Seattle City Council is poised to see huge changes in the way it’s governed, thanks to the arrival of 5 new council members. And although public safety was a major issue during the campaign, arts & culture also rank high on the list of voter concerns. Thankfully, Seattle is blessed with two strong arts & culture ad- vocates, in Mayor Bruce Harrell and Councilmember Sara Nelson.

As readers of VIBRANT know, Sara Nelson has a long history of reaching out to underserved communities and has been an active participant in Unified Outreach/ Vibrant Magazine Cultural Dialogue Workshops. These events bring together cultural organizations, business leaders, advocacy groups, and violence prevention counselors from across the city, seeking new ways to heal the city and to move forward as one-Seattle. Often, the workshop results in behavioral health classes and/or community events that give at-risk youth the chance to engage in art therapy programs.

Sara walks the talk, establishing the Film Commission in partnership with the Office of Economic Development, and supporting the Harbor Island Film & Sound Stage in West Seattle. Sara is the real deal and is quickly be- coming the go-to representative of artists around town.

Not surprisingly, Nelson is a creative-spirit herself, and is the co-founder of Fremont Brewing. A family-owned

craft brewery founded in 2009, where they brew small-batch artisan beers for “artists, fisherpeople, trades- people, technology geeks, and lots of beer lovers.”

Having an artist/businesswoman involved in the conversation is a blessing! Sara is the quintessential thinker that we at VIBRANT often talk about, utilizing both the left hemisphere for linear thinking and problem analy- sis, while the right hemisphere helps find creative solutions, delivered with empathetic program implementa- tion. She sees art enrichment as an essential part of the solution. Believing that the arts encourage communi- cation and expression, builds bridges, and breaks down racial, social, economic, and cultural barriers.

As for Mayor Harrell, his time as a public servant and community leader demonstrates a love for Seattle itself, and specifically underserved communities. He has made public safety and violence interuption a large part
of his platform, and like Nelson, he believes that the arts play a major role in providing opportunity youth with viable avenues away from at-risk behavior and towards positive opportunities. Taking action, the Mayors 2024 budget saw a dramatic increase in funding for the arts and for art-infused behavioral health services for youth.

It’s clear that Mayor Harrell recognizes the importance of art and creative expression as the lifeblood of vi- brant communities, going beyond just funding arts & culture organizations, and stepping up to the table with ideas of his own, such as his plan to launch an Empowerment and Opportunity program. This vision includes creating opportunities for upcoming new artists and creatives to connect with and be mentored by artists, icons, and entrepreneurs across creative industries, investing in space for creatives to hone their craft, and scaling economic development resources for creative entrepreneurs. For those familiar with the Vibrant work preparedness/apprenticeship program, you know we love this idea!

Through Mayor Harrell’s leadership, the City of Seattle regularly partners with artists, art organizations, and entrepreneurs to beautify our streetscapes, activate our neighborhoods, and create jobs and opportunities by growing the city’s creative economy. Most recently, Mayor Harrell hired Gülgün Kayim as the next director of the Office of Arts & Culture, launched the Many Hands Arts Initiative to install new public art, advanced leg- islation opening a new space in King Street station for creative organizations, and supported efforts to bring events like Bumbershoot back to Seattle through the Downtown Activation Plan.

It’s actions such as these that set the mayor apart from others. He has a proven track record of developing and sustaining working relationships with industry titans around the city and throughout the region, and with a powerhouse like Sara Nelson by his side, Seattle might just become the Hollywood of the Pacific Northwest.

And then there’s the new councilmembers, who bring an appreciation for arts and culture in the city…

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Picasso homage “Thinking Party” by Devin P.

ROB SAKA Rob Saka won the hearts of District 1 (West Seattle) voters with his honest and direct communication style and approach. Saka shared his story of overcoming the foster care sys- tem, to serving as an officer in the Air Force and obtaining his law degree. He proudly introduced us to his family and shared the importance of arts and culture in the lives of his three children. “My family and I are strong patrons of the arts. On any given day, we can enjoy live theatre or musical performances on the big stages in downtown Seattle, or community performances featuring talent- ed local actors. Recently my wife and I enjoyed a concert by Burna Boy; it’s wonderful that we have venues capable of welcoming talent from around the globe, as well as celebrating our own up-and- coming artists. We’re also blessed with world-class museums featuring local history and engag-
ing storytelling, and seasonal treats such as the Astra Lumina at South Seattle College. I envision Seattle as a city where diverse artists and creative workers of all disciplines are supported through living wages and opportunities to grow in their artistry.” – Rob Saka

CATHY MOORE As a former King County Superior Court judge, former Seattle public defend- er, and former Chair of the Seattle Human Rights Commission, Councilmember Moore has seen how the arts can have a positive effect on rehabilitation and healing. She has a proven track record of effective advocacy and public service on behalf of all in our city, which bodes well for those seek- ing a strong and vibrant arts community in Seattle.

MARITZA RIVERA has already established herself in the artistic community. As the former Deputy Director of the Department of Arts & Culture, we can expect that Maritza will bring an insid- ers view of the strengths and weaknesses of Seattle’s support for the artist community, and be a strong advocate for identifying opportunities and solutions that will help stabilize, retain, and grow a vibrant art scene in Seattle.

JOY HOLLINGSWORTH Joy Hollingsworth is a strong advocate for children, making the support of after-school enrichment programs a focus of her campaign. She will serve in a district with a rich history of arts and culture, from the legendary Black and Tan Club to the Royal Esquire Club. A district that gave us the musical genius of Quincy Jones and Clarence Acox. We are excit- ed by Hollingsworth’s focus on after-school programming, summer youth daycamps, and mentor- ships, apprenticeships, and jobs for youth. Hopefully revisiting former Mayor McGinn’s work-read- iness in the arts program which operated from 2013-2018. “I promise to invest in early learning and childhood development, parks, libraries, green spaces, tree canopy and the arts, as well as late-night activities and programs at community centers and non-profits. – Joy Hollingsworth

BOB KETTLE, Bob Kettle is a distinguished former naval officer with a decade of experience volunteering with non-profit organizations. Kettle will represent District 7, the home of Bumber- shoot, Pacific Science Center, Bite of Seattle, Climate Pledge Arena, and the many wonderful music venues of South Lake Union and Bell Town. He recognizes the importance of arts & culture in building a healthy community and is looking forward to supporting the arts in District 7 and throughout the city.

Vibrant Entertainment & Arts Magazine is proud to recognize Chris Hopper as our VEA Artist of the Year. Chris is well known for plays and musicals provided by his company, Black and Tan Project Productions, generally focus- ing on historic figures or venues.

Hopper first gained attention for his original work, Jefferson, who am I?, a period piece centering around one of our most famous presidents. The story itself is an ominous
tale of mystery, intrigue, and awakening as Thomas Jefferson is haunted by the Nigerian ghost, Ajamu. Ajamu is a cousin of Jefferson’s slave (and mistress) Sally Hemings, and forces Jefferson to reckon with his failure to abolish slavery. The play received rave reviews for the writing and directing, and for the performances of veteran actors Tom Fraser and Garfield High School alumni, Marcel Davis.

Although the bar was set high for his follow-up project, Hopper again scored accolades with his 2023 musical play celebrating the Black & Tan Club, where lovers of historic Seattle were treated to a journey into the past, to the pre- mier destination of the biggest names in blues and jazz, from 1922 thru 1966. For nearly five decades, Seattle’s first interracial venue, the

Black and Tan Club, 12th & Jackson, hosted legendary musical acts such as Eubie Blake, Ernestine Ander- son, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, Louis Jordan, Count Basie, and Lena Horne.

In February 2024, a revised Jefferson, who am I?, was presented, as writer/director/actor/songwriter Chris Hopper expanded on his original work, creating an even more robust experience for the audience.

Hopper, the youngest of 13 brothers and sisters, proudly shares that his family has lived in the Central District since his parents migrated from the South to Seattle in 1950, joined Mt. Zion Baptist Church, and began contributing to the art & culture scene in the community, most notably as a touring choir from 1979 thru 1992. As for Hopper himself, his first experience in theatre was as an actor in Civil Light Opera’s produc- tion of Showboat in the fall of 1979, at 9 years old.

Although he wears many hats, Hopper states, “I iden- tify first as a writer, because it’s my greatest artistic passion, then Director. I also find myself in the role of producer on many projects, as I have to hustle to raise the money for my productions.”

When asked how he would describe his approach to creating, he says, “I like producing and writing period pieces. Shows that span over decades, because I’m a history buff and I think it’s important to retain history so that it’s not lost to future generations. I just finished a new piece about social justice struggles taking place in 1960’s. I hope to have it ready for stage within the next 12 months.”

Hopper says he’s always enjoyed stage plays, par- ticularly musicals. And although he has a dream of directing a major motion picture one day, he fell in love with musical theatre when he saw the great seventies Broadway productions, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Dream- girls!

Hopper is a Renaissance Man, defined as a person who has wide interests and is an expert in several areas. Hopper seems to have an ever-growing list of artistic accomplishments, including writer, director, songwriter, and actor. All of which come in handy when producing a play the size of Black and Tan. The fact that Hopper himself has a background in acting helps him to identify with those he is tasked with directing.

Hopper reminisces with Vibrant about his first opportu- nity to truly stand out in an acting role, which was his performance at 17 years of age in Showboat. Hopper was cast as an extra, but was given speaking roles once the Director recognized his talent. A clown in one scene and a pageboy in another. “It was a blast!”

Hopper goes on, “I was a teenager at the time and it opened a whole new world for me.”

When asked what inspires him, Hopper says that he is motivated by poetry, photos, and life itself. “I remember with the Thomas Jefferson project, I ran across a photo of a young man with strong African features, it sparked a question. If this man was the descendant of one of Jefferson’s slaves, what ques- tions would he like to ask Jefferson himself? And in that moment, Jefferson who am I? was born.” Hopper says that in addition to writing, directing, and acting, he also enjoys the overall atmosphere of stage productions. “The ability to create something with multiple artists in different disciplines, from ac- tors to dancers, lighting techs, musicians and costume designers. Throw in the crowd response after a performance, and there’s nothing like it. What a rush!”

Hopper points to the team that he’s assembled for the new production as close to perfection, comple- menting each by name, including Choreographer Najee Cambronero, Costume Designer Akia Ronai, Actress Dr. Jewel Sae-Tiew, Actor Rees Farmer, and Stylist Nishi Muna.

With the building of the Harbor Island film & sound stage in West Seattle, our city is on the verge of becoming one of the biggest movie producers in the nation. Given Seattle’s opportunity to draw in big name talent, we asked Chris who he would like to work with in the future ~

“I admire the work of Steven Spielberg, Francis Coppola, Lee Daniels and newcomer Director Jeymes Samuel aka The Bullitts; true visionaries. As far as actors go, Jack Nicholson, because he can play any role and has the reputation of being able to play the same scene several different ways. Also David Ow- yelowo, Jeffrey Wright, and Don Cheadle, because they are chameleons and can channel any character, fictional or real life.”