Guest essay: Why Seattle’s artists and creatives need you to show up

Editor’s note: This post was written by Evergrey member Gedney Barclay. 

I’m writing this piece from my desk at Velocity Dance Center, where I work as communications manager. 

If you don’t know Velocity, we’re a performing arts center and dance studio, offering adult classes for dancers of all levels and hosting brand new performances by leading dance artists in Seattle and beyond. We’ve been on Capitol Hill for more than 20 years, weathering rising rents and population growth while presenting new work and bolstering careers of Seattle luminaries like Cherdonna Shinatra, Kate Wallich, and others. 

But after over two decades in business, Velocity is in jeopardy. Rising costs in operations and rent have led Velocity, like many other arts organizations in the city, to launch large-scale capital fundraising efforts in order to keep our doors open.   

At a time like this, it would be easy for us to feel like we’re competing for the same $30 donation, to interpret this squeeze as a sign of scarcity of resources for the arts. But both financially and practically, that’s not how the arts work. The artists we know and love in this city are able to live and make work here because of extensive opportunities to present, teach, and create.

Velocity’s roster is proof of this: Our teaching artists and creative residents develop work and education programs here that they then take to places like STG, On the Boards, the Frye Art Museum, Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, King Street Station, 12th Avenue Arts, and even the Can-Can Cabaret. Without Velocity, many of these artists wouldn’t be able to rehearse or perform on Capitol Hill. From a financial standpoint, that hurts local business: Fewer dance students and performers means fewer patrons for local restaurants and bars. 

But more importantly, the loss of Velocity would mark the loss of a gathering space. As our artistic director said at our recent performance of Sean Dorsey Dance’s “Boys In Trouble,” “Velocity is a gathering place, a space in which to hold many voices, all speaking to our collective capital ‘T’ truth. To actively combat reductive narratives, polarized thinking and assumptions. Isolation.” 

Sean’s performance is an incisive, witty, and heartfelt exploration of American masculinity, of its current limitations and harms, and a brave offering of new possibilities. It left an audience of all ages grabbing their bellies in laughter, and wiping tears from their eyes. At the end of the show, Sean gave a shout-out to Velocity that brought even more tears. He said that of the more than 35 cities in which he has performed and toured, Velocity is the only one that has a trans flag in the window. He loves performing here because he knows his work and his voice is valued, and that we are here to support him.

So if you believe in the arts, if you believe in the power of community and the importance of a gathering space where artists, audiences, teachers and learners of all stripes can convene, celebrate, and support each other, then come out this fall for the arts in our city. Go to a show, take a new class, make a donation, or just stop by on your way to dinner to see these spaces, to feel them. They’re the lifeblood of our city, and they are where we come together to listen, share, and grow as human beings. 

Ready to learn more about how you can support creative arts in Seattle? Our next Setting the Table event is dedicated to that very topic. Get your tickets here

By Caitlin Moran
Caitlin writes newsletters and stories for The Evergrey. She's worked as a journalist in and around Seattle since 2010 and is a proud resident of Capitol Hill's Summit Slope neighborhood.