After some pushback from the community, it now appears the Seattle City Council President Lorena Gonzalez and Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda will support the appointment of Royal Alley-Barnes as Interim Director of Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture, with the caveat that the Arts Commission be involved in the selection of the permanent Director.
Last week, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that Royal Alley-Barnes would be appointed as the Interim Director of ARTS and become the first Black woman to hold the position. However, the announcement came before the Seattle City Council was able to take formal action to concur or otherwise engage with the Mayor regarding her interim appointment. At the same time, the Co-Chairs of the Arts Commission reached out to members of the City Council asking the Councilmembers to hold off on taking any action on this appointment until the concerns of the Commission, and wider arts community, could be addressed as it related to the process by which the Mayor made this interim appointment.
In response, both Gonzalez and Mosqueda pushed back against the appointment.
Upon hearing about the pushback against the appointment of Alley-Barnes, members of the African American community rallied in support of Alley-Barnes and against Gonzalez and Mosqueda for their non-support of the appointment.
In announcing her decision, Durkan said that Alley-Barnes is the right person, at the right time to lead the office.
“I am incredibly excited that Royal Alley-Barnes has agreed to serve as the acting director of the Department of Arts and Culture. I am confident that Royal is the right person to lead ARTS as we focus on helping BIPOC and underrepresented artists recovery from the significant impacts of COVID-19,” said Durkan. “Royal is not only incredibly accomplished, but also a devoted community member and public servant. We could not be more grateful that she has agreed to lead one of Seattle’s most treasured City Departments.”
Alley-Barnes has previously served as the Executive Director of Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, in Seattle Parks, and as Woodland Park Zoo Director. She was also formerly a budget and policy analyst in the City Budget Office. As the first Black director of ARTS, Director Alley-Barnes will elevate the voice of communities of color in Seattle arts and culture.
The arts community has been deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. From managing shutdowns, quarantines, social distancing, and reduced budgets, the pandemic has thrown significant curveballs to creators in Seattle. Seattle Arts has worked hard to support their community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Director Alley-Barnes will lead ARTS as Seattle and King County work to stabilize and fund the arts and artists in the Seattle area.
Alley-Barnes has led an esteemed career bringing together arts, community, and public service. For more than 40 years, she has helped develop generations of artists through lecture and teaching, and presenting across a broad range of artistic mediums and platforms: from art history and education to an array of visual arts, while also building community by knitting together Seattle’s diverse cultures to harness collective power. Her work in the arts has been an overarching influence that informs her work in the public sector as she helped determine the highest and best use for four city-owned arts facilities.
Alley-Barnes will work closely with the incoming administration to ensure ARTS values are represented in a community driven, inclusive search process for a permanent director.
As of press time, Council President González and Budget Chair Mosqueda concurred with Mayor Durkan’s decision to appoint Alley-Barnes as the Interim Director of the Office of Arts and Culture and calls upon Mayor Durkan to collaboratively and urgently work with the Arts Commission and the broader arts community on the priorities outlined above.