The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced it designated Seattle as a City of Literature in the Creative Cities Network. Seattle joins an international network of 116 member cities from 54 countries that promote socio-economic and cultural tourism in the developed and developing world through creative industries.
The bid to join the Creative Cities Network was led by Seattle City of Literature, a non-profit whose aim is to foster public and private literary partnerships in the city and abroad to promote a robust creative economy.
Seattle is the top city in the United States for arts organizations per capita, and our nonprofit arts landscape is the fourth largest in the USA. The 325 nonprofit arts organizations in the greater Seattle area generated more than $207 million in revenues in 2012, according to the Seattle Office of Arts& Culture’s Creative Vitality Index (CVI) report, which tracks economic health and development in arts and culture. Employment in arts and culture in the Seattle metro area increased by more than 6 percent from 2010 to 2012, and as of 2012, nearly 31,000 people—or 3.5 percent of the population—worked in the sector.
Over the last five years, of their $10 million annual budget, the Office of Arts and Culture has dedicated an average of more than $230,000 in funding to literary and storytelling programs and artists—meaning they have invested more than $1.2 million in literature in the last five years. Additionally, according to data provided by 4Culture, the King County cultural funding arm, the county has granted more than $2.5 million to literary programs and individual writers in the last five years, from historic renovation funds to individual artist grants.
“Seattle has a wonderfully rich literary history beginning with the storytelling tradition of Native Americans in this region,” said Bob Redmond, Board President of Seattle City of Literature. “We found widespread support in the community for this successful effort. We look forward to working with partners in the arts community to participate in this global network.”
The non-profit worked with the City of Seattle to establish a Civic Poet program. Claudia Castro Luna, Seattle’s first Civic Poet, served as an ambassador for Seattle’s rich literary landscape and represents the city’s diverse cultural community. In addition, Seattle City of Literature has collaborated on events with Hugo House and Elliott Bay Bookstore, and arranged for artist exchanges between Seattle, New Zealand and Iceland. This month, Seattle City of Literature hosted the second half of its Indigenous Writers Exchange with Nic Low of the Ngāi Tahu tribe of New Zealand. Last year, Elissa Washuta of the Cowlitz Tribe traveled to Christchurch for a similar exchange.
Seattle’s literary resources include thriving independent bookstores, public libraries, literary arts nonprofits and writing programs that serve diverse communities, publishers and small presses, professional organizations, readers, and writers. Seattle City of Literature aims to foster a culture where local writers can stay on the West Coast and be supported by local publishing amenities.
The board and stakeholders who generously gave their time and resources to develop the bid to join the Creative Cities Network includes writers, readers, editors, publishers, teachers, and non-profit leaders.
Seattle joins a group of 20 outstanding UNESCO City of Literature members including Iowa City (the first US city to gain recognition); as well as Edinburgh Scotland, Krakow, Poland; Baghdad, Iraq; Dublin, Ireland; Montevideo, Uruguay; and others.