Last month, the King County Council passed their massive $16.4 billion biennial budget. One thing of note is that the package established the creation of the Office of Economic Opportunity and Creative Economy. A very long title, but the purpose of the office is about workforce development, small business retention, and support for creatives and entrepreneurs.
There's now a permanent office at the county level dedicated to assisting and growing—economically speaking—the creative sector in the region. Specifically, the King County Council identified film and music as priorities in the county. The Office of Economic Opportunity and Creative Economy (OEOCE? I'm making it a thing!) formalizes the work that Creative Economy and Recovery Director Kate Becker has been doing in KC Exec. Dow Constantine's office since 2019 and cements it into the fabric of the county's priorities.
"If you are working as a creative in the gig economy, it's super challenging," said Becker during a recent phone interview. "If you are underemployed or have barriers to employment like a language barrier or a transportation access barrier, it's important that the county address those and make sure that we are really doing everything we can to create the most good for the most amount of people."
The move ties directly in with a lot of the work lawmakers and advocates around the state have been putting in over the past one-and-a-half years to jumpstart Seattle's film industry. In the spring of 2021, the County opened Harbor Island Studios to entice national productions to film their movies, commercials, or series' in Seattle. Later that year, the state increased film incentive funding to $15 million, up from $3.5 million. And in September, the City Council approved a measure to create the Seattle Film Commission, which is tasked with developing the film and TV industry in the city. This kitchen's cooking!
Officially launching on January 1, Becker will co-lead the OEOCE with her colleague, Ashton Allison. In a press release announcing the news, the office listed out some of their top priorities for the upcoming years:
- Activating Harbor Island Studios fully
- Workforce development in the film, music, and production industries
- Resource development for the creative sector
- Networking and professional development opportunities
- Raising the profile of working creatives and creative industry small businesses in King County
- Refining the film permitting process throughout King County
- Collaborating and partnering to maximize impact
Additionally, the King County Council approved $2.2 million to continue requested improvements to Harbor Island Studios, which includes a new roof and improved sound insulation. After a pandemic that saw lots of artists and creative people on the verge of fleeing Seattle due to increasing rent and costs of living, this new office could bring some renewed investment in an area that desperately needs it.
In other arts and culture news...
A quick ICYMI: This news came while I was on vacation, but still wanted to highlight it. Early last month, Seattle Art Museum chose Portland artist Elizabeth Malaska as the 2022 Betty Bowen Award winner. Seattle artists Klara Glosova and Rafael Soldi snagged special recognition awards, which came with a $2,500 prize. Malaska will receive $15,000 and a solo show at SAM next year. I love her paintings—the contrasting brushstrokes and surreal subject matter read like a dream. Can't wait to see what she cooks up for her exhibition.
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Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams—the longest-serving department head in the City—is retiring in February: Nellams has been with City of Seattle for 40 years and has directed Seattle Center since 2006. He's overseen nearly two decades of change—from organizations like KEXP and SIFF setting up shop, hundreds of festivals celebrating on Seattle Center grounds, and the shift from Key Arena to Climate Pledge Arena. A press release from the mayor's office announced that Marshall Foster, Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects director, will serve as interim Seattle Center Director. There is an eight-member committee already assembled to search for the next permanent head of the department. Enjoy retirement, Robert!
Seattle Public Library dropped its most-checked-out books of the year list: I know you've been holding your breath! The most popular book at SPL this year was Louise Erdich's The Sentence, a novel about a haunting of a Minneapolis bookstore set in 2020. The most checked-out e-book was The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea. And the most popular audiobook of the year was Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants (side note: I'm reading her first book, Gathering Moss, right now and I'm looking at my environment so much more closely. An incredible author.) Catch the full Spotify-wrapped inspired list just in case you needed to add to your "to read" stack.