Fall Arts Guide 2020

As we’ve all been reminded this year, it’s tough to plan when conditions keep changing. But, as Tacoma artist Christopher Paul Jordan decreed in a June 28 essay, 2020 is “the year of the rough draft.”

We’re all trying new things — arts organizations, funeral homes, everyone — because we have to. And while it might be ethically perilous to talk about silver linings during a disaster, we’re at least learning lessons in the chaos to take into the future, about everything from handshakes to how to make cultural experiences more accessible to everybody.

Because everything’s in process, this year’s Fall Arts Guide isn’t comprehensive — it’s a snapshot of some rough drafts coming to Seattle: On the Boards presents a three-part performance whose first act happens over the telephone; Seattle Symphony Orchestra experiments with a drive-in concert screening; some music venues are turning to their kitchens to try to stay alive; Town Hall, bookstores and libraries are bringing authors (Tommy Orange, Yaa Gyasi, Barbara Kingsolver, more) to small screens near you.

And most, if not all, of these organizations have heard the summer’s protests and begun serious conversations about how their organizations have been complicit in structural racism — and how to change that. “We’re not going to be operating in the same default category of white supremacy we were in,” said Mat Wright, artistic director of ArtsWest in West Seattle. “There isn’t going to be a heck of a lot of going back to that culture. It’ll be slow going, but it’s going to change.”

That’s another reinvention — long overdue — 2020 has kicked into gear.

Meanwhile, the pandemic restrictions have been straining many organizations to the breaking point. Arts and music venues were among the first to close when COVID-19 struck and many will be among the last to reopen. A troubling 75% of nearly 500 arts and culture organizations in the state said they would exhaust their operating budgets before the end of the year, with 45% predicting they’d run through those budgets by the end of September, according to the results of a late-spring survey conducted by King County’s 4Culture and 13 other partner organizations. Among the most vulnerable: tribal and POC-centered groups.

Support for the arts, large and small, will be critical to having a healthy cultural ecosystem in the future.


There is a serious concern that if this goes on much longer, only the behemoths will survive — Netflix is great and all, but if you want more variety in your post-pandemic world, you might consider helping. Buy tickets to local, virtual performances and lectures. Buy art. (Galleries and museums are some of the few cultural organizations open for business now.) Go to your favorite artists’ and musicians’ websites/Instagram and Facebook pages and find out what they need. Donate, even a little, to venues you’d rather see alive than dead. Tell your elected representatives from the city to the state to the federal level that you expect them to take culture seriously, and treat it as an important component of American life.

Also: Do you know where in Washington you can go to the movies? Ocean Shores Cinemas, in Grays Harbor County, which has brought its coronavirus infection numbers low enough to enter Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan. (Drive-in movies are open for counties in Phase 2.) So if you really want to help — or even just go to the movies again — mind your microorganisms. Wear a mask.

In the meantime, we’ll be posting Fall Arts Guide stories throughout the week; take a look and see what rough drafts are on their way. This fall will be full of surprises.

Fall Arts Guide 2020