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Position 8 arts position

Marilyn Strickland and David Curry discuss the arts

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Tacoma City Council Position 8 candidates Marilyn Strickland and David Curry don’t get invited to talk about the arts much. Arts get about as much play as animal rights and shoreline development during election season. In Tacoma, down-to-earth issues such as affordable housing, economic development, neighborhood growth, administrative reform and crime eclipse metaphysical discussions about aesthetics and creativity.

But as Tacomans and stewards of local love of life, both Strickland and Curry say the arts deserve their due, and that seemingly mundane issues such as crime and housing are directly relevant to arts.

“I am very supportive of the arts,” says Curry, suggesting that his strong emphasis on issues such as cleaning up crime is directly relevant to the arts. “It may not be a top tier issue that candidates have talked about, but the arts benefit from a positive atmosphere — if people don’t feel safe in the theater district, then it isn’t going to survive.”

“We’ve got a vibrant arts community,” says Strickland. “We need to do everything that we can to make sure it stays that way.”

Both candidates are patrons of local arts — Curry attends local play houses and loves the Grand Cinema; Strickland can be found at poetry slams, concerts, galleries. Strickland’s direct involvement in local arts efforts is substantial — she sits on the board of the Grand Cinema, for example, and oversees public installations at the Tacoma Public Library, where she works as the development officer. 

Both candidates also laud the efforts of local officials to tap the community development potential of arts and have the future of arts on their minds.

Curry suggests that completion of mega-projects such as the LeMay Museum deserves strong support from City Council and that at some point mega-projects should share resources and emphasis with support for grass roots.

“The city needs to create a way for big projects to get off the ground,” said Curry. “This city to date has been project oriented in its spending on the arts. We still have another leg of that left — the LeMay Museum needs to have the city’s support. But a project like that can work like a vacuum. Eventually we have to build our arts staff and support. I don’t think that’s going to happen in the short term, but I would be supportive of that.”

Strickland agrees that the community’s museums and tourist attractions deserve the support of city government, but suggests stimulating tourism shouldn’t eclipse appealing to and supporting the people who already live here.

“We do so much to attract people from the outside,” says Strickland, “but we need to make sure we make sure our institutions are accessible and attractive to the people who live here, too. When we talk about audience development, we need to make sure our efforts are to make them attractive to the people who live here as they are to visitors.”

As far as local artists are concerned, both candidates are down to earth when it comes to support for emerging creative types, and both consider them a significant local asset.

“I think we’ve got a lot of up-and-coming artists, and I’d like to see us cultivate them,” said Curry. “I think the next Dale Chilhuly is here. We have a subculture brewing, but I’d like to see it embraced by the mainstream.”

That means providing a pipeline for students emerging from the Tacoma School of the Arts, for example, says Curry, who suggests that development of a world-class arts school at the University of Washington Tacoma is among things he would consider a worthy long-term goal.

In addition to education — a cornerstone of Strickland’s platform — she emphasizes the need for artist housing as a priority.

“I’d like to see our conversations about affordable housing include live-work space for artists,” she says. “I think there are opportunities to make that happen.”

Strickland also would like to see more support for diverse arts and would like to see conversations about accessibility and needs of local residents include opening more doors for creative types.

“We need more support for places like The Horatio — things that are out of the ordinary,” she says. “We need to make our community more accessible to local artists. I want our best and brightest to stay here.”

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