Gracelynn Shibayama, the events coordinator at the Edmonds Center for the Arts, is an Emerging Leader. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Gracelynn Shibayama, the events coordinator at the Edmonds Center for the Arts, is an Emerging Leader. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Gracelynn Shibayama: Connecting people through the arts and culture

The Edmonds Center for the Arts coordinator strives to create a more connected and empathetic community.

This is one of 12 finalists for The Herald Business Journal’s annual Emerging Leaders awards for 2024. The winner will be named at an event on April 17.

Gracelynn Shibayama, 32

Event Planner & Stewardship Assistant Manager, Edmonds Center for the Arts

Hired as a part-time assistant at the Edmonds Center for the Arts in 2019, Gracelynn Shibayama lobbied for a full-time position.

“Finally, after almost a year of trying, I was asked to join the team as a full-time employee,” Shibayama wrote. Two days later, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, shutting down the center, and ending her employment.

She returned to work in late 2021, but again had to convince the arts center, that she could offer even more as a full-time employee.

Her perseverance paid off. Today, she is the center’s full-time event planner. As part of her job, she helps organize the center’s annual fundraising events.

Last year’s fundraising event — her first — was a challenge. The center was going through a leadership transition and Shibayama said she didn’t have as much support as she hoped. “My new mantra right now is smile and pivot,” she said.

Still, her hard work paid off. “We did it, managed it. We crushed the goals and we’re cruising on to this year,” she told interviewers.

“Gracelynn is the type of leader Snohomish County needs more of!” a nominator wrote.

The arts hold a special place for Shibayama. For one thing, it’s a great way to bring people together is through entertainment and culture, she said.

“If we have a more connected and empathetic community, we ourselves will feel more and be more connected and empathetic,” she said.

Shibayama is co-chair for Girls on the Run of Snohomish County. The nonprofit offers programs to help third- to eighth-grade girls build confidence, kindness and decision making skills.

“I have been on the GOTR Board for almost two years and it’s such a joy to be part of an organization that works hard to empower the youth in our community,” Shibayama said. “Our program serves over 800 girls and gender-expanded youth in our county each year.”

She also helped organize this year’s Edmonds International Women’s Day, held March 8.

She is on track to help with this year’s Leadership Snohomish County’s Step Up conference. The event is designed to help participants gain a “deeper understanding and new perspectives about racial equity and social justice in society and their workplace.”

Shibayama serves on the Multicultural Association of Edmonds board and helped stage the Lunar New Year Event.

In 2022, Shibayama was a keynote speaker at “Emotion Commotion: Connecting and Leading Through Mental Wellness and Self Expression,” a half-day event organized by Leadership Launch, a local nonprofit that mentors students. There she described the family challenges she faced as a teen and her quest to attend college. In 2015, Shibayama her goal and graduated from the University of Washington Bothell.

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097;; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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