Wier Harman, a longtime champion of Seattle's arts community, died Monday night after a six-year battle with lung cancer. He was 57.

Harman brought a tireless, inspiring vibrancy to Seattle's creative community for decades, first as a director and employee at the Annex Theatre in the 90s and, more recently, as the executive director at Town Hall from 2005-2022. There, he built a cultural powerhouse—literally and figuratively. Not only did Harman lead Town Hall's multi-million dollar capital campaign to renovate the building, but he also expanded and diversified its programming to include hundreds of events a year, from lectures to discussions to concerts to literary festivals.

Over the years the venue has been as much a platform for local creators as it has been host to some of the world's most famous writers, artists, and thinkers—just scanning previous event calendars and names like Marina Abramović, George R. R. Martin, Margaret Atwood, Naomi Klein pop up. Stephen Merritt of the Magnetic Fields once said in an interview with The Stranger, "We love the Town Hall. We enjoyed playing there one other time. It’s a really fun place to play. If you have to play live, which I hate playing live, it’s best to play only at Town Hall Seattle."

Harman is the reason.

In a statement yesterday Town Hall wrote

Town Hall would not be what it is today without Wier’s dedication to building a place for all ideas, community, and appreciation for discourse. From an ambitious $35.5 million renovation of our historic building to the nearly two seasons spent Inside/Out (which were beautifully symbolic of what Wier does best: connecting people across the city to incredible art and life-changing ideas), to solidifying Town Hall’s commitment to affordable tickets and rental rates, Wier is Town Hall’s spirit. And that enormous, visionary spirit radiates right through the oculus — the very crown of our building — and out into the city, drawing people in. Any time we sit side-by-side in the Great Hall pews, share laughs and knowing smiles, or get lost in waves of music and song, it’s because Wier’s singular magnetic vision drew us together to share that one glorious moment. Wier was a curator not only of ideas but of people.  

When Harman was diagnosed in 2017, former Stranger editor Christopher Frizelle wrote a lovely post about just how much Harman contributed to Seattle's cultural landscape:

I remember talking to Harman when he was hired in 2005 and being able to tell—from the look in his eyes—that amazing things were coming. He was 28 years younger than his predecessor, and the youngest person on staff. "I think that was somewhat intentional on the part of the board," he told me back then. He brought Town Hall into the digital age, he decided to make Town Hall an organization that cares about the future of the community and the country (with a civics series), in addition to an organization that cares about the environment and technology (with a science series), and as a former Annex Theatre guy (and a Yale School of Drama guy), the arts and culture offerings only got stronger. 

When Harman stepped down from his position at Town Hall in 2022, as his health declined, he did an interview with the Seattle Times about his career and the city's future. He said, "I hope my legacy is that our community will continue to gather at Town Hall for years and years and years to come. I used to talk about this building process as we were guaranteeing another 100 years for this building, right, because it’s been almost 100 years since it was completed, and what I really want is another 100 years of Seattleites feeling at home and feeling heard and feeling honored and engaged here through this place."

On behalf of Harman's family, Town Hall also said, "We know there will be questions about celebrating Wier’s life; our staff and board will be working directly with Wier’s family to determine the best way to honor him. Once public information becomes available, it will be shared with the community. Wier’s family requests that any gifts in memoriam be directed to Town Hall."

You can make a contribution in memoriam by selecting "Add a Dedication" on Town Hall's donation page.

Today, every day, champion the local artists you love—the musicians, the painters, the writers, the filmmakers. For Wier.