Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Rapid urban growth, an independent ethos, and affordable space for artists served the Seattle region as fertile ground for exponential growth of its arts sector since the 1960s and into the 21st century. An applied research project links the lived experiences of those who created this rich environment and those who seek to be future arts leaders. Graduate students in arts management are participating in a multi-year experimental research project to gather, document, and analyze regional arts and culture history. They are working across the community to identify noteworthy arts organizations, businesses, and events that have shaped the arts and culture ecosystem in the region, uncovering diverse perspectives, and setting the stage for future study of evolutionary relationships in the arts. Close collaboration with the University’s Library has led to the creation of a publicly-focused digital timeline and website, with links to a nascent but growing institutional repository for student research and additional resources. The project has garnered significant interest and support from regional arts leaders and archives in the community.

This paper traces the development and the first three years of the research project, providing insights for academic programs wishing to embark on applied research projects with students and the community, and communities wishing to document and share understanding of their arts ecosystem. A recent burst of economic growth threatened to obliterate much of the history from the previous decades in the Seattle region. Now further transformation is expected as a result of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. An interest in capturing the stories and gaining insights from this vibrant past has brought together the academic and practitioner communities around this effort.