’ proposed 2023 budget of $18.3 million is about $3 million less than the enacted 2022 budget. Much of the difference is due to the end of one-time pandemic relief funding included in the 2022 budget.
Those calculations include $500,000 to help individual artists, $1.5 million to rebuild areas hardest hit by the pandemic, and $1 million in grants to organizations that didn’t qualify. Grant of indoor operators. Pandemic relief in 2022 was funded by federal and local coronavirus recovery funds and JumpStart Seattle Payroll Tax — said the fund, unavailable to ARTS for 2023 Royal Alley-Barnesacting director of ARTS.
The only pandemic aid moved from the 2022 budget to the proposed 2023 budget is $1 million for Hope Corps, a program that provides $15,000 to $300,000 in project funding to creative individuals who need work . Hope Corps, which was funded by local coronavirus and payroll tax funds, will be funded by income tax in 2023. This is not included in the proposed 2024 budget.
The decision to include Hope Corps in the proposed 2023 budget was driven by the “obvious need” for jobs in the arts, Ely-Barnes said, noting that Hope Corps was able to fund only 29 of more than 300 project requests in 2022. Projects funded this year come from both individual artists and organizations, from a series of live concerts by Seattle singer-songwriter JR Rhodes to Yes, Ma! Market, Beacon Hill Night Market.
“The mayor recognizes that the most effective investment to help artists recover from the economic hardships that have occurred during the pandemic is to provide access to employment opportunities in the arts,” she said.
The proposed 2023 budget also lacks $500,000 in the 2022 budget that went to equity and cultural education, providing arts experiences for youth of color ages 3-17. In 2022, the city council decided to make this one-time funding, Ely-Barnes said.
Additions in the 2023 budget address vacancies at ARTS, including a new part-time visitor services position at the ARTS office at King Street Station. There is also additional funding for the reclassification and expansion of two positions: a director of operations to assist with community engagement and a racial equity coordinator who will focus on external work on race and equality.
Local arts leaders have had mixed reactions to the proposed 2023 budget.
Bernie Griffin, manager of the 5th Avenue Theatre, said she is very supportive of the Hope Corps program, especially as the sector has seen a reduced workforce due to lack of work.
“Even for those of us who are heads of large regional institutions, it’s about putting people at the center. How do we support our people?” she said. “This is an inspiring piece of the mayor’s budget.”
Jeffrey Herrmann, managing director of Seattle Rep, said that while he is “thrilled” that the city is supporting individual artists, organizations need the same support.
“No organization in our city will be able to thrive for long if we lose our artists,” he said. “At the same time, artists also need healthy arts organizations to employ them if they are going to thrive in the long term as well.”
ARTS’s proposed 2023 budget, he said, “looks like it’s back to normal”, but the sector is not. “I know people have been through the pandemic so much – believe me, so have I,” he said, “but arts organizations will be dealing with the economic impact of the pandemic for the next few years.”
Tim Lennon, director of LANGSTON, the nonprofit organization that oversees programs at the Langston Hughes Institute for the Performing Arts, which is managed by ARTS, said “the budget, and certainly the communication from the Office of Arts and Culture around the budget, shows no real connection to the realities of fixing our sector.” He referenced a budget press release that ARTS sent out on Sept. 27, which listed four key items, one of which is the continuation of Hope Corps and the other three are job changes at ARTS.
“It’s like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic,” he said. “The Arts and Culture Authority appears to be more focused on an internal staffing crisis and internal staff turnover than on the health of our sector as a whole, which does not appear to be in line with their stated values and aims.”
In 2023 and beyond, Ely-Barnes said, ARTS will focus on delivering programs and initiatives that support the sector’s overall well-being post-pandemic.
The City Council will consider the mayor’s proposed budget and hold three public hearings: 5:00 p.m. Oct. 11, 9:30 a.m. Nov. 8 and 5:00 p.m. Nov. 15. A final City Council vote and budget adoption is scheduled for November. 21.
This coverage is partially underwritten by the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over this and all of its coverage.