John Boylan’s Next Conversation: “Kicking Seattle up a Notch or Two”

Event Date: Tuesday, May 14 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

The Summary

For our next conversation, we’ll be talking about what it would take to greatly raise Seattle’s profile as an arts center, “taking Seattle up a notch,” for want of a better tagline. Read on for the details.

The Guests (see the bios below)

Andrew Russell, Artistic Director, Intiman

Andy Fife, independent consultant, teacher, writer

Greg Lundgen, artist, impresario, and restauranteur

Shari Behnke, creative philanthropist

The Story

This time we’ll be talking about Seattle’s reach and reputation, how those affect what we do in terms of making art, and how they might grow. I’ve been thinking about the city’s tendency to see the world of the arts a place of finite resources. What are the alternatives? Greg Lundgren, in a recent presentation at the Hedreen Gallery, called for more ambition among Seattle’s artists, something he’s channeling with his Walden 3 project. Another idea I’ve heard lately is the desire to be more like Austin. Should we be better exporting our arts? Or become a stronger destination? Or build our own audiences? What would any of those look like?

It’s easy to treat one’s city as a closed system, a finite system, a zero sum game, whether in building support, getting audiences, or finding artists. What you see around you is what you get. That’s especially true here, in Seattle, with the city as isolated as it is, perched out at the northwest tip of the country. Sure, we have two neighbor cities, but there is surprisingly little collaboration and cooperation between the three, and each is a bizarro version of the other two. So we function chiefly on our own. And if we see the rest of the country—or the world—as a source of sustenance and support, it is merely as a place to go, to tour a band, get an out-of-town gallery, get published or produced.

But what if there’s another whole element to Seattle’s relationship to the world around us? What if this city became a cultural destination to an extent that it has not dreamed of since the summer of the Seattle World’s Fair? How might that look? And what would it do for the vitality of the city’s cultural scenes, for the sort of resources we have available? Would it be amazing, or maybe a complete disaster?

I’ve been in several conversations recently about what it would take to move the city’s profile up a notch or two. In recent years this town has become something of a laboratory, with a level of experiment and risk taking that can be electrifying. But then what? We share our wares to our friends, bring them into our projects, put on small—or even good sized—events, and then the project dies, or maybe we think about taking it elsewhere. But what if there were ways to grow the pot, either through bringing in outsiders, growing local audiences, or raising our own sense of what a destination we have here.

And what would we want to be known for? We’re already a theater town. But we’re also a dance town, an experimental music town, a literature town. And we’re definitely a hip hop town: We produce fine graphic novels ( and we have a growing and energetic circus community:

So what are we? And what can we become? Come and talk about it.

The Guests in Detail

Andrew Russell is Artistic Director at Seattle’s Intiman Theatre where he has directed several productions, workshops and readings. Other credits include directing the acclaimed new musical THE CALLERS for Washington Ensemble Theatre, FOR A LOOK OR A TOUCH for the Seattle Men’s Chorus, Jeanine Tesori’s AMERICAN SONGBOOK concert for Jazz at Lincoln Center, and overseeing Tony Kushner and Tesori’s COURAGE IN CONCERT at The Public Theater. Also in New York, he has directed for Ensemble Studio Theatre, the Subjective Theatre Company, The Gallery Players, Downtown Urban Theater Festival, Cherry Lane Studio Theatre, Columbia University and New York University. While in NYC Andrew also interned with Warner Bros. TV Casting, was an agent with Peter Strain and Associates, and worked in creative development with David Stone. BFA from Carnegie Mellon University in Acting.

Andy Fife is an independent consultant, coach, teacher and writer in arts and nonprofit management, located in the Puget Sound Region and working throughout the country.  His primary focus is on the intersection of art, civics and commerce, helping cultural institutions and programs to bring relevant and impactful social benefit to broad and diverse communities.  He has a wide breadth of knowledge and experience in arts and nonprofit management, especially in small- to mid-sized organizations, and specializing in new initiatives, programs and businesses.

He most recently served as Executive Director of Shunpike, a nonprofit arts service organization that provides support to hundreds of arts groups and projects annually.  At Shunpike he served as the primary spokesperson, consultant, advisor and director for all programs and activities.  Prior, he coordinated the Publicity Office of the Seattle International Film Festival, and was Director of Operations at the former art center Consolidated Works.

Current board responsibilities include the Washington State Arts Commission and the Seattle Arts Commission’s Facility and Economic Development committee. A musician, theater director and writer, he received a B.S. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University and participated in Seattle’s Leadership Tomorrow program, a series of training activities designed to develop effective community leaders in the region.


Shari D. Behnke is president and founder of the New Foundation Seattle. She is a creative philanthropist and art collector based in Seattle, WA. She has a varied history of contributing to the growth and vitality of the community in which she lives by participating on non-profit boards and creating programs that serve the public. In the past twenty-five years Shari has created: the Behnke Foundation, which under her leadership founded The Neddy, an unrestricted cash award for Seattle-based visual artists; The Child Care Fund at Cascadia Revolving Fund, a micro-lending program for Day Care providers that was recognized by President Clinton in 1977 for its innovation; Two Cupcakes Production, a manufacturing company of fingerless gloves whose profits funded the “It’s a Wrap” award and a scholarship for apparel design students at Seattle Central Community College; The Brink, a collaborative award with the Henry Art Gallery for an emerging visual artist in the Northwest region; and most recently, she co-chaired the Innovation Campaign for Building Changes.

The New Foundation Seattle was created to strengthen the position of contemporary visual art and production through concentrated support of individual artistic development, and the presentation of public programs that foster the exchange of ideas about art and its role today.


More information about Greg Lundgren is at and


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