A New King County Office Just Dropped, the Betty Bowen Award Winner Has Been Announced, and What Seattle Read This Year

A New King County Office Just Dropped, the Betty Bowen Award Winner Has Been Announced, and What Seattle Read This Year

Last month, the King County Council approved their massive $16.4 billion two-year budget. One thing of note is that the package established the creation of the Office of Economic Opportunity and the Creative Economy. A very long title, but the purpose of the office is about workforce development, small business retention and support for creators and entrepreneurs.

There is now a permanent county-level office dedicated to helping and growing—in economic terms—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 doing a thing!) formalizes the work Creative Economy and Recovery Director Kate Becker has done at KC Exec. The office of Dow Constantine since 2019 and strengthens it in the structure of priorities of the district.

“If you’re working as a creative in the gig economy, it’s super challenging,” Becker said during a recent phone interview. “If you’re underemployed or have barriers to employment like a language barrier or a transportation access barrier, it’s important for the county to address those and make sure we’re really doing everything we can to create the best for as many people as possible.”

The move is directly related to a lot of work that statewide legislators and advocates have done over the past year and a half to boost Seattle’s film industry. In the spring of 2021, the County opened Harbor Island Studios to lure national productions to film their movies, commercials or series in Seattle. Later that year, the state increased its 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 city’s film and television industry. This kitchen is cooking!

Beginning officially on January 1, Becker will co-lead OEOCE with her colleague, Ashton Ashley. In a press release announcing the news, the office listed some of their top priorities for the coming years:

  • Full activation of Harbor Island Studios
  • Workforce development in the film, music and production industries
  • Development of resources for the creative sector
  • Networking and professional development opportunities
  • Raising the profile of working creatives and creative industry small businesses in King County
  • Improving the film permitting process throughout King County
  • Collaboration and partnership to maximize impact

In addition, the King County Council approved $2.2 million to continue required improvements to Harbor Island Studios, which includes a new roof and improved sound insulation. After a pandemic that saw many artists and creatives on the verge of fleeing Seattle due to rising rent and living costs, this new office could bring some renewed investment to an area that desperately needs it.

In other arts and culture news…

A quick ICYMI: This news came while I was on vacation, but I wanted to point it out anyway. Earlier last month, the Seattle Art Museum selected Portland artist Elizabeth Malaska as the 2022 Betty Bowen Award winner. Seattle artists Klara Glosova and Rafael Soldi received special 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 brush strokes and surreal subject matter read like a dream. I can’t wait to see what she cooks up for her exhibition.

Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams — the city’s longest-serving department head — is retiring in February: Nellams has been with the City of Seattle for 40 years and has directed Seattle Center since 2006. He has overseen nearly two decades of change — from organizations like KEXP and SIFF setting up shop, the hundreds of festivals celebrating on the Seattle Center grounds, and the move from Key Arena to Climate Pledge Arena. A press release from the mayor’s office announced that Marshall Foster, director of the Office of Waterfront and Civil Projects, will serve as interim director of the Seattle Center. There is an eight-member committee already assembled to search for the department’s next permanent head. Enjoy your retirement, Robert!

The Seattle Public Library released its list of the most checked-out books of the year: I know you’ve been holding your breath! The most popular book at SPL this year was Louise Erdich’s sentencea novel about the haunting of a bookstore in Minneapolis, set in the year 2020. The most viewed ebook was Home 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 Plant Learning (side note: I’m reading her first book, Collecting moss, now and I’m looking at my surroundings much more closely. An incredible author.) Catch the full inspired playlist wrapped on Spotify just in case you needed to add to your “to read” pile.

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