EVERETT — The city’s cultural arts commission hopes for a big turnout Thursday evening for the 25th annual Wendt and Mayor’s Arts Awards ceremony. Think the Oscars. You get the idea. No designer gowns required, however.
Recognizing the city’s growing arts scene, the Everett Cultural Arts Commission created the arts awards to honor art teachers, established and emerging artists, and the city’s many arts organizations.
Along with recognizing the talents of two longtime performing arts directors and a fine arts teacher, this year’s awards shindig has an obvious theme about the economic benefits the city garners from the arts.
What makes the economic impact of arts organizations different than other industries is that they induce event-related spending, according to a national study by Americans for the Arts. For example, when patrons attend a performing arts event, they might buy dinner at a local restaurant.
Everett’s cultural arts manager Carol Thomas said these expenditures have a measurable impact on a local economy.
“People want to hang out in Everett,” Thomas said. “Imagine Children’s Museum and the Schack Art Center encourage a lifelong appreciation of the arts. The Everett Performing Arts Center has more than 86,000 people through the doors each year. The number of season subscribers to Village Theatre has continued to grow each year, even through the recession.”
Mayor Cassie Franklin said the city’s economic vitality depends on making Everett a place where people want to work and live and expand their businesses.
“Having a strong arts and music scene is a huge part of creating a vibrant, desirable community, and also helps draw new creative talent and business opportunities to Everett,” Franklin said. “We are so fortunate to have amazing artists and arts organizations contributing their talents to our city, and it’s an honor to celebrate them every year.”
Kristen Keenan, the creator and curator of the pop-up Everett Makers Market, is the recipient of the Artist Entrepreneur award. The artists who show their work with the market all have Everett business licenses. The market sets up periodically in various local businesses (such as the Anchor Pub and Narrative Coffee) and brings crowds who also will buy a beer or a cuppa.
“I was shocked and honored with the award, and happy to know that the community is noticing the Everett Makers Market and that people took time to nominate us,” Keenan said. “The artisans who participate in the market are all people with small businesses. The arts scene brings people to Everett to live and invest.”
Some of those participating in the market have even moved to Everett and bought houses in the city, Keenan said.
Isabella Valencia, owner of the for-profit Black Lab Gallery on Hewitt Avenue, is the winner of an award for being a Catalyst for Emerging Artists. Her gallery promotes the work of visual artists, poets and musicians. Black Lab’s tag is “Where the Art Doesn’t Suck,” meaning that Valencia is picky about the artists she mentors. The gallery owner also has been a catalyst in the return of the third Thursday Everett Art Walk around downtown.
“I feel like young people in Everett gave me this award, and the community looked over and tapped the city on the shoulder. It’s good to be recognized for supporting these young artists. It is an honor,” Valencia said. “It shouldn’t just be nonprofit organizations that are recognized. Artists need to make money.”
The Historic Everett Theatre is run by a nonprofit foundation, but bringing people to Everett is part of the foundation’s goal. The theater has been named the Organization Making an Impact award. The theater not only shows movies for free to handicapped patrons, it offers big discounts to single parents, seniors, military personnel and first responders. It also brings in some of the biggest regional and national names in the entertainment industry, and it’s the only venue in Everett to do so on a regular basis. Nearly 17,000 people attended programs at the theater in 2017.
The theater puts up bands in local hotels and brings in out-of-town audiences who stay locally as well. Nearby restaurants gage their staffing based on estimated audiences at the theater.
“It’s hard to keep this 116-year-old theater alive,” manager Curt Shriner said. “What is important about this award is that it recognizes all the people — my family, our volunteers and all the people who came before us — who have worked to keep it going.
“Now we have acts who call us to ask if they can return to Everett.”
These performers recognize that the Historic Everett Theatre is an intimate venue without a bad seat in the house, Shriner said.
Mary Peterson is the city’s Art Changing Lives award winner.
Peterson works with teens and adults with special needs to enrich their lives through the arts. Her work has included projects with All Aboard at the Schack, the Promising Artists in Recovery program at the Denney Juvenile Justice Center and with Creative Connections at Alderwood Community Church.
“I like to work with marginalized populations,” Peterson said. “My daughter has special needs, and I know how art makes a difference. I like to break down the barriers.”
Art is about opportunities, she said.
“It gives people an alternative outlet for creativity and allows people to be themselves.”
Lee Mathews is in his final season as the conductor of the Everett Chorale. For his efforts over the past 25 years as the director of the group, Mathews is receiving a Legacy of Honor award.
“I am very honored that the community recognizes the chorale with this award,” Mathews said. “Many hundreds of people have taken advantage of the opportunity to sing high-quality choral music. We have developed a loyal audience who enjoys our music, and I think we have contributed to the cultural life of this town.”
Mathews praised the Everett Performing Arts Center as the chorale’s performance hall.
“The center is just a jewel and it’s been an honor to conduct there,” Mathews said. “But I could say that about so much of Everett — the city’s public art collection, Imagine, the Schack, the Everett Philharmonic and the Pacifica Chamber orchestras, Village Theatre, the Historic Everett Theatre, the arboretum, the waterfront.”
Village Theatre artistic director Steve Tomkins also is retiring at the end of this season after 25 years, and he is the winner of the the Richard Wendt Award of Excellence and lifetime achievement award.
The award is named for the late Dr. Richard Wendt, who was a long-time promoter of the arts in Everett and helped found the city’s cultural arts commission.
Tomkins began his professional career in Seattle in 1972 as a member of The Empty Space Theatre. He has directed and choreographed many productions at Village Theatre, including “Newsies,” which ends today in Everett. Recent productions also include “Les Misérables,” “Funny Girl,” “Mary Poppins” and “No Way To Treat A Lady.”
“And they have all had Steve’s outstanding Village Theatre twist to them,” said Matt Poischbeg of Everett.
Poischbeg, who has served on the Village board of directors for nearly four years, got involved with Village when his son Lukas (a “Newsies” cast member) was a student with the Village KidStage program in Everett.
“Steve is an incredible human being. He has been a mentor to many young people including Lukas,” Poischbeg said. “In fact he knows me best as Lukas’ dad.”
Tomkins has been at the fore of efforts to make Village Theatre an organization that Broadway respects and counts on for new musicals, Poischbeg said. The fact that Everett audiences are treated to Broadway quality productions is a big deal, and that’s one reason Everett has such a great arts scene, he added.
Learn more about the winners
Mayor Cassie Franklin will honor the award recipients during a public celebration on Thursday, Feb. 8, at the Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave. The event is free. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the program begins at 7 p.m.
The Everett Cultural Arts Commission is composed of volunteer commissioners who are appointed by the mayor. The mission of the commission is to initiate, sponsor, organize and promote cultural and artistic programs and services for the enrichment and enjoyment of the Everett community.
For more information, contact Carol Thomas, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.everettwa.gov/mayorsarts.