Seattle Arts & Lectures Programs
SAL offers innovative programs by established and emerging authors to raise the understanding, appreciation, and visibility of the written and spoken word.
Literary\Arts Series presents the world's finest contemporary writers and cultural thinkers. Speakers represent many genres and backgrounds and their work consistently impacts contemporary culture nationally and, through our series, locally. We hope that our diverse, culturally relevant, and topical programming inspires our community to think more, read more, write more, and engage in dialogue that will lead to the betterment of our society.
Writers in the Schools (WITS) improves the reading, writing, and self-confidence of thousands of underserved K-12 youth each year while providing lasting professional development to their teachers. WITS matches public schools with local, professional creative writers who are also dynamic teachers. These writers-in-residence design innovative lesson plans that inspire students to explore creative writing and give them the skills to succeed as students and members of our global community.
The Poetry Series presents nationally prominent poets—ranging from peak- career masters to up-and-coming artists—in readings and on-stage interviews. Poets are rarely, if ever, sent on tour by their publishers. SAL makes it possible for readers to connect with these writers. Poetry is an oral art. To hear it read by the author is a rare experience that provides insight into the author’s intentions.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
It has been a time of critical change and evolution for Seattle Arts & Lectures, resulting in new—and renewed—engagement and investment in our work. In July 2013, the organization welcomed Ruth E. Dickey as our Executive Director, who in addition to being an award-winning writer, has been recognized as one of 40 Under 40 by the Puget Sound Business Journal and received the Washington Post Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management. We made tough strategic decisions to dramatically decrease expenses and right-size the organization’s operations. These changes and the hard work and commitment of the SAL Board and staff have led to two consecutive years of balanced budgets, streamlined operations, and new (as well as returning) engaged supporters and patrons. Our earned and contributed income continues to grow, and we have begun strategically rebuilding organization-wide capacity—increasing staffing and programming—while maintaining fiscal prudence.
Despite tight budgetary constraints and staff bandwidth, our public programming has been remarkably successful. In 2013/14, we sold out 5 of 6 of our Literary Arts Series events. We have built on that momentum, and this year, are seeing the dividends of our work in enthusiastic audience response. While subscriptions are declining nationwide, SAL is experiencing dramatic increases (40%) in our subscription sales. We are welcoming capacity crowds at every event, and one audience member shared: “SAL events are evenings that begin with a good meal and maybe a glass of wine with my friends. They end with great conversations as we leave Town Hall to sit on the bus home. And for days/weeks afterward, when I am reading the new book that was highlighted or reflecting on a comment or portion of the evening, I am full of joy.”
Just before our 2014/15 season began, we completed a six-month strategic planning process. We invited and carefully considered input from many community stakeholders, including writers-in-residence from our WITS program, school and community partners, key community thought leaders, staff members, subscribers, donors, sponsors, and peer organizations. The board formally adopted the 3-year plan in September 2014. In many ways, this plan represents the culmination of two years of organizational change and intensive community listening, and we committed to three strategic priorities based on our learning: deepening connections and enriching audience experiences with our programs through virtual and in-person initiatives; investing further in our education program (WITS) by expanding into additional high needs schools and developing a summer camp to maximize our reach and impact; and building SAL’s capacity—in terms of systems, infrastructure, human resources and capital—in order to allow us to robustly fulfill our mission.