Next Episode: Damn! I love this town….

Event Date: Tuesday, October 23 from 7:30 to 9:30 pm

Admission is free. Tell your friends.

This roundtable conversation series happens at Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle ( For more information on the series, call John Boylan at 206-601-9848. If you want to link to this announcement, you can do so at

A history of the conversations is available at

(Note that this episode starts a half-hour later than usual, at 7:30.)

The Summary: How do we make a city that pops, a city that overflows with life, imagination, excitement? Read on below.

The Guests (see below for guest bios)

Randy Engstrom, organizer and advocate

Anne Focke, writer, advisor, initiator

C Davida Ingram, cultural producer

Charles Tonderai Mudede, writer, filmmaker

The Story

The question: How does a city develop a thriving, vital, beautiful culture? How does a city become a place that pulses with new ideas, experiment, with imagination? How does it become that place where it’s easy to walk down any street and think, “Damn, I love this town?”

Traditionally, cities came into being for three reasons: commerce, culture, and defense. With city-states no longer beating the daylights out of each other and commerce moving nowadays in all sorts of strange ways, it’s easy to argue that culture has gained the pre-eminent position as to why cities need to exist. It’s a matter of gathering and fostering talent.

But creating cultural vibrancy isn’t easy. How does a city take that charge and make it something wonderful? City leaders usually count on a critical mass of major—and often expensive—institutions: opera, large theaters, ballet, orchestras, museums, to make a city great. Planners and architects look to graceful and livable public spaces, walkable streets, ready amenities. Working artists want money and space, space for work, rehearsing, performing, exhibiting. And good bars. People like me want more and better salons. Maybe it’s the economics: more incubation, more opportunities for starting the small businesses that can bring vitality to a neighborhood. But if it’s any of this, what’s the formula?

How do we create a city where a lively culture is integrated into the fabric of the place? How do we balance needs, as say, when a bar wants to offer good loud live music in a neighborhood that is otherwise very, very quiet? How can cultural vitality permeate a city, not just a few cultural districts? How do we make sure that rather than something received by a relative few, a city’s culture springs from the lives of all the people?

And of course, the other question: How does Seattle rate as vibrant, vital city? Where do we stand? And however this city rates, can we make it more so?

Come and talk about it.


There’s a lot of stuff happening this month. (Maybe I’m answering my question above, or maybe not.)

Amy O’Neal is at Velocity with “The Most Innovative, Daring, and Original Piece of Dance / Performance You Will See this Decade,” (10/12-14, 10/19-21) The amazing Cyan James is telling stories as part of the Verbalists event at 826 Seattle (10/12-13) And then there’s the huge City Arts Festival  (10/17-20) and the big Seacompression party in Burien on 10/13.

Then there are the collaborations:

Café Nordo is back, delving into a “dark fantasy of American dreams,” with what promises to be phenomenal food and drink and the typical Nordo ensemble of amazing talent, including Nordo geniuses Erin Brindley and Terry Podgorski, along with, among others, Opal Peachey, Kiera McDonald, Evan Mosher, and the most excellent composer/musician Annastasia Workman, and a collaboration with designer Jennifer Zeyl. (10/12 to 11/18)

“Lead Bunny,” Paige Barnes’s long-in-the-works performance at the Hedreen Gallery, brings together Barnes, Paris Hurley, Alice Gosti, and Pol Rosenthal, among others, along with the wonderful animator Stefan Gruber. (10/11-14)

Janice Findley’s latest project is a production of the Caryl Churchill’s “The Skriker” at the Erikson Theatre. Findley has brought together choreographer Pat Graney with Curtis Taylor as co-producer, artist Timothy Siciliano as designer, the incomparable Eve Cohen making costumes, and, among others, veteran performer Mary Ewald, Amelia Reeber, Mariel Neto, and the ever-amazing Cathy Sutherland. (10/19 to 11/11.)

Finally, “This is Halloween” returns to the Triple Door. This burlesque-cabaret mash-up, inspired by Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas,” features the Can Can Castaways, along with the Heavenly Spies and Orkestar Zirkonium and David Crellin, and Jed Dunkerley doing a wonderful turn as Jack Skellington the pumpkin king. (10/26-28 and 10/31).!-A-Live-Music,-Cabaret,-Burlesqu.aspx?date=2012-10-26

The Guests in Detail

Randy Engstrom has been a passionate advocate and organizer for cultural and community development for over 10 years.  He is currently runs Reflex Strategies, a cultural and community based consulting services business. He served as Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission in 2011 after serving 2 years as Vice-Chair, and was chair of the Facilities and Economic Development Committee from 2006 to 2010. He was most recently the Deputy Director of the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association (DNDA), a community development organization that seeks to create a thriving neighborhood through a variety of creative programs and services. Randy served as the Interim Director of the King County Food and Fitness Initiative while working at DNDA, where he stewarded a multi-faceted program that sought to create policy and systems change in the food-retail, school and built environment sectors.  He was also the Founding Director of the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, a multimedia/multidisciplinary community space that offers youth and community member’s access to arts, technology, and cultural resources ( opened in 2006. Prior to DNDA and Youngstown, Randy spent 3 years as the Founding CEO of Static Factory Media, an artist development organization that owned and operated a record label, bar/performance venue, graphic design house, recording studio, and web development business.  Before Static Factory Randy was the Program Coordinator of the Fremont Unconventional Center, a non-profit event space dedicated to helping other charitable organizations with their fundraising efforts through event facilitation and support.  He is also a founding member of Stronghold Arts Collective, an artist live/work project comprising 4 neighboring houses collectively owned by 8 resident artists.  In 2009 Randy received the Emerging Leader Award from Americans for the Arts and was one of Puget Sound Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. He is a graduate of the Evergreen State College in Olympia, and he received his Executive Masters in Public Administration at the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Affairs.

Anne Focke is a consultant in planning, research, evaluation, and writing who works both independently and as senior advisor for The Giving Practice of Philanthropy Northwest (a regional association of grantmakers). Her national and regional clients have included the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs; the Humboldt Area Foundation in northern California; the Behnke family and foundation in Seattle; Lucy Bernholz, self-professed “philanthropy wonk” and visiting scholar at Stanford; and Marquand Books, a fine art book producer based in Seattle. She was the first executive director of Grantmakers in the Arts, a national professional association for foundations, corporations, and other arts funders (1999-2008), and served for 18 years as co-editor of its principal periodical, the GIA Reader (1991-2009).

Anne is also known for leading the start-up of both nonprofit and for-profit enterprises including Arts Wire, a national online network for the arts (1990-95); Artist Trust, a nonprofit that supports artists in Washington State; and Artech, a for-profit art-handling company.  She was the first staff person for the City of Seattle’s arts agency, was the first director of its Art in Public Places program, and directed Bumbershoot (the City of Seattle’s annual arts festival) the year it got its name. The Anne Focke Gallery in Seattle’s City Hall acknowledges her contributions to the city.

Her writings include “A Pragmatic Response to Real Circumstances” (2006), “Artists and Economics: Notes from the Headlands,” (1991), “Financial Support for Artists” (1996), and “Sustaining a Vital Downtown Community: A Study of the Market Foundation” (1987).

C Davida Ingram is a Seattle-based, Chicago-born cultural producer. Her recent creative endeavors include co-founding the Seattle People of Color Artist salon with fellow artist Natasha Marin; curating ID x ID at IDEA Odyssey; and producing the audio project DETOUR: Cascade to South Lake Union. Her projects have been featured at the Bridge Motel, City Arts Festival and the upcoming Soft Power Activated exhibition at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery, University of WA.  She will be presenting at the October 12th  Pecha Kucha for the Elles exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum and City Club’s The Making of a Neighborhood panel on November 6. Ingram believes in liberatory aesthetics, a way of looking at and perceiving the world in ways that are new and more beautifully free.

Charles Tonderai Mudede—who writes about film, books, music, Marxist urbanism, and his life in Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, the USA, and the UK for The Stranger—was born near a steel plant in Qwe Qwe, Rhodesia (now Kwe Kwe, Zimbabwe). He has no memory of this birth, but he does remember noticing himself in the mirror for this first time—it happened on May 3, 1972. Mudede is also a filmmaker: Two of his films, Police Beat and Zoo, premiered at Sundance, and Zoo was screened at Cannes. Mudede has written for the New York Times, Cinema Scope, Ars Electronica, C Theory, and academic journals. He also wrote the liner notes for Best of Del Tha Funkee Homosapien: Elektra Years. Mudede has lived in Seattle since 1989. He has lived in cities all his life.


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