PRESS RELEASE: Seattle City of Literature Appoints Interim Executive Director

Interim Executive Director Stesha Brandon brings extensive experience in arts non-profits and long involvement in local literary community

MEDIA INQUIRIES:
Didi Kader
media@seattlecityoflit.org

(Seattle—Feb. 24, 2016) Seattle City of Literature has appointed Stesha Brandon as its Interim Executive Director. Brandon’s role will be to strengthen the Seattle City of Literature organization, lead the upcoming bid to join the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Creative Cities Network, and initiate a comprehensive search for a permanent Executive Director.

Brandon has a long history of engagement with Seattle’s arts and culture community, especially the literary arts. Brandon was most recently Program Director of Town Hall Seattle, which produces more than 350 events each year, and worked for University Book Store for over ten years, where she programmed 500 events annually for nine branches. She’s a veteran of numerous boards and committees, including the Bumbershoot Task Force and the Washington State Book Awards jury.

Stesha Brandon. Photo Credit: Leah Dankertson.

“I am delighted to join this effort to designate Seattle a UNESCO Creative City, and excited to deepen our relationship with local literary and arts organizations,” Brandon said. “We have a vital role in supporting Seattle’s literary community, and there is still valuable work to be done.”

Seattle has been invited to apply to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in 2017 after narrowly missing UNESCO’s 2016 endorsement as part of the Creative Cities Network.

In addition to leading the 2017 bid to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, Brandon and the Board of Directors have begun three projects for the organization as she takes on the role of Interim Executive Director:

  • Work with the City of Seattle and the Office of Arts & Culture to provide diversity training opportunities for our member organizations and endorsers, designed to be consistent with the Office of Civil Rights and the Office of Arts & Culture standards.
  • Engage key stakeholders in the civic and academic communities to lay the groundwork for an economic impact study of the literary arts in the Seattle region. The organization has begun putting together a collection of literary arts resources in Seattle. The inventory is accessible on the Seattle City of Literature website, and provides an overview of the breadth and depth of our literary community, as well as practical resources to help connect organizations and writers.
  • Pursue an international collaboration and writers’ exchange with members of the UNESCO Creative Cities and Sister Cities networks. Developed in collaboration with other local organizations, this program will gives Seattle audiences the ability to experience literary work by internationally based writers, and will create an opportunity for Seattle-based writers to travel abroad.

“I’m thrilled to welcome Stesha Brandon as the Interim Executive Director for Seattle City of Literature,” said Board President Bob Redmond. “The organization has a great vision and has begun contributing both locally and internationally. To take the next steps we needed help, and Stesha is wonderfully qualified to provide that help. She knows both the for-profit and non-profit angles of the arts world, is well versed in Literature and many other creative disciplines, and has great support from the community. We’re lucky to land her and look forward to the next steps for the organization.”

Brandon will work with the Board of Directors and the Advisory Board to hire a permanent Executive Director, to start prospectively in 2017.

Seattle City of Literature has already worked with the City of Seattle to establish a Civic Poet program. Claudia Castro Luna, the city’s first Civic Poet, serves as an ambassador for Seattle’s rich literary landscape and represents the city’s diverse cultural community. In addition, the non-profit has collaborated on events with Hugo House and Elliott Bay Bookstore.

Seattle’s literary resources include thriving independent bookstores, generously funded 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 galvanize the city’s readers, honor our diverse literary traditions, and promote a robust creative economy.

The board and stakeholders involved in Seattle City of Literature include writers, readers, editors, publishers, teachers, and non-profit leaders.

For more information about Seattle City of Literature and future programming, visit: http://seattlecityoflit.org

 

LOCAL LITERARY AND ARTS LEADERS OFFER SUPPORT

Karen Maeda Allman, Elliott Bay Book Company

We’re committed to supporting the designation of Seattle as a UNESCO City of Literature and look forward to participating in programs with authors both international and local. I’ve worked with Stesha for many years, both at Town Hall Seattle, and as a juror on the Washington State Book Awards Committee, and I’m so glad that someone so dedicated and so enthusiastic about literature will be serving as the Executive Director.

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Phoebe Bosché, Managing Editor, Raven Chronicles

Raven Chronicles’ editors and staff welcome Stesha Brandon as the new Interim Executive Director of Seattle City of Literature. Her background, working with Town Hall Seattle and University Book Store makes her a good fit with the goals of SCoL: building community and sharing literary resources. Raven is especially excited about the International Writers Exchange program that SCoL is working on: exchanging writers from the Puget Sound region with writers from around the world deepens our commitment to learning, scholarship, understanding other cultures and ways of seeing.

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Ruth Dickey, Executive Director, Seattle Arts & Lectures

All of us at Seattle Arts & Lectures were thrilled to learn that Stesha Brandon is beginning as the new Executive Director of the City of Literature Project. We believe The City of Literature is an incredibly important initiative to draw together and shine a spotlight on our literary ecosystem here in Seattle, and I can’t imagine a better person to guide the initiative in its next steps.

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Chris Higashi, Program Manager, Washington Center for the Book at The Seattle Public Library

The Washington Center for the Book at The Seattle Public Library is delighted that Seattle City of Literature will be pursuing the UNESCO designation in 2017. We are looking forward to learning more about and participating in programs the organization will be implementing now and in the future. We’ve worked with Stesha for many years, both through her serving on the Washington State Book Awards jury and her work at Town Hall Seattle. Her passion and advocacy for the literary community are well known, impressive, and much appreciated.

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Kathleen Flenniken, Editor and President, Floating Bridge Press

Diversity training, writer’s exchanges, and an economic impact study could be great assets to Seattle writers, but these kind of programs have been difficult to come by in the past because we have lacked an umbrella organization capable coordinating so many large and small (but healthy) and diverse (but disconnected) writing interests. We are excited to think that Seattle City of Literature will be that umbrella. 

We have benefited from Stesha’s knowledge of the Seattle Literary Community and her generous, open-armed and open-minded approach to creating connections among large and small organizations, well-known and little-known writers and across literary genres.

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Gary Luke, Publisher and CEO, Sasquatch Books

Seattle absolutely deserves the UNESCO designation as a World City of Literature, so I’m glad that the effort to win it will continue. The vision for the Seattle City of Literature to become a support network for this town’s many literary organizations is a wonderful idea. Stesha Brandon is a great friend of Seattle’s literary world, and she will contribute much to the success of the Seattle City of Literature.

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Claudia Castro Luna, Seattle Civic Poet

I am happy to hear City of Literature is moving forward with a bid for 2017. It is a great opportunity for Seattle’s diverse literary community to be heard on an international stage.

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Nancy Pearl, librarian and book reviewer

I’ve known and worked with Stesha for many years, and I am delighted that she will be leading Seattle’s bid to be designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2017.

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Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company

This is to voice strong, continued, even renewed, interest in Seattle’s bid for designation as a City of Literature in the UNESCO program. This is a bid for the long haul – which feels in line with Seattle’s long-term dedication to reading, writing, and books, the part literary culture plays in shaping and enriching the place we call home.  Seattle’s literary interests are also reflective of connections and commitments with the larger world – part of the exchange with writers, works, and readers from elsewhere in the world. 

We are also delighted that Stesha Brandon is playing a leadership role with Seattle’s continued, ongoing bid. She brings expertise, dedication, and passion to this part, reflective of both strong local ties as well as connections to the larger literary world.

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