Last week, I told you about a presentation at Town Hall Seattle to discuss Seattle's bid to become recognized as a UNESCO City of Literature. That presentation is now finally live and viewable on the internet, thanks to Seattle Channel:
And today, author Ryan Boudinot announced that Mayor Murray's office submitted our bid to UNESCO. They'll be announcing the new Creative Cities in November.
After the jump, I've included pertinent parts of the application, which Boudinot forwarded to his e-mail list this afternoon. It's an amazing document that explains exactly why Seattle is such an important city of literature. Boudinot should be proud of the work he put into it. It's quite long, so you might want to save this page to Pocket or the read-it-later service of your choice, so you can give it the time it deserves.
Seattle City of Literature Application
March 19, 2014
Prepared by Ryan Boudinot
On a summer day in 1850, Chief Sealth met a group of explorers on the shore of Elliott Bay. Sealth was accompanied by a sizable and spirited contingent of his people, who had gathered to celebrate the first great run of salmon. To put his European guests at ease, Sealth said, “…you do not want to take this wild demonstration as warlike. It is meant in the nature of a salute. I am glad to have you come to our country.”
It is in this spirit, a wild demonstration in the nature of a salute, that we make our bid to join UNESCO’s Creative City Network as a City of Literature.
In Puget Sound, the languages of our First People are embedded in our geography. These are the words that give names to our homes. Duwamish, Suquamish, Muckleshoot, Puyallup, Tulalip, Snoqualmie, Nooksack, Nisqually, Leschi, Alki, Skagit.
To these and other names Europeans added Mercer, Denny, Georgetown, Fremont, Yesler, Roosevelt, Ballard, Magnolia, Wallingford, Queen Anne.
And generations that arrived from all corners of the globe have planted names in Seattle’s neighborhoods. Ruby Chow. Martin Luther King Jr. Cal Anderson. Edgar Martinez Jr.
One can read the names of Seattle’s streets and neighborhoods as a work of literature itself, a chronicle of Native peoples, pioneers, speculators, and visionaries. Seattle is a city where travelers have long booked passage, a land of “crossing over” as the coastal Salish called it. At different periods it has served as a gateway to the Yukon, Asia, and to the twenty-first century.
Many writers have passed through Seattle and captured its character in poems, novels, and stories. Allen Ginsburg chronicled a walk through town in his 1956 poem “Afternoon Seattle,” which had him exploring “…labyrinth wood stairways and Greek movies under Farmers Market second hand city.” The legendary Blue Moon Tavern has long attracted figures like Jack Kerouac, Theodore Roethke, and Tom Robbins, the Seattle novelist whose works seek the sublime in the outlandish.
It’s Robbins, perhaps, who best exemplifies the exuberant literary spirit of the Northwest. His titles alone evoke adventure: Another Roadside Attraction, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas, and his upcoming memoir, Tibetan Peach Pie. Robbins also exemplifies the community-minded ethos of many Seattle writers, serving as a member of the Board of Directors of children’s writing center 826 Seattle.
The stories and poems of Northwest native Raymond Carver continue to influence writers around the world, with deceptively plain language that reveals charged moments of conflict and epiphany in everyday lives. Seattle has a tradition of poetry that speaks from and to the working class, particularly in the poems of Richard Hugo, who was also a beloved teacher and namesake of the city’s premier literary arts center.
One cannot be a poet in the Pacific Northwest and resist the beauty of the surrounding landscape. Pulitzer winner Gary Snyder’s poems represent a confluence of Beat generation sensibilities fused with ecological awareness and Asian spiritual traditions. Fellow Pulitzer winner Carolyn Kizer’s poems likewise receive inspiration from the natural world, but also from feminism and science. Younger poets like Karen Finneyfrock, Kary Wayson, and Ed Skoog have advanced Northwest poetic traditions into further territories.
Seattle is a city of novelists, memoirists, playwrights, and short story writers. August Wilson, whose Pittsburgh Cycle explored ten decades of the black American experience, spent the last fifteen years of his life in Seattle, where he worked with the Seattle Repertory Theater to stage his ten-play masterwork and his solo show How I Learned What I Learned.
New York Times columnist Timothy Egan, whose The Worst Hard Time won the National Book Award for nonfiction, writes extensively about his home in the Pacific Northwest. Rebecca Brown, whose awards include the Lambda Literary Award for The Gifts of the Body, recently organized a reading celebrating the works of Franz Kafka at Hugo House.
Jonathan Raban, a transplant from the UK, has embraced the region in such books as Passage to Juneau: A Sea and Its Meanings, Waxwings, and Driving Home: An American Journey. Lesley Hazelton, also from the UK, writes extensively about the world’s religious traditions, most recently The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad.
The writer whose readings pull the largest crowds in Seattle is, indisputably, Sherman Alexie. Books by this poet, novelist, short story writer, stand-up comedian, and filmmaker include The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven, The Business of Fancydancing, Indian Killer, and National Book Award winner The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. Alexie is also a founding Board member of Longhouse Media, a nonprofit organization that teaches filmmaking to Native American youth.
Seattle’s writers are as diverse as the stories they tell and the poems they write, though what they hold in common is their city’s wealth of creative outlets and opportunities. Many are activists, teachers, publishers, booksellers, or librarians. The city’s performance spaces host local writers every week of the year, and they’re often joined by their peers from out of town. Long the home of the oral traditions of its First People, Seattle has become a place to cross over into the written word.
Seattle’s History and People
Seattle lies nestled in Puget Sound, an area that for 10,000 years has been home to the Nooksack Indian Tribe, Lummi Nation, Samish Indian Nation, Swinomish Tribe, Tulalip Tribes, Stillaguamish Tribe, Duwamish Tribe, Snoqualmie Tribe, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Puyallup Indian Tribe, Nisqually Tribe, Squaxin Island Tribe, Suquamish Tribe, Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe, and the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, among many other First Peoples indigenous to the Pacific Northwest. In recognition of this heritage, Chief Sealth’s image graces our city’s corporate seal.
The retreat of Ice Age glaciers left the region rumpled, gouged, and carved with hills, valleys, and lakes. During their annual migration, Coho and Chinook salmon arrive in Puget Sound from the Pacific Ocean, making their way to the fish ladder at the Ballard Locks, where they climb up into Lake Union, pass the University of Washington through a ship canal, then swim to Lake Washington, answering the call to spawn in the creeks from which they hatched.
The city’s engineers established a modern metropolis amid a landscape rich with islands, fertile farmlands, and glacier-cloaked volcanoes. Seattle’s early planners applied a diverse array of grids to this topography of hills, gullies, and waterways, organizing the city first around the railroad and bay, then around the highway system that binds countries and continents.
Incorporated in 1869, Seattle lies 113 miles south of the Canadian border, and is defined by Elliott Bay to the west and Lake Washington to the east. Both the volcanic Cascades to the east and Olympic mountains to the west are visible within city limits. Seattleites often proudly point to the forms of outdoor recreation readily available, boasting that one can leave an office building downtown and race down a ski slope 45 minutes later.
The most northwestern major city in the contiguous United States, Seattle lies at the western terminus of Interstate-90. Travel east through the American heartland on this continent-spanning route and you’ll eventually arrive in Boston. If you head north on Interstate-5 at noon you can make it to Vancouver, British Columbia, by tea time. Heading south on Interstate-5 puts you on a direct course through Oregon, California, Mexico, and Central and South America.
As a trading partner on the Pacific Rim, Seattle does more than import goods from Japan, China, South Korea, Vietnam, and other Asian nations—it looks to Asia for philosophical and artistic influence. The traditional heart of Asian American culture in Seattle is the International District, home of Japanese-language bookstore Kinokuniya and the Wing Luke museum of pan-Asian Pacific American heritage. When Japanese author Haruki Murakami read from his novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle at Elliott Bay Book Company in 1997, roughly half the audience consisted of Seattleites who are native Japanese speakers.
We like to believe that a book written in any language in the world can find a reader in Seattle. Seattle is proud to be home of the most diverse postal (zip) code in the United States, 98118. According to our most recent census data (2012), the ethnic composition of Seattle’s 615,000 citizens is as follows.
• White – 69.5%
• Black/African American—7.9%
• American Indian & Alaska Native—0.8%
• Native Hawaiian & Other Pacific Islander—0.4%
• Other Race—2.4%
• Two or More Races—5.1%
• Hispanic or Latino Ethnicity (of any race)—6.6%
• Persons of Color—33.7%
Behind these numbers stand values of tolerance, inclusiveness, fairness, and a commitment to freedom of expression and social justice. People in Seattle are defined not by where their families are from so much as by what they wish to achieve. Washington is one of the growing number of states where same sex couples can legally marry, and diversity thrives within individual families as well as in neighborhoods.
Seattle’s City government is administered by the Mayor and a nine-seat City Council. The Office of Intergovernmental Relations manages relationships with domestic and foreign governments, and oversees Seattle’s Sister Cities program, which currently includes the following 21 cities:
• Beer Sheva, Israel est. 1977
• Bergen, Norway est. 1967
• Cebu, Philippines est. 1991
• Chongqing, China est. 1983
• Christchurch, New Zealand est. 1981
• Daejeon, Korea est. 1989
• Galway, Ireland est. 1986
• Gdynia, Poland est. 1993
• Haiphong, Vietnam est. 1996
• Kaohsiung, Taiwan est. 1991
• Kobe, Japan est. 1957
• Limbe, Cameroon est. 1984
• Mazatlán, Mexico est. 1979
• Mombasa, Kenya est. 1981
• Nantes, France est. 1980
• Pécs, Hungary est. 1991
• Perugia, Italy est. 1993
• Reykjavik, Iceland est. 1986
• Sihanoukville, Cambodia est. 1999
• Surabaya, Indonesia est. 1992
• Tashkent, Uzbekistan est. 1973
The Sister Cities program has strengthened relationships between Seattleites and citizens around the world for over forty years. We are particularly excited that two of our Sister Cities, Reykjavik and Kobe, are also members of the Creative Cities Network. As we develop North-South and East-West alliances and programs, we will work closely with the Office of Intergovernmental Relations to identify opportunities for growth and co-operation.
Seattle is a city that has always belonged to the twenty-first century. In the nineteenth century the city’s founders briefly considered calling their muddy new home “New York Alki,” Chinook for “by and by,” to express the notion that one day this city would rival Manhattan. In 1962, Seattle invited the world to glimpse the century to come at its World Exposition. Seattle’s identity as a technological hub persisted with the success of Boeing, Microsoft, and a thriving ecosystem of biotechnology and information technology start-ups, think tanks, venture capitalists, and companies large and small.
Now that the 21st century has arrived, the people of Seattle stand prepared and eager to welcome the world once again, to invite the stories of all people, and to share a few of our own.
Section 5: Creative Assets and Programmes
Seattle’s Literary Landscape
Central Connecticut State University has been ranking America’s most literate cities since 2005, and Seattle has come in first or second place every year. These rankings take into account the number and quality of education programs, libraries, independent bookstores, newspapers, and other media. When these rankings are considered in aggregate, Seattle can fairly claim to be America’s most literate city. This claim doesn’t come as a surprise to those who enjoy the city’s rich literary life. Readers and writers at any level of engagement with literature can find ample resources in Seattle.
Children in Seattle discover literature in their schools, libraries, and the independent bookstores in their neighborhoods. They sign up for classes at 826 Seattle, the youth writing center/space exploration supply company that is a branch of author Dave Eggers’s network of 826 tutoring centers. In 2013, 826 Seattle was recognized for its innovative programming by Michelle Obama at a ceremony at the White House.
Young writers participate in Hugo House’s Scribes program, which provides teens with opportunities to develop their craft in workshops and perform on stage before an enthusiastic audience of their peers. Or they take advantage of Seattle Arts and Lectures’ Writers in the Schools program, which sends dozens of published writers into Seattle’s public classrooms for extended teaching residencies every semester.
Young writers facing challenging life circumstances are served by PONGO, a nonprofit organization dedicated to offering literary expression as a way to improve lives. Youth Speaks Seattle is the city’s premier source for spoken word, poetry, and performance opportunities for young people.
Many children in Seattle first fall in love with books in the plywood castle in the children’s section of Elliott Bay Book Company. Elliott Bay (as many Seattleites refer to it in shorthand) has fed the minds of the region’s readers for forty years, most of it spent in a creaky, cedar-shelved warren of nooks and crannies in historic Pioneer Square. In 2011, the store moved to its current home on Capitol Hill, where business is booming.
Part of Elliott Bay’s success can be attributed to one of its very first employees, Rick Simonson, who continues to co-manage the store’s reading series, which provides over 400 free events a year in the store’s dedicated reading room, as well as sponsoring events in other venues around town. Long a confidant of America’s publishers, this year Simonson served as one of the judges for the National Book Award.
While readers from around the world make pilgrimages to Elliott Bay, they are just as delighted by the city’s other independent bookstores. These include Open Books, one of four stores in the country that exclusively sells poetry; University Bookstore, the city’s oldest shop, which maintains an extensive schedule of events; and Ada’s Technical Books, which caters to Seattle’s many technophiles.
Venture into Seattle’s neighborhoods and you’ll encounter passionate and knowledgeable booksellers quick to offer their personal recommendations at two branches of Third Place Books, Queen Anne Book Company, Magnolia’s Bookstore, Secret Garden Books, Mockingbird Books, Santoro’s, and Island Books.
Numerous specialty booksellers draw readers looking to immerse themselves in a particular subject or genre. Seattle Mystery Bookshop, located in historic Pioneer Square, caters to readers on the hunt for whodunits. Flora and Fauna Books specializes in field guides and natural history titles. In popular Pike Place Market, Left Bank Books carries assorted fiction and nonfiction with an emphasis on political theory and social justice.
Seekers of used and antiquarian treasures are well served by the overflowing inventories of Magus Books, Wessel and Lieberman Antiquarian Booksellers, Pegasus Book Exchange, multiple branches of Half Price Books, and Twice Sold Tales. Serious bibliophiles are loathe to miss the fantastically vast book sales hosted by the Friends of the Seattle Public Library. The annual Antiquarian Book Festival draws vendors from around the country who specialize in rare volumes.
The Seattle Public Library system is a point of pride for Seattleites, with the Central Library downtown, 26 neighborhood branches, and Mobile Library services. It has a total collection of 2.4 million books and other media, and circulated over a million items a month in 2013. Over 350,000 people attended the over 8,000 public programs offered in 2013.
Seattle voters demonstrated their support for the library at the ballot box in 2012, passing a $123 million levy that improved hours and services, invested in new technologies and maintenance, and expanded the system’s collections. In 1998, voters approved the most ambitious bond measure in the library’s history, combining public and private funding totaling $290.7 million to support construction of a new Central Library downtown, four new branches, and improvements to the existing 22 neighborhood branches. The Washington Center for the Book at Seattle Public Library maintains a robust programming schedule including lectures, book discussions, and the yearly Washington State Book Awards.
Readers in Seattle are so passionate about libraries that they have taken to creating little lending libraries of their own, some of them no larger than a mailbox, scattered throughout the city’s residential neighborhoods. For those who can’t read standard print, the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library, overseen by the Washington State Library system, provides youth and adults with a broad selection of recorded materials and books printed in Braille.
Seattle’s Zine Archive and Publishing Project (ZAPP) contains the largest known collection of zines in the world, approximately 30,000, providing the public with an invaluable historical record of primary sources gathered from the eclectic self-publishing scene.
While libraries and bookstores are some of Seattle’s most popular venues to take in free readings, they’re far from the only place that readers can connect with authors. In addition to its popular Writers in the Schools program, Seattle Arts and Lectures administers a reading series that brings some of the world’s most acclaimed writers and thinkers to the city’s stages. This year’s program includes events with George Saunders, Madhur Jaffrey, Anne Carson, and Malcolm Gladwell, to name a few.
Town Hall, one of the finest performance venues in the city, hosts writers, scientists, and other thinkers and performers year-round, and is currently in the process of a major renovation and expansion. The APRIL festival (which, oddly enough, happens in March), has writers perform in unexpected venues, the results of which are always inspired and often hilarious. And this year’s Lit Crawl, which promises to become an annual event, had book lovers roaming from one venue to the next to hear writers deliver their work over the course of a spirited evening.
Seattle’s book culture thrives in the city’s nonprofit arts organizations. Hugo House, the literary arts center founded in 1999, is located in a stately Victorian home on Capitol Hill and features classrooms, offices, a cabaret performance space, and a 200-seat theater. Hugo House’s programs include classes on various genres and aspects of craft, an annual reading series in which readers are commissioned to create new work, and Cheap Wine and Poetry and Cheap Beer and Prose—notoriously riotous events that draw standing-room-only crowds for reasons that should be self evident. Hugo House also provides the public with free, private consultations with writers in residence, all of whom are working, published authors.
There’s a book club for every taste in Seattle, with many of these clubs convening at independent bookstores and cafes around town. Seattle hosts a chapter of the Women’s National Book Association, which is classified as a Non-Governmental Organization and works on United Nations initiatives. The Bushwick Book Club, originated in New York, recently opened a chapter here. Bent Writing Institute offers opportunities for LGBT writers and readers.
Seattle Seven, a group whose membership is far greater than their name suggests, advocates for opportunities for all the city’s writers. The organization Jack Straw takes written work and transforms it into inventive and engaging audio recordings. Other organizations with members devoted to improving the lives of writers and readers include Northwest Independent Editors Guild and Humanities Washington.
Clarion West is one of the country’s premier workshops for writers of speculative fiction, drawing the world’s great science fiction and fantasy authors as faculty, including Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin, and Ursula K. Le Guin. Writers of speculative fiction also have opportunities to engage in panels and presentations at the wildly popular Norwescon, a convention that features the presentation of the annual Philip K. Dick Award. Writers at these and related events may one day end up enshrined in the Science Fiction Writers Hall of Fame at the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum.
Writers who wish to pursue their craft formally can apply to the Master of Fine Arts program at the University of Washington, where Theodore Roethke inspired a generation of poets including fellow Pulitzer winner Carolyn Kizer. MacArthur Fellowship recipient and National Book Award winner Heather McHugh, National Book Award winning novelist Charles Johnson, and poet David Wagoner have long taught and been associated with the Creative Writing program at UW, which graduates about a dozen students a year. Other present and former faculty include Shawn Wong, Colleen McElroy, and David Shields.
Students at Seattle University, UW Bothell, and Seattle Pacific University have opportunities to study creative writing at the undergraduate and graduate levels and work with faculty who are published, working writers. Seattle University presently boasts enrollment of 96 students in its Bachelor of Fine Arts Creative Writing program. SPU’s unique low-residency MFA program emphasizes the intersection of faith and fiction, graduating 10-15 students per year. Antioch College’s Humanities department offers a number of creative writing and literature classes, and is home to the fine literary journal Knock. Many of the students who graduate from these programs remain in Seattle to write, publish, and teach, further enriching the city’s cultural life.
Seattle’s publishing industry includes presses of international stature and esteem. Copper Canyon is one of the nation’s most vital poetry presses and publisher of works by Mahmoud Darwish, Chris Abani, W.S. Merwin, Jean Valentine, and C.D. Wright, among many others. Relative newcomer Wave Books immediately established a reputation for exquisitely produced volumes by such poets as Mary Ruefle, Eileen Myles, James Tate, and Alejandro de Acosta.
Sasquatch Books started as a publisher of popular visitors’ guides and has grown into a press offering a broad selection of handsomely produced general interest titles. Among these are the Book Lust series by Seattle’s own literary super hero, Nancy Pearl, the only librarian to ever be immortalized as an action figure (complete with “shushing” action!). Sasquatch publishes cook books, children’s books, and will publish an overview of the city’s literary culture, edited by Ryan Boudinot, as one of the first initiatives of the Seattle City of Literature Project.
Few publishers in the world can claim to have revolutionized an entire medium. Seattle’s own Fantagraphics did precisely that, almost single-handedly introducing literary and nonfiction themes to comics. These vibrant books produced with bibliophilic attention to detail include works by Alison Bechdel, Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Robert Crumb, Jim Woodring, Joost Swarte, and Joe Sacco. In addition to publishing original works, Fantagraphics is home to lovingly presented archival works by American comics masters like Charles Schulz, Hank Ketchum, and George Herriman. Fantagraphics books are for sale at their flagship store in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood.
Excellent academic and general interest titles have long been available through the University of Washington press, and Mountaineers Books is widely admired for books on conservation and outdoor recreation. A variety of well-curated small presses committed to bringing new voices into the world rounds out Seattle’s publishing industry, including Dark Coast, Black Heron, Lost Horse, and Jaded Ibis.
Seattle, a Creative City
While the purpose of this application is to make the case for Seattle as a literary city, we recognize that literature is but a component in a larger ecosystem of our city’s creative assets. Seattle is a city of theaters, galleries, dance companies, museums, music venues, independent record labels, cinemas, festivals, and performances, all of which provide inspiration for the many artists and writers who call it home.
This is the city where Martha Graham danced, where composer John Cage met choreographer Merce Cunningham, and where Jimi Hendrix first placed his fingers on the fret board of a guitar. Quincy Jones and Ray Charles got their start here in clubs not far from where Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl introduce the world to “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Nirvana was just the most prominent of the Seattle bands that changed popular music in the early nineties; Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, The Gits, Mudhoney, and Tad all left an indelible mark on rock and roll history.
Masterworks by the world’s great composers fill Benaroya Hall. Pacific Northwest Ballet stages productions both timeless and daringly experimental at McCaw Hall, and thousands flock to the Seattle Opera’s production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, known as one of the world’s finest. Most recently, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis blazed a trail for Seattle hip-hop from the thrift shops of Capitol Hill to the Grammys.
The glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly and the painters of the Northwest School—Mark Tobey, Guy Anderson, Kenneth Callahan, and Morris Graves among them—refer to the forests, beaches, and skies of the Pacific Northwest for moments of luminosity. The Seattle Art Museum, which includes the Seattle Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park and the Olympic Sculpture Garden, houses an expansive permanent collection and hosts traveling exhibitions including a recent collaboration with Paris’s Pompidou, Femmes, devoted entirely to female artists.
The Seattle Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park features a renowned permanent collection and hosts some of Asia’s most accomplished contemporary artists. It’s also home to the Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas, which offers lectures and presentations on topics as diverse as art, agriculture, and global health.
The Frye Art Museum, based on the private collection of generous arts patrons and featuring a bold schedule of temporary exhibitions, is free to the public. The city’s monthly First Thursday Art Walk has welcomed art lovers to the galleries of Pioneer Square for over thirty years. Presently First Thursday Art Walk includes 131 venues.
One of the city’s projects involves allowing visual artists to create installations out of buildings in transition, for instance “yarn-bombing” a former residence that now is home to Seattle’s newest independent bookstore and café, Ada’s Technical Books.
The Seattle International Film Festival is our annual showcase of world cinema, and every night of the year cinephiles can find art house and international films at numerous independent movie houses, including Northwest Film Forum; Landmark Cinemas; and Cinerama, a state-of-the movie palace designed to screen 70mm films. Seattle is also the proud home of Scarecrow Video, which offers over 110,000 individual titles for sale and rental. Filmmakers cherish Seattle’s overcast sky and many of the actors, set designers, and dramaturges who graduate from the Cornish School of the Arts find work on local and national productions.
Architects know Seattle as a city of bold, forward-looking experiments. The most iconic example, of course, is our Space Needle, the jet-set symbol of techno-optimism marking Seattle Center, site of the 1962 World’s Fair. At the Space Needle’s feet, so to speak, stands the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s riotous showcase of popular culture, designed by Frank Gehry.
Visitors to Steven Holl’s Chapel of St. Ignatius at Seattle University often leave profoundly moved by how the building binds light to spirit. Spirit of another variety animates Safeco Field, a retractable roof stadium and home to the Seattle Mariners, and CenturyLink Field, home to 2014 Super Bowl Champions the Seattle Seahawks.
Perhaps the most fascinating and provocative piece of design on the Seattle skyline is the building devoted to books, the Seattle Central Library, a geometrically inventive glass and steel marvel designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaus. Among the many innovations of this building is the book spiral, a continuous, four-story ramp housing the library’s nonfiction collection. Words in languages from around the world are carved into the floorboards of the Foreign Language books section, located just within the building’s Fourth Avenue entrance, as an architectural expression of welcome to non-English speaking visitors.
Seattle is a culturally rich city with a strong tradition of private and public investment in creative expression. The City of Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture invested $2.4 million to support over 350 artists and arts organizations across all artistic disciplines in 2012. This city department has been fiercely committed to arts education programs designed to provide artistic opportunities to underserved communities.
Many artists of all disciplines benefit from grants provided by 4 Culture, King County’s cultural services agency. 4 Culture provides generous support for public art projects, heritage and landmark programs, and funding for organizations and individual artists. In 2012 4 Culture awarded over $5 million in funds to individual artists and organizations in Seattle and in greater King County.
Those who’ve made their fortunes in airplanes, software, coffee, lumber, and an array of other industries contribute generously to the creative and social life of the city. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest, improves the lives of people through innovative programs in medicine and education that are global in scope. The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation enriches the lives of Seattle’s citizens through its generous contributions to arts, culture, and entrepreneurial initiatives. The names Boeing, Starbucks, Weyerhaeuser, Nordstrom, Expedia, Rick Steves, and many more companies and private individuals regularly appear in association with the city’s many cultural treasures.
Seattle Center serves as the city’s most concentrated hub of creative assets. In addition to the Space Needle and EMP, this 74-acre complex is home to McCaw Hall, Seattle International Film Festival, Intiman Theater, Seattle Repertory Theater, Seattle Children’s Theater, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, and Book-It Repertory Theater, a company specializing in adapting literary works for the stage.
Seattle Center is also the site of the year’s most exuberant party, the annual Bumbershoot festival, which draws over 100,000 visitors over the first weekend of September. An integral part of the festival is the Words and Ideas program, which hosts writers and independent presses from around the world.
Seattle is a city of diverse and lively neighborhoods full of arts centers, public art, libraries, and working artists and writers. One neighborhood, Fremont, proudly claims to be Center of the Universe and hosts a legendary solstice parade. Ballard, where Scandinavian settlers put down roots, is home to the Nordic Heritage museum, which features historical artifacts and hosts a variety of educational programs.
To the South, over fifty languages can be heard in the halls of schools in Rainier Valley and Columbia City, and the music you hear in clubs and cabarets often comes courtesy of the nationally ranked Garfield and Franklin High School music programs. When a light rail line was built through this part of town in 2009, the city devoted 1% of the budget to public art, resulting in a series of neighborhood-specific sculptures at every station.
To live in Seattle is to be reminded daily that creative expression is important and ever-evolving. The city champions bold voices and warmly welcomes artistic traditions from afar. The opportunity to join a global conversation about the arts is simply too thrilling for Seattle to resist.
Section 6: City’s Contribution to the Creative City Network
To demonstrate what UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network can expect from Seattle, we’d like to point to a single evening marking a significant moment in the city’s cultural life. On March 12, 2014, Seattle’s literary community came together at Town Hall to articulate how we will work in accordance with the objectives of the Network. Video of this event is available here.
Master of Ceremonies Brian McGuigan, founder of the popular Cheap Wine and Poetry reading series, was joined by the following speakers: Cowlitz Indian Tribe member and University of Washington Lecturer Elissa Washuta; Mayor Ed Murray; Program Manager for Washington Center for the Book Chris Higashi; Elliott Bay Book Company Bookseller Rick Simonson; Sasquatch Books President and Publisher Gary Luke; author and international literary advocate Nancy Pearl; Hugo House Executive Director Tree Swenson; author Ryan Boudinot; and Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim.
These presenters spoke on behalf of Seattle’s literary community, addressed the Network’s objectives, and described the pilot programs on which the Seattle City of Literature Project wishes to embark. University Bookstore provided books for sale in the lobby, with one table devoted to works by Seattle authors, and another table devoted to works by authors representing each of the seven current Cities of Literature.
This display was itself a demonstration of Seattle’s commitment to enhancing access to the cultural goods of the Network. Books for sale included works by Robert Louis Stevenson, Julian of Norwich, Halldor Laxness, James Joyce, Marilynne Robinson, Czeslaw Milosz, Nam Le, Sjón, Frank Conroy, Stanislaw Lem, Lan Samantha Chang, Peter Carey, J.K. Rowling, Anne Enright, and Wislawa Szymborska, among others.
Attendance at this event was estimated in the hundreds, and represented the breadth and depth of Seattle’s literary community. Writers, politicians, teachers, librarians, booksellers, publishers, philanthropists, and representatives of arts nonprofits demonstrated their united enthusiasm for Seattle’s bid to join the Creative Cities Network as a City of Literature.
Cowlitz Indian Tribe member and University of Washington Lecturer Elissa Washuta provided a welcome, acknowledging 10,000 years of storytelling tradition in the Pacific Northwest. The Seattle City of Literature Project seeks to honor the heritage of the region’s First Peoples, preserving and collecting their stories, respecting indigenous languages, and designing exchange and education programs to share and celebrate contemporary and traditional Native literary art. Giving voice to these often underserved communities will be at the very heart of our education initiatives.
Mayor Ed Murray spoke about how City of Literature designation will improve the lives of the city’s minority youth, particularly African Americans, a population that lives disproportionately in poverty in our city. Mayor Murray stressed that he sees no difference between a commitment to literature and a commitment to literacy. He believes that City of Literature designation will lead to greater education opportunities for the city’s young people.
Chris Higashi of the Washington Center for the Book acknowledged the 10-year anniversary of the Seattle Central Library and thanked the public for the levies and ballot initiatives, described elsewhere in this application, that have allowed the Seattle Public Library system to greatly enhance access to literature city-wide.
Rick Simonson, longtime bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company, spoke of Seattle’s enduring legacy of championing international authors. He singled out Haruki Murakami in particular, who read in Seattle in 1997 to a capacity crowd at a point in his career when he had sold fewer than 10,000 copies of any of his books in the United States.
Sasquatch Press Publisher Gary Luke amused the audience by likening the publishing industry to “socially acceptable gambling” and conveyed his appreciation for the many publishers who call Seattle home. Mr. Luke also revealed plans for a book, to be edited by Ryan Boudinot and published in 2015, which will survey and celebrate the city’s literary heritage.
Author Nancy Pearl, co-founder (with Chris Higashi) of the world’s first One City One Book program, spoke of the transformative experience of taking this program to Bosnia-Herzegovina in an effort to heal ethnic tensions. The book Ms. Pearl shared in this particular instance was Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, winner of the National Book Award for Young Adult Fiction. Ms. Pearl is committed to sponsoring an international writers exchange as one of the Seattle City of Literature Project’s pilot programs.
Tree Swenson, Executive Director of Hugo House, spoke of efforts underway in Seattle to establish a writing center at the current site of Hugo House. Nonprofit arts leaders, landowners, publishers, and writers have been in discussions about creating a facility that houses multiple organizations devoted to various elements of writing and literary production. We envision a center modeled after the Loft Literary Center of Minneapolis, which houses a bookstore as well as writing studios, classrooms, and publishing resources. This is a significant step toward integrating literary art into local development plans.
Author Ryan Boudinot began with a lengthy list of acknowledgements to the city’s many governmental and arts leaders who have been instrumental in preparing our bid. He described some of the unique programs offered by each of the seven Cities of Literature, and encouraged publishers, booksellers, and writers to embrace this international literary community in the spirit of co-operation and a shared passion for books. Mr. Boudinot also made a personal pledge that all of his own books, for the remainder of his writing career, will be published in Seattle by Seattle presses. It is his hope that committing to Seattle’s publishing industry will help strengthen the local production of books.
Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim closed the evening by speaking about how literature enriched her life as a young Korean American. The Deputy Mayor also reaffirmed the City of Seattle’s commitment to funding and advocating for the arts.
The evening was a public demonstration of a movement toward collaboration and synergy within Seattle’s literary arts community. City of Literature designation will allow for even more profound integration of Seattle’s existing literary organizations and institutions, as well as for those who work within or enjoy the fruits of Seattle’s creative industries.
This event was just the most recent expression of Seattle’s long-standing eagerness for the kind of international engagement for which UNESCO is admired. We seek to work with the other Cities of Literature as true partners and provide a link to Asia’s and South America’s members of the Creative Cities Network. North-South and East-West initiatives are part of the city’s DNA, as demonstrated by our forty-year-old Sister Cities program. We’re eager to compliment these efforts with partnerships pursued in accordance with UNESCO’s vision and values.
We are committed to engaging with the other cities in the Literature sub-network at every stage of our program development process. We look forward to meaningful consultation and collaboration with our international partners, and are excited to learn from their programming and collective imagination. In some instances, these collaborations have already begun.
There are four initiatives we will seek to implement immediately.
First, creating a plan to establish a new literary arts center on the property currently home to Hugo House on 11th Avenue on Capitol Hill. We have begun discussions with the land owner, Hugo House, the Office of Arts and Culture, and community development groups. Our vision is for a multi-use facility that will house the Seattle City of Literature Project, Hugo House, work and performance spaces, a publishing laboratory, classrooms, living spaces for visiting writers, permanent housing, and potentially a restaurant.
Second, an international writers’ exchange program, sponsored by Nancy Pearl. This program will provide visiting writers with living and working spaces while incorporating them into the city’s education and literary arts programs. Office Nomads, a company that offers work space for creative people, has indicated they are willing to provide workspace for visiting international writers.
Third, the publication of a book, tentatively titled Seattle: City of Literature, to be edited by Ryan Boudinot and published by Sasquatch Books. This book will be the first comprehensive survey of the city’s literary heritage, its current literary landscape, and a vision for the future of literary art in Seattle. Sasquatch Books has submitted a contract for this book and added it to their Fall 2015 publication schedule. Proceeds from this book will be donated to the Seattle City of Literature budget.
Fourth, a dedicated City Poet position established by City Councilmember Nick Licata. This individual will serve as a cultural ambassador of Seattle’s literary arts community, performing at events, developing education initiatives, and working with our writers’ exchange program. Our intention is that this individual will also work to address the needs of Seattle’s underprivileged populations.
Seattle is a city known for its contributions to technology, and we intend to leverage our strengths in that industry where possible and appropriate. We are continuing work on a mobile device platform called the Zoner, which allows users to create geographically delineated zones populated with content. We believe this is a feasible and achievable technology that could provide a method for cities in the Creative Cities Network to promote cultural tourism and potentially provide a source of revenue.
In addition, we plan to add a literary component to the 2014 Reykjavik Calling concert sponsored by radio station KEXP and Iceland Naturally. This concert, which pairs Icelandic and Seattle musicians, will expand to include collaborations between Icelandic and Seattle writers.
Section 7: Communication and visibility assets
The Seattle City of Literature Project will work closely with Visit Seattle, Seattle’s primary tourism office. Visit Seattle includes a department dedicated to promoting cultural tourism, and will be a key partner in discussions about potentially hosting a future Creative Cities Summit in Seattle. Visit Seattle is headquartered in the complex that includes the Washington State Convention Center.
We will also work closely with Seattle’s Department of Intergovernmental Affairs, which maintains our Sister Cities program. As UNESCO continues to designate creative cities, we will look to this department for opportunities for creative partnerships.
Part of Central Connecticut University’s methodology for designated America’s most literate cities is the quality and quantity of media devoted to literary arts. Book-related news, reviews, and profiles are abundant in the city’s media. Seattle, Seattle Metropolitan, and City Arts are glossy monthlies that devote pages of every issue to coverage of local authors and literary events.
The Seattle Times, one of the last American newspapers with a dedicated Books editor, keeps the city apprised of new releases and events, and weeklies Seattle Weekly and The Stranger stir passionate debates about books, publishing, and book-related events. The Stranger also hosts the annual Genius Awards, recognizing local creators and organizations devoted to music, film, visual art, theater, and literature. The Genius Awards allocates $25,000 in grants every year.
Radio stations KPLU and KUOW provide listeners with coverage of local books and authors. KEXP, which has been instrumental in promoting partnerships between Icelandic and Seattle musicians, will prove to be a key ally in developing a literary component of the Reykjavik Calling concert. The community access Seattle Channel hosts Art Zone with Nancy Guppy and Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust, an interview program highlighting local and visiting writers. Nancy Pearl also regularly appears nationally on National Public Radio.
We also believe that Sasquatch Books’ publication of the book exploring Seattle’s literary heritage will provide a publicity opportunity for the Seattle City of Literature Project. This book is scheduled to be published in September, 2015.
Section 8: Budget
We intend to fund our programs through a combination of public and private financing. We are in discussions with the Office of Arts and Culture, the Mayor’s office, and the City Council about public funding. We have promising leads with private companies and foundations, and are exploring a number of structural options, including having the City of Literature program associated with a proposed Washington State UNESCO center. Designation will provide us with the legitimacy to proceed with these opportunities.
The expenses enumerated below include a staff of three, attendance at the 2014 Creative Cities Summit in Chengdu as an Observer, funding for the City Poet position, and expenses related to establishing a nonprofit organization.
These expenses total $220,350, with over 57% devoted to programming. We recognize that this is an ambitious goal, and are prepared to adjust these numbers to comply with budgetary restrictions. Some of the contingencies we have discussed include converting staff positions to part-time, seeking donations of office space, and adjusting our programming budget.