Local Arts Shift Online

Seattle arts organizations have adapted in a variety of ways due to in-person restrictions.


Art by Adam Friesz

Different art museums, movie theaters, and music organizations have adapted and moved online, offering services commonly through streaming and blog formats. Organizations of all sizes in Seattle have been affected and community groups have worked to provide support and guidance in this transition.

The financial impacts that the prolonged closure has had on many arts groups cannot be overstated, “The situation is very dire,” Christina DePaolo from 4Culture, a King County partner which works to fund local arts organizations, said. 4Culture published a report in September that showed 44 percent of respondents had just 1 to 3 months of cash reserves to cover their operating costs. 

“Cultural organizations have lost a significant amount of income that they need to remain up and running and weather the pandemic,” DePaolo said. “Many are trying to find ways to monetize their digital offerings or hold successful virtual fundraising events.”

The Seattle International Film Festival is an example of this. The SIFF’s three brick and mortar locations have been closed since March but they currently offer an online streaming service where you can access new releases from smaller producers that may not be available on platforms like Netflix or on-demand. Another step they have taken is in hosting virtual events. An upcoming class in January is focused on Parasite, which won the 2019 Oscar for Best Picture, and their annual film festival is planned to take place online in April 2021, featuring over 100 films. 

Another one of Seattle’s cultural stalwarts is the Seattle Art Museum, which had been open for scheduled visits, but reclosed on November 16th following Governor Inslee’s increased restrictions. The SAM blog provides a look at specific pieces of different styles each week, giving readers a look into the currently vacant museum.

The Seattle Symphony was also affected by Washington’s rising cases, with broadcasts of live concerts performed from Benaroya Hall without an audience being halted on November 19th. Previous performances had been broadcast through Symphony Live, the Symphony’s streaming platform where users can pay to watch a month’s performances.

Some organizations have received financial support from the state, “171 organizations received funding through the 4Culture Reopen Fund. 301 organizations are receiving funding through the 4Culture Cultural Relief fund. Totaling $3,243,000,” DePaolo said. King County awarded these funds to 4Culture to help community groups, following the passage of the CARES act by congress.  

While Seattle’s largest organizations are often the most well covered, Seattle’s cultural identity is defined as much by smaller cultural groups as it is by those with more resources. Wa Na Wari was founded in 2019 and is located in the Central District. It focuses on representing Black experiences and Black artists and has adapted to engage in new ways during the pandemic. They are currently featuring the Story Porch outdoor installation which focuses on representing different experiences of African culture. Wa Na Wari is also holding virtual events including an upcoming acoustic performance by Blumeadows. 

“If you have a favorite arts organization, look them up online and chances are you will see they have virtual offerings” DePaolo said. 

If there is a group you would like to tell us about, leave a comment to potentially have it featured in a future issue.