Look, Vincent Kitch hasn't even started his job as director of Seattle's Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs yet, so we do need to give the man a chance.
But it's worth saying that, after the department suffered a serious decline in reputation among artists and arts lovers under former bureaucrat Michael Killoren, Mayor Mike McGinn went in and hired another bureaucrat—and it's not like we didn't warn him. (Police Chief Diaz, anyone?)
Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith didn't give much more of an answer to that question than gee-whiz-we-sure-liked-him when I asked a few weeks ago.
Unfortunately, I was the one to introduce Smith—who steered the hiring committee and then guided the mayor behind the scenes in the final decision, too—to both positive and negative press coverage of Kitch in his job in Austin. Not to mention that Kitch is no longer in the job the press release says is his most recent. (Full story.)
When I asked Smith about these things, Smith said the committee and the mayor relied on testimony about Kitch by Kitch.
It doesn't inspire confidence. Neither did comments that Kitch's work with South by Southwest—a private entity—were part of the decision to hire him for the arts job in Seattle (where there's an entirely separate film and music office).
We'll have to see what Kitch does when he arrives in April. But he should know this won't be a cakewalk. This office needs vitality and strength, not paperpushing and handshaking. It needs to regain its status as a force for those who love the arts, not just for bureaucrats who attend national conferences in closed rooms with other bureaucrats, and who specialize in nothing so much as eking out their own job security.
That was one of Smith's weird comments to me. In explaining Kitch's "connections" in the arts world, he said, "He even sat next to Michael Killoren at a conference."
That's not a connection, that's a demerit. That was an hour of Kitch's career during which he wasn't doing the job Seattle will need him to do.