Twenty-eight organizations have signed on as the Advisory Board for Seattle City of Literature, which is planning a bid for the city to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. The organizations include the Seattle Public Library, Visit Seattle, Elliott Bay Book Company, Humanities Washington, Folio: The Seattle Athenaeum, Third Place Books, Book-It Repertory Theatre, Sasquatch Books, Raven Chronicles, ARCADE, Hedgebrook, and over a dozen others.
The group is advising the non-profit organization Seattle City of Literature, an effort initially mobilized in 2013 by writer Ryan Boudinot. The organization also has a restructured Board of Directors, including veterans of non-profits and arts organizations. Citing unequivocal support for the community and Board, Boudinot is announcing that he is stepping down from the Board of Directors, having relinquished his Executive Director position earlier this year.
“Ryan did a fabulous job of manifesting a vision worthy of Seattle’s amazing literary culture,” said Bob Redmond, new board president. “He laid the groundwork for an exceptional program that will help our entire community.”
Boudinot was aided greatly by Rebecca Brinson, onetime Managing Director who returns in a contract role supported by the City of Seattle. While continuing to work closely with the office of Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council, the new Board has raised over $10,000 in cash and pledges, completed the process with the IRS to be a fully recognized 501(c)(3), and worked with the US State Department and key national stakeholders to ensure progress of the effort.
“We’re happy to see such tremendous support for Seattle’s bid,” said Redmond, former Program Director of Town Hall Seattle. “This has always been a group effort and many of these organizations have been instrumental in helping develop our program.”
The centerpiece of that program remains a writers’ exchange between cities in the UNESCO network. Participating organizations will work together to share opportunities and amplify impacts.
“Designation as a city of literature will bring tremendous educational opportunity, help generate new writing, and support the creative economy,” Redmond added.
The Advisory Board is working on details of projects to help young and established writers, while the City of Seattle has already launched its “Civic Poet” program, which is also key to the City of Literature effort. Twenty-one applicants have applied for the position, which pays $10,000. The Civic Poet will be announced this August.
In 2004, UNESCO launched its Creative Cities Network with the aim of “fostering international cooperation between cities committed to investing in creativity as a driver for sustainable urban development, social inclusion and enhanced influence of culture in the world.” The network covers seven thematic areas: Craft and Folk Arts, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Media Arts, Music, and Literature — Seattle’s intended designation.
Perhaps emblematic of the process, a new book — titled Seattle City of Literature and edited by Boudinot — is scheduled for publication this September by local publisher Sasquatch Books. It features essays and profiles by 52 local writers, booksellers, publishers, and other figures in Seattle’s literary community, including Tom Robbins, Claire Dederer, Elissa Washuta, Tree Swenson of Hugo House, Ruth Dickey of Seattle Arts & Lectures, and former Washington State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken.
“This is a city where the only thing we love as much as language is the city itself,” said Redmond. “Our story ranges from indigenous spoken traditions to the future of books themselves. It’s a story that includes everyone, and we look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together.”
The Board is seeking endorsements of organizations and individuals, as well as donations, and will continue preparing its application, due July 15. Further information is available at seattlecityoflit.org
Seattle City of Literature Advisory Board Members as of June 8, 2015
African-American Writers’ Alliance
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Bureau of Fearless Ideas
Clarion West Writers Workshop
Elliott Bay Book Company
Floating Bridge Press
Folio: The Seattle Athenaeum
Jack Straw Cultural Center
Pongo Teen Writing
Seattle Arts & Lectures
Seattle Poetics LAB (SPLAB)
Seattle Public Library/Center for the Book
The Bushwick Book Club
Third Place Books
Town Hall Seattle