The tenuous relationship between art and tech in Seattle


I was reminded of this once again this past week, while chatting with area curator and writer Sharon Arnold. As a longtime Seattle gallery proprietor, Arnold for many years has arranged talks close to and published about how to bridge the gap concerning the artwork world and … properly, everyone else, but notably the people today with expendable income (which includes tech workers). 

Our discussion was during an interview for a tale I wrote this week about a controversy that experienced ripped by the regional art world like a wildfire. The spark: A phone for artwork (featuring a cartoon of Jeff Bezos and Monthly bill Gates putting on boxing gloves) for an exhibit called “Amazon vs Microsoft.” The gas: struggling artists, as one commenter place it, “actively priced out by these organizations.” And the oxygen? Social media. 

In the course of our phone connect with, Arnold discussed that this dialogue was not new — it is been all around at minimum since the 1990s. In truth, Arnold and I have talked about this pretty subject matter numerous times previously in just six a long time of my reporting in Seattle. 

And though it wasn’t a new dialogue, the “art versus tech” debate blew up this week — and was the discuss of the town at the Seattle Artwork Good (and at its sexier sibling, Forest For the Trees). 

I assumed the timing was fitting. The Seattle Art Good was launched in 2015 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (1953-2018). A billionaire, philanthropist and a person of the region’s and world’s most crucial art collectors, Allen required the art reasonable to do for his city what the glitzy Artwork Basel did for Basel (and Miami). 

When we speak about artwork, tech and philanthropy in Seattle, the dialogue inevitably turns to Allen. Although he was not universally cherished — and several questioned the whims of his arts philanthropy — a lot of take into account him to have been more generous to the arts than the city’s other tech billionaires, Jeff Bezos and Monthly bill Gates. “He donated so a great deal extra to liberal arts businesses,” a area artist instructed me this 7 days. Some others point out that, with the elimination of the artwork branches of his corporation Vulcan (no for a longer time associated with the reasonable), a lot of his external arts funding has dried up, a mere 4 a long time immediately after his loss of life. Why, then, some surprise, pin your hopes on tech philanthropy? 

With an art sector in shambles as we enter year 3 of a devastating pandemic, it is a dialogue that has grow to be all the extra appropriate. Will one more local arts philanthropist arise? Can battling arts organizations and artists rely on money support from governmental organizations? 

I am reminded of a little something quite a few other folks alluded to in around a dozen interviews I done for this week’s story: There is not a person band-assist (or just one philanthropist). The arts are an ecosystem — and a fragile 1 at that. The artwork sector is comprised of a intricate, interconnected network that requires a selection of guidance, as Arnold advised me, not just to endure but prosper. Arts reporting is an vital part of the ecosystem, and I really do not acquire that position lightly. I glimpse forward to continuing the dialogue, even if it’s deja vu all about once more.


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