Renaissance woman organizes off-the-beaten-track events, as well as working for ArtsFund and serving as Redmond's poet laureate.

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SEATTLE OBSCURA SOCIETY HEAD
Shin Yu Pai

What do you do? I am head of Seattle Obscura Society for Atlas Obscura where I develop and design a complex calendar of events intended to evoke curiosity and inspire wonder. By day, I work in development for ArtsFund. I also serve as the poet laureate of the city of Redmond. As a working artist, I give readings and talks — this year as a Jack Straw writer, and in 2017, as a Humanities Washington speaker.

How did you get those roles?I got my Master of Fine Arts from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and worked for a decade in museums, ad agencies, journalism and literary- and humanities-related nonprofits. I also got a museum studies degree at UW, focusing on community engagement, participatory design, and museums as social change agents. I’ve gravitated toward roles where my interests as a writer can inform whatever work I’m doing.

What’s a typical day like? I exchange emails with program leads who pitch and develop programs and work through logistics, design and timelines — this is quite varied — from curating musicians for performances to recently sourcing boat charters and identifying a chef for a squid jigging trip in Elliott Bay. I also spend time focusing on earned media to build new audiences, and building partnerships with venues. I monitor ticket sales and schedule social media content to add interest to upcoming programs.

What’s the best part of the work? I love creating unique and intimate experiences for our audiences and working with some of Seattle’s most interesting makers and thinkers to develop events that highlight what is full of wonder within the local. I also value the autonomy of working outside of the primary cultural establishments that dominate Seattle and supporting collaborators to actualize their own vision through providing a platform and structure within which to explore their ideas.

What surprises people about what you do? I have a lot of jobs and wear many hats. I have many diverse interests and am passionate and curious about many things. I see my work as rooted in an effort to nurture connection so that I might better integrate these commitments into the expression of a balanced and artful life. Everything I do is interrelated.

Editor’s note: Upcoming Seattle Obscura Society event: a fashion studio tour with Malia Peoples of Other Peoples Polyester (Nov. 19).

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