(Tonight at Town Hall at 7:30 pm, Mayor Ed Murray will join an array of Seattle literary celebrities—including Ryan Boudinot and Nancy Pearl—to discuss Seattle's bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature. The evening is absolutely free. This is a very important event—a whole community is stepping forward to celebrate Seattle's amazing literary culture and to discuss what we could do with the kind of global platform that UNESCO's Creative Cities program provides. Mayor Murray agreed to answer a few questions in advance of the event. What follows is the interview, which took place over e-mail yesterday and today.)

Thanks for taking the time to talk, Mayor Murray. Why do you think it’s important to go this extra mile to gain UNESCO’s approval? What will the city gain from being designated a UNESCO City of Literature?

I don’t think of this bid as an attempt to get the approval of UNESCO. As I wrote in my letter of support, this bid is not about seeking recognition. Seattle is already recognized as a center of arts and culture, and home to a thriving literary arts scene. Designation as an UNESCO City of Literature provides an opportunity to form closer ties with an international network of creative cities, and will help us foster the literary arts here at home.

Personally, I love to read. It is my favorite pastime. I had a hard time learning to read but I had a family who helped me learn because of their love for literature. I believe anything that supports literature, supports literacy.

Do you think it’s especially meaningful that Seattle gain the UNESCO City of Literature designation, rather than, say, the City of Music or the City of Gastronomy designations?

I think it’s important that we do what we can to be more globally engaged, to collaborate with other creative cities and to support art and culture in Seattle. In a sense, we are already a city of literature, music, gastronomy, and so on. Look at our support for our libraries. We’re in love with books. Our music scene has been setting the standard for cultural relevance for decades.There are James Beard Award-winning chefs throughout Seattle doing incredible work.

One of UNESCO’s guidelines for their Creative Cities program is that the designated cities attend yearly Creative Cities conferences, and that they establish an office to keep in contact with other UNESCO cities. Is that something that you’re committed to financially support?

The City is committed to supporting this bid and the literary arts in Seattle more generally. I’m sure we’ll find a way to meet UNESCO’s guidelines—whether that will be through public funding, private funding, or a combination of both remains to be seen. But I know it can be done. We’re a very resourceful city.

How have you supported Seattle’s literary culture, both as a citizen of Seattle and in your political career?

It’s hard to remember all the arts and culture programs I’ve supported during my career. In the State Legislature, I supported the redevelopment of McCaw Hall because our Flagship Institutions are centers of innovation and cultural anchors in our community. I supported 4Culture in service to the cultural heritage of our diverse communities. I supported the State’s Building for the Arts fund because creative hubs like Artist Trust and Hugo House attract great artists and help the literary arts thrive. And I’m proud to support the 12th Avenue Arts; a development which models how the arts can help create and sustain vibrant neighborhoods. I’m excited about the funding opportunities available through our Office of Arts and Culture, and programs like Creative Advantage, Arts Mean Business, and Civic Partners.


What’s your favorite book by a Seattle author?

I have two: The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan and Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson.

Can you offer us a preview of what you’ll be talking about at the presentation tonight?

I’ll be giving some opening remarks that touch upon Seattle’s love of literature, our public libraries, and the City of Seattle’s support of literary art.