Visual Art

The Sound of Indifference

4Culture Is Lying on the Floor Bleeding to Death

The Sound of Indifference

Dan Hawkins

SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING Or 4Culture is going to end up like this art, called ‘Tomb,’ at Gallery4Culture.

A shudder ran through the arts community this month. It was a shudder not quite of shock or anger, but worse—of realizing that you are powerless against forces that are indifferent.

On Friday, April 1—after seven straight years of bills proposing simply to continue directing a measly sliver of tourism-generated tax money to King County arts funding—two last-ditch-effort bills died without dignity.

The house bill died on a technicality so boring that it adds insult to injury. A committee vote passed the bill to its next step, but the number of hand signatures required is higher than the number of votes needed, and two members had just walked out of the session earlier in the day, meaning their hands were not present to sign a piece of paper. "SENATORS TOM AND HATFIELD! COME OUT AND SIGN THE 4CULTURE BILL!" I cried out on Facebook. It was more like yelping. Phone calls poured into their offices. No response. I called Ed Murray, the senator from Seattle who is, as one person aptly put it, "mildly sainted around here."

"Oh, it was never going to pass anyway," Murray said.

The other bill was sponsored by the senate—by Murray's side. Nobody even mentioned this one among the people advocating for the arts—a group called Advocate4Culture, whose online notices have motivated hundreds of people to write and call their representatives and show up at hearings over the increasingly dire last few months.

Nobody mentioned the Murray bill because it is widely known that house Speaker Frank Chopp will not pass any arts bill unless it includes funding for housing—and Murray's didn't. There's a story circulating among gossip-hounds that Chopp once had a consciousness-­altering experience at a fancy ballet-or-­something performance where he noticed some people in the audience wearing furs, and he decided the arts needed to be taught a lesson. I wanted to ask him about all this. Frank Chopp didn't call me back.

Indifferent Force No. 1: If arts funding dies, it'll be at least in part because Frank Chopp and Ed Murray can't work together.

Indifferent Force No. 2: If arts funding dies, it'll be at least in part because news outlets don't give a shit about it. If they did—well, they'd employ writers to cover the arts full-time (in the Northwest, The Stranger is essentially alone in this). Those journalists might not be as easily manipulated by fear-mongering Republicans who crow about taxes for projects they just don't like while letting other taxes lie.

Veteran News Tribune columnist Peter Callaghan took the bait hook, line, and sinker. He cast the house bill as the pet project of a bunch of fat cats, supported by "pretty powerful interests in Seattle—a lot of wealthy people are arts patrons."

Wealthy people go to New York to buy art and bring it back to their Medina homes. It's either uninformed or disingenuous to confuse 4Culture—King County's public art agency—with, say, an art museum. 4Culture's projects are not the stuff the rich like. They're on the ground. The White River Valley Museum. Connecting artists with river scientists to do projects on the populations of fish. Artists taking people's waste and making animations out of it by standing at the entrance to the dump on Saturday mornings. Lighting up a giant barn so it glows on Vashon. Helping pay for a Salish language symposium. Connecting artists with landlords in Pioneer Square and the International District, where the storefronts are empty, in order to put temporary installations as well as temporary creative businesses (a woodworker is one that comes to mind) in the middle of the city during the recession.

4Culture does not pay for the whole of any of these projects, just bits, as leverage. And the money is not always even the most important part: 4Culture is easily—easily—the smartest, most effective, most service-oriented, outreaching arts agency in Washington State. The legislature is hacking away at the Washington State Arts Commission this year, and you didn't see me yelping about that, did you?

To put 4Culture's $3 million from the house bill into perspective, note that the state gives $5 million in a single tax loophole each year to private jet owners. There are many, many other loopholes like that. (Also note: Tourist-generated taxes are required by law to be used for tourism purposes and cannot just be redirected to basic services.) For more perspective: This so-called house "arts" bill, while providing $3 million per year for the arts, provides $150 million to expand the convention center. It's a convention center bill.

That brings me to Indifferent Force No. 3, the real heartbreaker: If 4Culture dies, it will have died for no reason at all. It will be collateral damage.

The convention center bill has now been smuggled back into the budget, only adding fuel to the fire that the arts are somehow cheaters—while their most deserving member lies helpless on the legislative floor bleeding to death. Unless somebody does something about it, after 2012, 4Culture is no longer funded. recommended

Want more of the painful details? Jen Graves is taking your questions about the house bill, the senate bill, and the death of 4Culture in the arts section over on Questionland.


Comments (43) RSS

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Terrific article Jen! 4Culture is SO needed in our community. It provides arts and heritage to us all - not just the wealthy.

Take note one correction: On there were more than 9 references beginning in February, to Senator Ed Murray's SB 5834 legislation to support 4Culture.

Legislators, PLEASE save 4Culture, save arts and heritage in King County!
Posted by DKitty on April 13, 2011 at 11:18 AM · Report this
@DKitty: Thanks for the comment. I should clarify: Nobody mentioned the senate bill on the day they both died is what I meant.
Posted by Jen Graves on April 13, 2011 at 11:37 AM · Report this
Check it out:…
Posted by Abnormal on April 13, 2011 at 11:57 AM · Report this
Posted by Abnormal on April 13, 2011 at 12:02 PM · Report this
Well I can't seem to get the link to work, but check out the post on April 2nd about both bills "dying"
Posted by Abnormal on April 13, 2011 at 12:04 PM · Report this
Splabman 6
Fuck Olympia. Why not tax hotels in King County ourselves for the money we had been getting from the Hotel/Motel tax fund? Getting this through the County Council ought to be much easier than dealing with the Crackers in the state legislature, Chopp included. Is this possible?
Posted by Splabman on April 13, 2011 at 12:18 PM · Report this
Abnormal: There was a giant push to support the HB. There was no mention of the SB on that day (April 2 is AFTER the vote); nobody particularly knew it was going through the committee that day. (I have already talked to Advocate4Culture about this.) Can I ask why you are fixated on this detail? Is there a larger point? Please explain to me.
Posted by Jen Graves on April 13, 2011 at 12:21 PM · Report this
Fried Worms 8
3 Cheers for Jen and 4Culture! Save 4Culture, PLEASE!!
Posted by Fried Worms on April 13, 2011 at 12:31 PM · Report this
Thanks to Jen Graves and The Stranger for being champions of 4Culture. It is an incredible agency! It is stunning that an ill-informed, anti-tax sentiment might override the voices of 1000s of citizens asking to dedicate future lodging tax revenues to support 4Culture's arts and heritage programming -- especially given that the lodging tax is NOT set to expire. This political climate makes it frustrating for ordinary citizens to understand how the legislative session works. Remember School House Rock's "I'm Just a Bill?" We need an April Fool's Day / zombie remix!

If you want to do something to help 4Culture, please join today. If you've already joined and responded to action alerts, thank you! We know that it's our collective action - plus support from leaders like Murray, Hunter, Orwall, Constantine and Chopp - keeping this "dead" bill alive.
Posted by Cheryl dos Remedios on April 13, 2011 at 1:02 PM · Report this
I guarantee that if it's something Frank Chopp wants, it'll happen. If he doesn't give a shit, or worse - thinks it'll somehow affect whether he remains speaker - it won't. Simple.
Posted by Oly insider on April 13, 2011 at 1:20 PM · Report this
While "Fuck Olympia" may be another way to say "Fuck the State Goverment" a sentiment I believe is completely reasonable - I live in Olympia and I am an artist so "fuck Olympia" hits kinda close to home and considering 4 Culture doesn't really offer shite for artists who reside anywhere outside of Seattle or King County it might be better to "fuck yourself" and do what you so astutely suggest, which is to get funding from your city or county government.
Posted by 3-il on April 13, 2011 at 1:51 PM · Report this
@11, 4Culture is funded by King County, not the state. King County receives a credit against the state sales tax for the taxes it collects under these bills, which is why they need to be approved at the state level. Getting funding from our county government is exactly what we're trying to do.
Posted by mge on April 13, 2011 at 2:00 PM · Report this
After reading this article (go, Jen) and comments, my process of thought amends to a sociological and psychological breakdown of this pattern-like problem in funding the arts. Bottom line: Art communities don't get the sensible respect they deserve; or even more simply, they do not have equal inclusion and acknowledgment in government funding. Even the slightest case as Chopp said, Murray's bill wouldn't be passed without the inclusion of housing; because God forbid we fund the arts (too) fully. And how do we (the arts) react? As members of the art community, we are in this for reasons bolder and livelier than convenience or monetary happiness. Instead, we hold passion and intelligence for our practice and the support of artistic ideas and works. This vitality is what makes "Tomb" in light of 4Culture such a sound and authentic reaction to the shit that wont be tolerated. I initially want to say that I'm not sure or don't know how to make people care about art; but I have faith in the arts ability to overcome and work with that challenge.
Posted by sucah17 on April 13, 2011 at 2:47 PM · Report this
thank you Jen Graves for speaking thoughtfully and truthfully. 4Culture is an incredible agency, whose work supports the dynamic work of artists & arts orgs in King County. The economic benefit from this investment pays dividends everyday. We will get this done!
Posted by Josh LaBelle on April 13, 2011 at 2:48 PM · Report this
Thank you Jen Graves for writing thoughtfully and with such strong support of the arts community. 4Culture is an incredible organization that funds artists & arts orgs with diligence and passion. We should have every expectation of our legislators to do the right thing for our economy (of which the arts are a major force) and pass this important piece of legislation. This is far from over.
Posted by Josh LaBelle on April 13, 2011 at 2:56 PM · Report this
Hey Jen. Abnormal is a leader of Advocate4Culture and I think the point to the fixation is that A4C wants Senator Murray to know that his work and his bill has been AMAZING. We don't want him to throw up his hands and think we have not noticed the leadership he has taken to support arts and heritage in King County.
Posted by DKitty on April 13, 2011 at 3:29 PM · Report this
It would be very unfortunate to see funding of the arts go down hill because two politicians can't cooperate and it's a shame that 4culture would suffer as a consequence. There is already a lack of funding for the arts in general; this is just plain disappointing if the bills really die.
Posted by sucah14 on April 13, 2011 at 5:06 PM · Report this
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It doesn’t surprise me that people in this situation lose because our politicians don’t stand behind their people and their needs and wants. It also figures that politicians wouldn’t fund programs that highlight our troubled times and areas of concern. If we- artists and activists- show the public problems that aren’t being taken care of, that jeopardizes the elected officials chances of getting elected again. It makes me so mad that politicians don’t listen to their own people and yet they spend money on loopholes and government “privileges” (i.e.: private jets, free education, and excessive salaries) instead of things like keeping music in the public schools. If they cut programs like 4culture and also cut programs that educate people about art, we will lose culture. I think the only thing that doesn’t surprise me is that our own representatives won’t call us back. But in all seriousness, how many assistants do they have? Can they not make a statement, stand behind what they believe, and have someone deliver it? They owe that to us- the people.
Posted by sucah2 on April 13, 2011 at 6:45 PM · Report this
Reading this makes me unbelievably sad. It's already bad enough that the arts are getting cut from school programs but now there won't be any funding for the arts, period. And all because two politicians can't cooperate, as sucah14 said. What would Seattle be without its art? The arts is a huge part of the Seattle culture and without funding the arts will rapidly decline. The art community is already struggling as is with the way things are currently going, imagine how much worse it would be with a lack of funding. Hopefully 4Culture will be saved and that the legislators will do the right thing. This is the time for all of the members in the art community to band together and make their voices heard to try and get what is good for not just the art community but the greater community of King County.
Posted by sucah13 on April 14, 2011 at 12:02 AM · Report this
Unfortunately, I'm hearing about this for the first time, which makes me wonder how many other people who would be genuinely concerned know nothing about the fight to keep 4Culture.
It's frustrating to now know that the only thing preventing the continuation of 4Culture is the indifference of its own "sponsors".
Posted by 15thsucah on April 14, 2011 at 9:58 AM · Report this
Jen, thank you for being who you are. You care - and you need to know that you are not alone. The arts anemia is symptomatic to the deterioration of this society that is happening for decades. But we know that. We, artists and art loving people invest our emotions willingly, knowing that history can not be cheated, returned or fixed. The influence (or lack of) of arts on young generation will bring it home to roost. King county will just HAVE to spend more than the measly $3 million on repairs from vandalism, graffitti and juvenile detention centers. Wouldn't it be lovely to connect cultural tourism to revenues, like it is understood in many other places?
Posted by justthat on April 14, 2011 at 9:59 AM · Report this
Unfortunately, I'm hearing about this for the first time, which makes me wonder how many other people who would be genuinely concerned know nothing about the fight to keep 4Culture.
It's frustrating to now know that the only thing preventing the continuation of 4Culture is the indifference of its own "sponsors".
Posted by sucah15 on April 14, 2011 at 10:01 AM · Report this
I am very glad to have read this article.. I hadn't ever heard of 4culture. Everyone I asked did not know either, and I got to enlighten them. So, the good news is I started to spread awareness! I will certainly continue to do so. I am not really sure where to start besides just letting the right people know about it.
Posted by sucah11 on April 14, 2011 at 10:23 AM · Report this
Unfortunately it does not surprise me that the Senate or Congress takes art funding seriously. There is a stereotype of what an artist, or art patron is here in the United Sates. They are lumped in with the rich, which is where Frank Copp’s idea of furs ultimately stems from and fuels. In reality there are patrons of the arts, who are wealthy, but willing to give to support a cause worth saving and preserving for future generations. However, 4Culture is not this. It allows new, or unconventional artist get a foot in the door for the art world with the aid of one of our city’s largest art partners. Art had the ability to transcend language and class barriers for all to enjoy, however it is when people take this for granted when complacency occurs. We assume someone else who also cares will take care of things. Thank you Jen for your moving article, I hope it helps, but we can all do our part by starting our own crusade on what we know is wrong. Do your part, save 4Culture!
Posted by Sucah12 on April 14, 2011 at 10:43 AM · Report this
Oops, I meant for it to sound like 4Culture is not a wealthy art patron. (Hope that came across). I do believe and support that it should be preserved for future generations to benefit from. Thanks again Jen for the great article!

(I had no idea how to edit my previous comment):)
Posted by Sucah12 on April 14, 2011 at 10:50 AM · Report this
Yes, it's disappointing that Washington Legislators aren't concerned with Seattle Public art scene, but we, as a community, need to get out there and fight to keep 4Culture alive. I agree with @sucah11 that this article is great because it spreads the message, so lets continue to talk about the issue so we can challenge those in power and show them that arts mean something to all of us.
Posted by sucah10 on April 14, 2011 at 11:17 AM · Report this
This article hits close to home as I am someone who dreams of being able to teach art in the Seattle Public School District some day. If we can't even fund the arts in a general sense in Seattle what are the chances of continuing and increasing funding for the arts in public schools. In life, as in schools, funding always come first to the sports and other "important" areas (in this case, the Convention Center.)

All of that being said, I realize that I need to be more involved (even if that is just following 4Culture more closely.) I have to remind myself that I can't ignore the problem and expect change.
Posted by sucah6 on April 14, 2011 at 12:41 PM · Report this
I heard about 4Culture for the first time when I went to their space last Thursday for artwalk. It was awesome and it makes me incredibly annoyed that it might not be around for much longer due to political technicality mumbo-jumbo. What gets me is that years down the line, when they have killed the Seattle arts scene (except for high-rolling Picasso and Impressionist exhibitions) for good, they'll be all like, Wait what happened, why don't young people want to live here anymore?? Then maybe, MAYBE, they'll throw some money to the arts and pat themselves on the back for being cool.
Posted by sucah22 on April 14, 2011 at 12:53 PM · Report this
After reading this article & many, it only deepens my dismay about support for the arts in Seattle in general. Many people have such a false sense of what's better to support than others. For someone to state that the arts are a superfluous part of funding is not only inaccurate, but also ignorant. The arts stimulate a great return for every dollar they receive. Think of the people who go out to see art everyday, while out looking at the art they go to the nearby restaurants, stores & stimulate the economy.
It pains me to think that people opposed to these bills think the arts are receiving a type of welfare, even more that it's "undeserved". The point is that you cannot judge the importance of the arts in a community by the same standards as other parts of the economy. Art is vital to the cultivation of a well-rounded & educated person. Its a universal form of communication & important for tourists coming to Seattle because of this. 4Culture supports emerging artists like myself & local artists in Seattle in a great way. The destruction of support for this organization will lessen the voice of Seattle, & its ability to speak to tourists visiting Seattle in a universal sense.

It's always disheartening to see that the government doesn't consider the repercussions of their actions more fully. The funding gives artists more breathing room, room that allows them to speak in a better way than if they were restrained to a small budget.
Posted by sucah7 on April 14, 2011 at 1:33 PM · Report this
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I share in everyone's fears for the future of Seattle. I honestly feel that without support for the arts and cultural programs in this city - we are doomed. Don't they get that it is programs like 4Culture that spur innovation, creativity, and the spirit that makes a city a city! The arts can put a city on the map, And yes, spur the economy too. So it is a worthy investment regardless of your interests or unfounded prejudices against the art world.
This bill seems convoluted (surprise) and completely misunderstood by the public (bigger surprise). It would be really unfortunate for 4Culture to be collateral damage without given proper consideration. I'm glad this article made me and others aware of this.
Posted by sucah? on April 14, 2011 at 6:39 PM · Report this
Sucah? = Sucah23 Oops
Posted by sucah23 on April 14, 2011 at 6:44 PM · Report this
sucah? = sucah23
Posted by sucah23 on April 14, 2011 at 6:47 PM · Report this
Sicko 35
They say trends move from East to West...
Posted by Sicko on April 15, 2011 at 12:55 AM · Report this
36 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
"The legislature is hacking away at the Washington State Arts Commission this year, and you didn't see me yelping about that, did you?"

Why not? Why only bemoan arts spending cuts for your pet agency? Why not question all arts funding cuts, on all levels? Many projects funded by 4Culture are funded by other agencies and organizations as well . . . it sometimes takes a village, even in the arts.

Posted by ndplume on April 15, 2011 at 9:04 PM · Report this
38 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
Like you all have said, this is deeply unfortunate. However, many of you are acting as if the arts are going to vanish from Seattle altogether, or that this is the beginning of the end.
Let's shine some light on the situation, people. The backbone of every artist has never been financial funding or political support- and it never will be. It's creativity and expression. People are going to express themselves with or without money. In fact, some of the best work comes as a result of harsh situations such a this. The community isn't going anywhere. If anything, this blow will inspire people to force future changes. For that reason alone, I'm not too worried about it. Sucks, yes, but the arts aren't dying; I have faith.
Posted by sucah19 on April 18, 2011 at 12:47 AM · Report this
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@ 1-39. Stop whining fags and get a real fucking job. If you're an artist and you're any good at all you'll make enough money to live on, and perhaps prosper. If you suck then all you'll have left is government handouts, paid for by people with real jobs who then have to pay higher taxes to continue funding the talentless assholes who cry and beg for more of our money, to keep doing the shit that few if anybody wants to pay for. News flash: WE ARE BROKE! That means money only goes to essential services, like police, fire, road maintenance, etc. You know, the shit that keeps cities running so its citizens can go to work and make money, and pay their taxes, to keep propping up the gutter slime who only wants to feed off our pockets. Fuck you.
Posted by Art Isn't A Right - It's An Activity on April 19, 2011 at 10:19 PM · Report this
Chaz 42
Thank you for such an informative article
Posted by Chaz on May 2, 2011 at 9:57 AM · Report this
I am going to be super honest - I am usually part of the problem. I am not sure if it is that I don't care enough to take the time to read about the suffering arts because I realize I probably won't do anything about it anyways - and thus I realize that if I am actually reading about the issues and then neglecting to do anything about them, I am technically labeled a guilty party, whereas if I don't read the article then I can just be "ignorant".

Regardless, it is too bad that I am part of this problem, and that so many other people, including people like myself who enjoy art and want to work within its framework, are guilty of the same indiscretion. I am thrilled that the 4Culture bill finally did pass - in light of it I am hoping that I will become a more interactive and introspective supporter of the arts - especially the local ones.
Posted by sucah21 on June 6, 2011 at 2:17 PM · Report this

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