Vincent Kitch Heads Seattle Arts

Vincent Kitch

by Rasmus Rasmussen on July 12, 2011

Vincent Kitch is a busy man. As the head of the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs he oversees the city’s involvement with – and funding of – the many creative groups and subcultures. Kitch was appointed by mayor McGinn in February 2011 and started work in April, after having worked in Austin, TX for several years.

In spite of facing budget cuts and picking up after a long gap between himself and his predecessor, Kitch has been extremely active in reaching out to the community since accepting the position. I met up with him outside King Street Station during brief gap in his tight schedule, yet he did not seem stressed or in a hurry. Instead, he carries with him an air of comfortable professionalism and attentiveness.

AP: What does the director do, exactly? What is your role in day to day operations, as well as on a larger scale?

VK: As a member of the Mayor’s cabinet, I lead the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs and a staff of about 20. On a day-to-day basis, I oversee staff working on our funding programs, public art program and outreach and advocacy efforts. I also work closely with the citizen-advisory Seattle Arts Commission. On a broader scale, a big part of my job is cultivating community partnerships and collaborating within city government to advance cultural policy. So there is a lot of meeting, planning, convening, participating and in general working with people, organizations and projects that impact a myriad of things related to arts, culture, and heritage.

AP: What is the greatest challenge for the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs today? What are you doing to overcome it?

VK: I think it’s important that we re-engage with the broader arts and culture community. I’m committed to raising public awareness of arts and culture and elevating the profile of the important work of the office. We are evaluating our programs and processes and engaging people in conversations about how we can improve services and increase our impact. It’s a thoughtful and deliberative process, which is important to building the foundation for our future work.

AP: In Austin you held the Arts Program Manager position for several years. What made you take on Seattle and move to the Pacific Northwest? Did you run out of challenges in Texas?

VK: I was fortunate to land the position in Austin when it was created. Austin was one of the first cities in the U.S. to combine arts and economic development, and it’s a great city! I believe we were able to accomplish a lot in the seven years I was there, but Seattle is a city that I have always admired. There are few other cities I would consider working in and after being in Austin, a city akin to Seattle in many ways, I decided to give Seattle a shot. I feel incredibly honored to have landed the job here. In the field of government arts administration, exciting opportunities don’t crop up every day. For me, Seattle felt like a good fit.

AP: What do you see as some of the greatest strengths of Seattle’s arts and culture scene? If you were to describe it to an outsider, where would you start?

VK: I think outsiders, at least in the arts field, have a very high opinion of Seattle’s arts and culture scene. It’s easy to tell the Seattle story. We’re home to world class arts institutions, vibrant theater and music scenes, a cadre of accomplished individual artists, a tremendously diverse community and rich cultural heritage. All this helps set Seattle apart as one of the leading edge cities in the U.S. I think some Seattleites take it for granted and assume that every city has this wealth of talent and cultural milieu. It’s simply not like this everywhere.

AP: How do you keep in touch with the arts community? I’ve read you attend events as often as possible, but obviously you can only attend so many, and only the ones you know about. What else do you do, and how can the community help keep you informed?

VK: Yes, I do try and attend as many events and activities as I can. The community has really opened up and helped fill my calendar, which is great! Because I’m new on the job, I try to go out of my way to meet and network with colleagues and individuals. My door is open. I invite people to contact me. Give me a call or send me an e-mail.

I am working to build relationships across community sectors, from arts and culture to education to business and philanthropy, etc. I believe it’s important to partner on every level in the community. When I’m not working which seems to be most of the time, I’m also trying to get out and explore Seattle and Pacific Northwest, learn the history, geography, culture, food, and even do touristy things as well!

For more, visit the website for Seattle’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs. To contact Vincent Kitch directly, call (206) 684-7173 or send an email to vincent.kitch@seattle.gov.

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