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Council hears from cultural advocates on proposed Ordinance 2018-0086
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AKCHO board members Sarah Frederick and Alice Stenstrom were among those who came to hear testimony on Proposed Ordinance 2018-0086

The King County Council got an earful of public testimony at its Committee of the Whole meeting on Wednesday, February 21, one month after proposing Ordinance #2018-0086, a move that would reclaim some of the critical governance powers that had been accorded to 4Culture when it was spun off fifteen years ago as an independent cultural development authority in charge of managing King County’s cultural assets. 

4Culture board members and some 40 members of the overflow crowd gave testimony on the impacts the proposed ordinance would have on the County’s cultural community. The overwhelming majority of the people testifying opposed the ordinance. 

Janet Way of the Shoreline Preservation Society seemed to sum up the sentiments of many in the crowd when she noted that “The King County Council must stand up for our culture, not undermine it.”

Most of the people who signed up to speak before the Council were from the arts sector – only about five representatives from heritage organizations spoke. AKCHO has gone on record as questioning the necessity of Ordinance #2018-0086. 

 

Beyond the Frame launch addresses good and bad of Curtis’s legacy
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No one’s saying that famed photographer Edward S. Curtis’s photographs of North American Indians aren’t powerful. In the early part of the 20th century, fearing that Native Americans were doomed to go extinct due to the harsh government policies at that time that prevented them from adhering to their customary ways, the Seattle-based photographer dedicated himself to documenting tribes across America. He used all the tools at his disposal: film, audiotapes, written narratives and photographs, spending three decades in compiling a massive, 20-volume set titled The North American Indian.

But perhaps foreshadowing “fake news” by a century, Curtis fudged some of the facts. He had his subjects dress up in a manner that might have been more reflective of pre-colonial contact. He retouched photos to remove modern elements and to heighten the picturesque myth of the “noble savage.”

So a few years ago, when the Seattle Public Library realized that the sesquicentennial of Curtis’s birth would take place in 2018, the staff there began to talk about how they might best share their substantial Curtis holdings with the public. They formed a steering committee and held open meetings that attracted collectors from across the country, historians from around the region, and tribal representatives from around the Pacific Northwest.

It was obvious to all that Curtis’s assumptions about the fate of Native Americans had been in error. But what also became apparent over a succession of meetings was that the current generation of stakeholders, prompted by the presence of multiple Native American perspectives and at least one funder (4Culture) that increasingly is emphasizing the importance of assuring that projects are considered through the lens of equity and diversity, viewed the idea of a Curtis sesquicentennial not only as a chance to redress the misinformation that Curtis had promoted, but also to look “beyond the frame” and bring current Native American voices and visibility to the forefront.

The refocused initiative is being called Beyond the Frame – To Be Native. It launched at Chihuly Garden and Glass on February 17, Curtis’s birthday, with a benediction and welcome from Ken Workman, Duwamish Tribal Council member and great-great-great-great grandson of Chief Seattle, followed by remarks by city and tribal dignitaries, and multi-generational performances of Native American music and dance. 

As over 20 local institutions participate in the initiative over the next year, the Curtis works will serve as the backdrop for conversations that focus on Native identity, race and resilience, and the role of arts and culture in addressing these issues.

“Bringing the Native voice into the center of this community conversation has been vital to the Library and, we think, needed by the general public,” Seattle Public Library Chief Librarian Marcellus Turner told the crowd assembled for the launch of the project.

“The Library supports engagement and the building of community by providing access and support for all types of information, learning, and civic discourse. Beyond the Frame gives our regional community the platform from which to explore complex histories, read personal narratives, re-evaluate the history, and listen to our Native colleagues.”

For more information on upcoming programs and exhibits related to Beyond the Frame, visit beyondtheframe.org/to-be-native

 

 

 

Council will meet to consider more oversight of 4Culture – links to background info here
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A public hearing on a proposed ordinance #2018-0086, which would give the King County Council more oversight over 4Culture, is tentatively scheduled for February 21, 9:30 AM, in a “Committee of the Whole” meeting at the King County Courthouse.

In January, King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, was joined by Councilmembers Rod Dembowski, Kathy Lambert, Reagan Dunn, Pete von Reichbauer, and Larry Gossett, in introducing an ordinance that would allow councilmembers:

  • To veto the 4Culture budget, which determines funding for arts, heritage, preservation, and public arts;
  • To hire and fire the 4Culture Executive Director; and
  • To nominate and directly appoint the majority of 4Culture board members without consultation

The move by the Councilmembers caught the local cultural community by surprise and comes after founding 4Culture Director Jim Kelly announced late last year that he plans to retire this spring after 15 years of shaping the cultural services agency that serves King County.

Upthegrove has explained his rationale for spearheading this measure via Facebook – see his argument here.

As a public agency, 4Culture is unable to engage in an advocacy position on this issue, but has laid out the consequences this move would have here.

There is an advocacy group called Advocate4Culture that is organizing opposition to the proposed ordinance – find that website here.

For local press coverage of this issue, read Crosscut and The Stranger.

And if you would like to weigh in on this issue, you can find contact information for your County Councilmember here

 

4Culture’s statement on proposed King County ordinance 2018-0086
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The King County Council introduced Ordinance #2018-0086 on Wednesday, January 24, 2018. It states the Council has “determined that public funding for the cultural programs necessitates greater oversight and accountability to the public.” 4Culture is a respected public agency (Public Development Authority, PDA) with an excellent record of accomplishment and proven fiscal responsibility and accountability. The ordinance proposes changes to 4Culture’s charter and its by-laws that would have a significant impact by shifting responsibilities for budgeting, staffing, and board appointments from the 4Culture Board of Directors to the King County Council.

Current Oversight Measures:

  • All 4Culture funding grants are approved through a three-step process. Applications are evaluated by peer-panels, the selections are reviewed by community advisory committees, and finally approved by the 4Culture Board of Directors, comprised of fifteen leaders in the business and cultural sector.
  • The Auditor’s Office of Washington conducts an annual audit of 4Culture’s activities, financials, and compliance. 4Culture has been audited 23 times with only one finding—an outstanding record of governance and financial oversight. State Auditor Brian Sontag said in 2008, “This accomplishment shows 4Culture’s dedication to sound financial operations and timely financial reporting.”
  • Three King County Council members sit on the Board of Directors as ex-officio members and have full access to review operations,give input on grant activities and the budget, and report back to the full council. King County Council members have sat on the Board since 2003.
  • The selection and removal of the 4Culture Executive Director is the sole responsibility of the Board of Directors.
  • 4Culture presents two annual reports to the King County Council on programs, awards, revenues, expenses, initiatives, and activities. 4Culture’s senior leadership is called upon on a regular basis to meet with and advise the King County Council and Executive on arts and cultural related matters.
  • Our three ex-officio Councilmembers also sit as voting members on the Board Nominating Committee, which presents two to three recommendations to the King County Executive for each open position. Our existing charter calls out a careful process to consider geographic and racial diversity as well as maintaining a balance of expertise in the agency’s four program areas: artsheritagepreservation and public art.

The proposed ordinance would:

  • Give the King County Council the right to accept or reject 4Culture’s annual budget. If 4Culture’s budget is rejected, King County lodging taxpublic art, and other funds to 4Culture will not be released until the 4Culture board submits a new budget for council approval. Withholding revenues would disrupt annual grant programs and Public Art projects.
  • Give the Council the authority to remove the Executive Director with or without 4Culture Board approval.The King County Council does confirm King County Department heads, but does not have the authority to remove them. Under this ordinance, the Executive Director would serve at the discretion of the King County Council and not the 4Culture Board.
  • Give the King County Council the ability to appoint the majority of the 4Culture board—nine of fifteen members—by council district, eliminating the 4Culture Nominating Committee’s recruitment process. It reduces the nominations of the King County Executive to six members.

There are 14 public agencies similar to 4Culture located in King and Pierce Counties. If this ordinance is passed, 4Culture will be the only one with a governing authority—in this case, the King County Council—that has direct political veto power over the Executive Director, can remove professional staff, can veto program or capital budgets, and can appoint Board Directors by elective district.

For More Information:
Proposed Ordinance #2018-0086
See the full text of the ordinance, as introduced by the King County Council on January 24, 2018.

Proposed Changes to 4Culture Charter
See the full text of 4Culture’s charter, with the Council’s proposed additions marked in blue, and proposed deletions marked in red.

Proposed Changes to 4Culture Bylaws
See the full text of 4Culture’s bylaws, with the Council’s proposed additions marked in blue, and proposed deletions marked in red.

 

AKCHO annual meeting attendees get ‘Beyond the Frame’ preview
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Seventy AKCHO members and friends of AKCHO gathered at the Museum of Flight on January 30 for AKCHO’s annual meeting and were treated to a panel of distinguished guests who gave a preview of the kind of conversations to expect when “Beyond the Frame – To Be Native” officially launches on February 16. (Ed. note: visit the AKCHO calendar for launch details.)

Panelists (pictured above) included Miranda Belarde-Lewis (University of Washington Information School), Lydia Sigo (Suquamish Museum curator), Shannon Kopelva (Beyond the Frame – To Be Native coordinator) and moderator Jodee Fenton (Seattle Public Library).

Fenton noted that the conversation around how to mark the sesquicentennial of photographer Edward S. Curtis’s birth had deepened substantially since the initial plans were proposed. There has been general acknowledgement that while Curtis’s photography is beautiful, it was often staged – an attempt to recreate the “glory” years. Believing that Native American culture was doomed, Curtis tried to capture as much of it as he could in his 20-volume work of narrative text and photography titled The North American Indian. The project consumed nearly 30 years.

Sigo, who is following in her father’s footsteps as a curator at the Suquamish Museum, noted that there is a misperception that Curtis saved Native American culture. “That’s not true. Our ancestors were saving our culture, even when that was illegal,” she said. However, she recommended looking beyond the photographs, saying that the narrative portion of Curtis’s work, and some of the early recordings he made to capture traditional songs, had more authenticity and value.

Belarde-Lewis told the audience that the heritage community has a pivotal role to play in helping to dismantle a historical trajectory that has favored a privileged standpoint. She argued for “de-centering” on Curtis. “We are putting him on a year-long pedestal.”

Instead, she urged audience members to “challenge yourselves and your visitors and what it is you are trying to get across here.”

The panelists praised the adoption of the new Since Time Immemorial K-12 curriculum in Washington State, which will not only provide education in Native American history and culture for all, but also mandate teacher training in the curriculum.

During the business portion of the annual meeting, Alice Stenstrom was elected to a second term on the board and Judie Romeo was officially elected to the board for the first time, although she has served on the board since last spring, after founding AKCHO member Dick Wagner passed away. Jennifer Meisner, Preservation Officer of the King County Historic Preservation Program gave a presentation, and there were also remarks from 4Culture heritage lead Brian Carter and 4Culture executive director Jim Kelly, who will be retiring this spring.

 

 


ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

Heritage Advisor is published by the Association of King County Historical Organizations as a service to members and those who support its mission. We update our website continually throughout the month, and on the first of every month we e-mail a condensed version of Heritage Advisor to our mailing list – you can subscribe to this service by filling out the requested information in the right sidebar on this page.

AKCHO was established in 1977 to encourage cooperation among historical organizations; promote and encourage the study and preservation of the history and heritage of King County through member organizations, individual members, and the community they serve; and support such preservation efforts through public awareness and understanding of legislative issues.

The Heritage Advisor welcomes submissions of news items, calendar items, and opinion columns from AKCHO members, HA subscribers, and readers. Articles are limited to 300 words and they should have a strong relevance to historic preservation and heritage issues in King County, Washington. Submission of an article does not guarantee publication. AKCHO does not pay for published submissions. All articles are subject to review by AKCHO staff. Please send your article within the body of an email (no attachments, please) to heritageadvisor@akcho.org.

AKCHO welcomes new members year round. Individual memberships are $25, and we have a three-tiered system for organizational memberships, with dues dependent on budget size. For more information and an application form, visit http://www.akcho.org/members.

More than 150 individuals and organizations support heritage work and historic preservation in King County, thanks to their membership in AKCHO. Please join us!


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AKCHO was established to encourage cooperation among historical organizations and to promote and encourage the study and preservation of the history and heritage of King County through member organizations, individual members, and the community they serve, and to support such preservation efforts through public awareness and understanding of legislative issues.

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