Launch on May 27 this year, the Constitution was drafted to encourage help shed light and encourage serious discussion about the state of the arts in Seattle. Have thoughts about it? .
Constitution with the Arts
Imagine Seattle without either the Elliot Bay Book Co. or Scarecrow Video. What would we have lost if, as came very close to happening, both of these locally-owned businesses had gone under? Not just another bookstore, but a thriving literary community, a nationally-celebrated reading series which brings Seattle and the wider world together. Not just another video store, but Seattle's equivalent of the Paris Cinematheque, an archive of movies lovingly collected by a knowledgeable owner and staff. Private businesses? Only in ownership.
Both have grown into de facto public institutions-arts institutions, in fact-in an age when neither the public nor its representatives can find ways to fund such institutions. They have become something else as well: civic markers. We know where we are when we look at them. We are in Seattle. If we looked around and saw only Barnes and Noble or Blockbuster Video or Planet Hollywood, where would we be? In Cincinnati? San Diego? Altoona? Would we even know? Would anyone outside of Seattle be aware of our existence if they saw, whenever they glanced briefly in our direction, another Gap or another Wolfgang Puck restaurant? Sometimes we take the extraordinary for granted because we are too close to see it. Authors like Russell Banks or William Styron have called Elliot Bay their favorite place in the country to give a reading. And Bernardo Bertolucci, the great Italian film director called Scarecrow "the best video store in the world"-in the world! Never are we more provincial than when we ignore what makes us unique in quest of what makes us like everybody else. Fortunately, in a fifth act reversal worthy of this city of unexpected sunshine, help arrived. Ron Sher, owner of Third Place Books and the Honeybear Bakery, is buying Elliot Bay. John Dauphiny and Carl Tostevin of Microsoft have purchased Scarecrow. Why? Because they cannot imagine Seattle without these places, both of which offer compelling reasons to leave one's house at night, opportunities to linger, to mingle, to argue: city life, in short. They had the means to act and did. They deserve our praise.
Before we celebrate, however, a sobering reminder. Not every enterprise that helps give Seattle its distinct urban tone can depend on a white knight bail-out in the fifth act-not the quirky but essential private business that doesn't qualify for public grants, not a besieged public arts program whose wise advice is too often ignored and particularly not the smaller, less institutional arts organizations sustained by volunteers and vision, which are falling by the wayside at an alarming rate. Gone are the Group Theater and the Bathhouse. Soon to follow is the Speakeasy Café, a cutting-edge performance space. There is potentially no end to what we will have to imagine Seattle without unless we put our civic imagination to work and find a more consistent way to preserve what we have. That is why Allied Arts is proposing this "Constitution for the Arts." Think of it as an urban arts manifesto, a celebration of what makes us different, a series of amendments to conventional thinking. Above all, understand the spirit in which we offer it. We believe-why be bashful?-that in the last twenty five years, our city has experienced a Renaissance of creativity both in the Arts and in Business. Grunge rock, Starbucks, And/Or, Microsoft, On the Boards, Aldus, the Seattle Opera's Ring, Real Audio, Wiggly World, the One Percent for Arts program: all of these testify to a similar genius for innovation and improvisation, a knack for the elegant solution, a Seattle style. If any city has the imaginative resources to buck national homogenizing trends and create new civic forms for its generous impulses, this is the one that can do it.
AMENDMENT ONE: "NO CITY ABOVE US"
AMENDMENT TWO: "CLOSE THE LOOPHOLES"
AMENDMENT THREE: "NO NET LOSS OF ART SPACE
AMENDMENT FOUR: "SAVE THE MIDDLE"
AMENDMENT FIVE: "CALL ARTS MEDIC ONE"
AMENDMENT SIX: "ART TO THE EDGES"
AMENDMENT SEVEN: "LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL"
AMENDMENT EIGHT: "OPEN ARTGATES"
It is in the tradition of the campaign to save the Market (in which we at Allied Arts were proud to play our part) that we offer these suggestions. To those of you who have been looking for ways to take action, to the civic-minded citizen in government, the media and private business, to all the artists and arts organizations in town who are happy to see these problems raised in the public arena, we say this: Argue with us as long as you like about any specific solution-come up with a better idea and we will write it into the Constitution-but stand up and support the goals. Ratify these amendments by adding your signature.
We're interested to hear what you think of the Constitution. .