Washington State Arts Commission Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report

ArtsWA is Washington State’s arts agency. We are a catalyst for the arts. Our work advances the role of the arts in the lives of individuals and communities throughout the state.

Join Washington State Arts Commission’s Executive Director, Karen Hanan, for a short retrospective of ArtsWA’s 2021 fiscal year.

Table of Contents

Art In Public Places

Orchard Elementary students investigating Solar Portals, by Michael Brown and David Cole, during its dedication. The sculpture was installed soon after students returned to the Richland school in the spring of 2021.

AIPP is viewed as a national leader for its diverse collection and strong acquisition and collection care practices.

Established in 1974 and funded through state building construction, the State Art Collection now includes nearly 5,000 works in places where people work, study, and live.


Art in Public Places (AIPP) acquires artwork for Washington’s K-12 public schools, universities, state agencies, and the community and technical college system. During a normal year, AIPP’s project managers would travel throughout the state to meet with local committees in communities that host state-funded artwork. Most of these projects are located in public facilities. However, FY 21 was different. Most of these facilities were shuttered due to remote working and learning. It was unusual to bring artwork into nearly empty spaces. The teachers, administrators, students, and community members we worked with were voices of optimism. They reminded us that people will return and, when they do, they will need art more than ever.

Our operations remained practical. We moved public art projects efficiently. We organized meetings with far-flung stakeholders via Zoom and worked with artists on installations in quiet buildings and campuses. From Spokane to Seattle, Bellingham to Pullman, we met online with local committees to select artists and share their hopes for new artworks. In FY2021, AIPP oversaw the installation of sixteen commissioned artworks and seven curated collections across thirteen counties.

In the spring of 2021 AIPP managed a new call for our Public Artist Roster. The Roster is the main tool for artist selection in our public art projects. Our increased outreach and planning led to a record number of submissions. We were heartened to see higher numbers of artists of color and those from rural, central, and eastern Washington. The 2021 Roster has more artists from underserved communities. It provides more choices than ever for our partners, and promises a more diverse and culturally representative State Art Collection.

This fall marks the return to our workplaces and classrooms, and AIPP project managers will once again be traveling the state. We couldn’t be more excited.

Click here to learn more about Acquisitions.

“Communication and coordination were amazing considering all the changes we endured during the 2020 year.”

– Committee member, Ridgeview Elementary

Artist installing art
Artist Etsuko Ichikawa in 2021 during the installation of "Flowering Diversity" in the central courtyard of Tukwila’s Foster High School. Photo by ArtsWA.
Artist installing art
Artist Lisa Little (r) installing "Entangled Agency", 2020, at the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, located in Parrington Hall at the University of Washington.

Watch a time lapse video of the restoration of Marvin Oliver’s “Big Bird”. The artwork was created in 1979 and is located at Yelm High School.

View more images of this artwork.


Despite pandemic related obstacles, ArtsWA’s Collections Care team and contractors diligently worked to complete projects large and small. The restoration of Big Bird at Yelm High School (YHS) was among the 222 artworks ArtsWA repaired, re-framed, evaluated, installed, or de-installed.

Big Bird was created in 1979 by the late Native artist and teacher Marvin Oliver. A high school student, of Yakama heritage, brought the artwork to the school’s attention. She asked the YHS principal if the artwork could be restored. The artwork needed major repair due to 40 years of outdoor exposure, or it would be at risk of loss.

The artwork underwent an extensive restoration by conservator J. Claire Dean and Marvin Oliver student David Franklin. In June 2021, they reinstalled it inside the school commons. Students and members of the community will now celebrate the artwork for years to come.

Yelm High School’s principal recently shared, “I cannot express enough how much this project has meant to me as it is re-installed in a place of honor for our students and community; where it should have been these past many years.”

In Yakima, ArtsWA and Architectural Resources Group (ARG) completed a plan to restore Richard C. Elliott’s monumental artwork Circle of Light. At 880 feet long, the artwork is the State Art Collection’s largest. It is located on the parapet of the Yakima Valley SunDome and is made up of nearly 50,000 reflectors. A project of this size and scope is not attainable for ArtsWA without dedicated funding from the State Legislature. The Legislature appropriated funds during the 2021 legislative session, and ArtsWA will complete the artwork’s restoration in 2022.

Projects like these—and their less prominent companions—are essential to maintain the State Art Collection. They require funding and a strong network of knowledgeable fine art workers to steward these important assets.

Click here to learn more about Collections Care.

The work of public art happens every day – from producing artwork proposals, to creating prints and paintings and sculptures, to blowing glass with a team, to fabricating metal artworks, to pouring concrete foundations and installing large artworks, to conservation work on existing artworks. Seen here: art in progress by Christie Tirado.
"Surge" (2021) by Mary Coss, located at Bainbridge High School, Bainbridge Island, Bainbridge Island School District, WA.
"Family" (2021) by James Madison, located at Edmonds College, Lynnwood, WA.
"Kalama Stick Indian" (1989) by Lillian Pitt, located at Mountain Way Elementary, Granite Falls School District, Granite Falls, WA.
"All the Rivers in the World, Tacoma" (2019) by Vaughn Bell, located at University of Washington Tacoma, Tacoma, WA.
"Joule of the Valley" (2021) by Gera Lozano and Werc Alvarez, located at Davis High School, Yakima School District, Yakima, WA.
"Dancing Spirit 1" (2018) by Marita Dingus, located at The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA.
"Auntie Ming and the Lotus Child" (2016) by Lauren Iida, located at Maple Park Capitol Campus Child Care Center, Department of Enterprise Services, Olympia, WA. Detail of artwork.
artist making art

My Public Art Portal

My Public Art Portal‘s reach grew during FY2021. Visits to our online State Art Collection grew by almost 70% over FY20. This is likely because of COVID restrictions in public buildings where artwork is located. We made a web exhibition about Masks in the State Art Collection to promote masking up. We celebrated the Collection’s diversity of artists with web exhibitions highlighting Asian American and Pacific Islander Artists, Black Artists, Hispanic Artists, and Native American Artists. For Women’s History Month in March, we featured Women Artists at work in their studios: painting, printing, glassblowing, metalworking, and more. New web exhibitions highlighted methods and materials, such as Glass, Mosaics, Textiles, Site-Specific Artworks, Printmaking. We fine-tuned our workflow to get artworks onto My Public Art Portal more quickly—you can now see new artworks online soon after they have been installed. We created an interactive, online map of the State Art Collection and partnered it with a web exhibition of artworks that include maps. In total, we published 106 new artworks! Lastly, the ArtsWA Art in Public Places is now on Instagram at @artswapublicart.

Click here to view the State Art Collection.

If you are interested in guest curating a web exhibition, please email us at collections@arts.wa.gov.

Grants To Organizations

Rosie Saldaña prepares the ofrenda at Tieton Arts & Humanities’ 2020 Día de los Muertos exhibition. Photo courtesy of Tieton Arts & Humanities.

ArtsWA grants help communities nurture and grow the arts and expand the creative sector. Our grants focus on cultural equity and the creative economy.

Grants to Organizations (GTO) funds projects, programs, and services spanning artistic disciplines, cultures and traditions. They include professional training in the arts. They reach audiences and arts professionals in locations across the state.

At the beginning of FY 2021, ArtsWA distributed federal CARES Act funding to over 150 organizations. The National Endowment for the Arts provided this funding. In the fall, we worked with the state Department of Commerce and Office of Financial Management to distribute a second round of funding. An additional $3.4M in CARES Act relief funds went to nearly 400 organizations in 32 counties.

GTO also dispersed funds in its typical grant programs: General Operating Support, Art Project Support, and Art Service Organization Support. Pandemic-related emergency orders halted many of the art project support grants. As a result, we allowed Project Support grants to be converted to Operating Support grants. Organizations used the grant money to shore up operating expenses instead of producing a public project. As a result, they remained in business and continued to provide services to their communities.

Click here to learn more about the Grants to Organizations program.

“Thank you so much for all your help during this challenging year. You helped make applying for and converting this essential grant seamless for us. In a time when many dance schools near us closed their doors for good, we are so grateful for you and Arts WA for keeping us operating and able to provide excellent dance education in our community (hopefully) long into the future.”

– CARES Grantee, Fidalgo Danceworks

Cast from Sound Theatre Company’s 2020 Radio Play version of Changer. Photo courtesy of Aaron Jin.
Musical artists Jared and Jessi Fredeen performing live at the Juan de Fuca Festival. Photo courtesy Peter Metz.
Collaboration with Duwamish Youth Corps. Participating teens designed, created, and installed Black Lives Matter art murals through South Park community. Photo courtesy FREE2LUV.

GTO by the Numbers


Grants funded in FY 2020


Total amount distributed


Total amount leveraged


Grantees from outside King County

(50% GTO, 58% CARES 2.0, 60% CARES 1.0)

Arts In Education

Dance Circle – Pam Lee leads a class, ArtsWA FY21 Community Consortium Grantee. Photo credit, Katie Jennings.

The Arts in Education program expands arts learning opportunities for children and youth. Our grants and programs serve students, families and communities.

Arts in Education (AIE) programs directly supported the wellbeing of children, youth, colleagues, and families during an unprecedented school year. Our programs, partners, and grantees developed remote, hybrid, and in-person arts programming that met the times.

Arts In Education programs include: First Step, Community Consortium, and Creative Start Grants, Poetry Out Loud, TAT Lab, Creative Start Studio.

AIE programs supported partnerships among those who teach children. This included teachers, school districts, teaching artists, arts organizations, and communities. Youth and families learned about arts and culture through hands-on arts integration activities. Educators and teaching artists gained relevant skills to close the opportunity gap for their students. People in historically underserved areas gained access to arts in new and meaningful ways.

Our work helped students find joy in learning. Children found new avenues to express themselves through the arts. They accessed technology and arts learning materials in new ways. Our programs helped them see the connections between language, math, and artistic forms.

“As a tiny school we have limited offerings and resources. This program brought in artists who shared not only their skills but their ideas, thoughts and feelings with us. Their presence was as valuable as the art that was created.”

– FY21 First Step grantee, Confluence in the Classroom, teacher participant

Creative Start

Encouraging innovation in early learning through the arts.

Creative Start supports and expands arts integration efforts in early learning (preschool through 3rd grade) communities. It aims to bridge the opportunity gap for Washington’s youngest learners. Creative Start programming includes grants, professional learning opportunities, and resource development to support students, teachers, and families.

Many schools and early learning centers across Washington State continued distance learning as the 2020-21 school year kicked off. Creative Start supported grantees with projects that adjusted to meet student and educator needs.

Creative Start worked closely with our eight Site grantees (selected in 2020) as they implemented their art integration projects. Virtual site team meetings provided time for idea sharing, problem solving, and project guidance. ArtsWA awarded four Regional grantees with grants totaling $113,750. The grantees designed their arts integration project to impact multiple early learning school locations.

Arts Uplift!: Arts, Culture, and SEL in PreK-Grade 3

In early spring 2021, Creative Start partnered with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and TAT Lab to plan a 3-day virtual conference called Arts Uplift! The conference will be held in summer 2021.

Creative Start Studio

The Creative Start Studio expanded its resources this year. It now includes video production planning tips from 3 Washington state teaching artists and 10 new arts and math focused video mini-lessons and lesson plans. All Creative Start Studio resources are designed for parents, families, caregivers, and educators of children ages 3 to 8.

You can view any of the 23 videos in our Creative Start Studio on our YouTube channel.

students making drum
Students at Connell Early Childhood Center work together to stretch and string soaked rawhide to build a classroom drum. Photo courtesy of Lisa Brouwer-Thompson.
student art project
Art & Science project: Clay insect made by student at Pasco Early Learning Center. Photo courtesy of Emily Noyes.
Poetry Out Loud (POL) is a national poetry recitation contest for high school students. It is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. ArtsWA produces the contest for Washington State.

Watch Lucy Shainin, 2021 Poetry Out Loud Washington State Champion, recite a poem. You can view all the state finalists recitations on our YouTube channel.

Poetry Out Loud

Poetry Out Loud made significant changes to the in-person, live performance elements of the 2021 program. Students, educators and ArtsWA’s POL team adapted quickly to these changes. We learned many valuable lessons from the shifts we had to make. We learned how to increase rural and home-school participation through virtual options. POL Regional Partners for 2020 – 2021 include:

  • Educational Service District (ESD) 112
  • Spokane Arts
  • Yakima Valley College
  • Skagit River Poetry Foundation

The State Final competition was broadcast online on March 16, 2021. This broadcast reached a broader audience than our in-person, pre-pandemic format. Previously, the event engaged about 85 members of the public in-person. This year’s streamed broadcast had 620 views by the end of the school year. The Washington state final was emceed by Seattle’s youth poet laureate, Bitaniya Giday. It included music presented by the Kareem Kandi World Orchestra, and a special message from the state poet laureate, Claudia Castro Luna.

Lucy Shainin, a junior at Anacortes High School, is the 2021 Poetry Out Loud Washington State Champion. Over 6,000 students from 28 schools across the state competed in a revised virtual competition, Shainin was among the 10 high school students who competed in the State Final.

Click here to learn more about Poetry Out Loud.

Teaching Artist Training Lab (TAT Lab)

TAT Lab provides workshops, resources, and mentorship to arts educators across Washington State.

TAT Lab is a community of teaching artists, arts specialists, youth arts providers, and certified classroom teachers that teach through the arts. In 2021, 26 participants completed the first virtual TAT Lab Core program.

Participants in FY21 TAT Lab gleaned several skills and techniques. They improved their teaching practice. They increased their understanding of creating effective learning plans. They gained knowledge of formative assessment methods in the arts. And they learned to navigate collaborative opportunities with PreK-12 schools and teachers.

In a post-training survey, they said the highlight of the training was the learning community experience. They mentioned that communal learning, shared wisdom, and opportunities to receive feedback from peers were highly valuable. They enjoyed the different forms of technical engagement and structure in the training, especially breakouts and small group learning.

Click here to learn more about TAT Lab.

TAT Lab advertisement

Arts In Education by the Numbers


Community Consortium Grants, totaling $293,150


First Step Grants, totaling $35,286


Creative Start Site Grants, totaling $60,800


Teaching artists participated in TAT Lab


students, 113 teachers, and 28 schools participated in POL


Creative Start Regional Grants, totaling $113,750

Creative Districts

Artisans construct wayfinding sign markers for Twisp’s Creative District. Photo courtesy Twisp Creative District.

The Creative Districts program helps communities turn arts and culture into economic opportunities. We expanded our service offerings during FY21 to support Washington’s eight certified districts.

We hosted our annual Creative District convening online in July 2020. All eight districts came together to learn, share best practices, and provide feedback about their challenges and needs.

Based on feedback from this event, we began a new initiative to support our rural districts. Starting in January 2021, we convened a monthly Rural Cohort to provide customized technical assistance to them. We invited subject matter experts to provide training in marketing, nonprofit management, project development and more. This training helps the rural districts become more effective and provide more support to their communities.

ArtsWA also developed a Change Leader Institute (CLI) program for Washington State. It is based on the eponymous program in Utah. CLI is a professional development program geared towards artists and arts administrators. Attendees learn how to become effective leaders who support change in the communities. It is a cohort-based, hands-on learning program. The first Washington CLI cohort will convene in Fall 2021.

The biggest expansion of the program came in our Creative District Capital Projects (CDCP) pilot program. CDCP provided small-scale grants to design and install public-oriented projects in the districts. Our grant match-reduction provision gave all districts the ability to compete for funds. As a result, all eight districts received funding.  The projects were completed before the end of the fiscal year. Project included: public mural projects, wayfinding signage, informational kiosks, sculptures, art markers and more. As a result of the successful pilot, CDCP received expanded funding for the upcoming biennium.

Districts supported their communities through the pandemic in creative ways. They used the pandemic as an opportunity to reimagine events and activities. Edmonds and Olympia created outdoor malls by closing streets to cars and allowed food service and biergartens for pedestrians. Issaquah, Tenino, and Chewelah reimagined annual holiday art markets with pandemic-related restrictions in mind. All the districts used the time to plan their future and solidify how they want to serve the communities post-pandemic.

Due to the pandemic, no Districts gained certification in FY21. However, three districts – Rainier Valley (SE Seattle), South Columbia (Kennewick) and Bainbridge Island – finalized their planning and applications. All three will be certified in Fall 2021.

Click here to learn more about Creative Districts.

map of WA state Creative Districts
artist painting mural
Muralist works on a portion of the public mural installed in Langley's Creative District as part of their FY21 Capital Project. Photo courtesy of Langley Creates.

Being our first fully operational year, the operating grant funding was invaluable in supporting the Creative District … The capital projects we completed have had an impact … They provided some much needed “looking forward” energy… The community is beginning to recognize creatives as a vital component of a healthy economy.” – Chewelah Creative District

Center for Washington Cultural Traditions

FY21 Heritage Arts Apprenticeship Program Master Artist Thione Diop. Photo courtesy CWCT.

The Center for Washington Cultural Traditions is an innovative arts and heritage program. It surveys, studies, and supports cultural traditions, tradition bearers, and traditional communities throughout Washington State.

Covid-19 presented many challenges to the traditional arts sector in FY21. In response, the Center for Washington Cultural Traditions (CWCT) cultivated a stronger infrastructure for folk and traditional arts around the state.

In FY21, the Heritage Arts Apprenticeship Program (HAAP) helped to preserve valued cultural traditions. We welcomed fifteen new teams in the third year of the program. From Mexican folk music to Indian classical dance to Yakama Nation foodways, this cohort featured a wide variety of cultural traditions and communities. See the FY21 HAAP teams here.

Our Cultural Traditions Survey moved in a new and impactful direction. This year we trained community members in the art of cultural documentation. Educators, librarians, genealogists and others built the skills necessary to preserve their valued traditions and tell the story of their communities. Our curriculum included lessons on fieldwork, project design, interviewing and photography. It centered this work on equity and ethics.  Over twenty people attended this free, web-based workshop series and are now better able to support traditional artists in their communities.

In FY21, the Center also launched its first publication, Rites of Green: Journal of Washington State Folklife. Rites of Green is a platform dedicated to presenting Washington State’s cultural traditions and heritage. It features essays, podcasts and documentaries produced by CWCT. Other documentarians and community members contribute to the platform as well. You can learn more about it at www.ritesofgreen.org.

Wellness, Arts and the Military

MusicWorks4Veterans is a member of the WAM cohort. Veteran and MW4V project manager John Selzer has been using the power of music to bring music to veterans being treated at VA locations and veteran residential facilities in the state of Washington.

Wellness, Arts, and the Military (WAM) – formerly known as Creative Forces – creates partnerships with community arts organizations near clinical sites such as Madigan Army Medical Center.

During the period from June 2020-July 2021, we created several important projects and partnerships. As part of the NEA Creative Forces Demonstration Project, we worked with an art therapist consultant to grow and develop the WAM program. We formed connections with Washington arts organizations who serve – or are interested in serving – active-duty military, Veterans, and families. We created a state interagency partnership with the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs to share resources. We also launched a teaching artist pilot program with two veteran services organizations.

Because military culture can often go overlooked or misunderstood by arts organizations, we helped raise awareness of the unique norms of this community. Additionally, we were designated as a Vet Corps Volunteer site and brought a Vet Corps Volunteer on board to the ArtsWA team. Lastly, we received a grant award from the NEA Creative Forces to develop the Theory of Change and Logic Model for the WAM program, to be completed by December 31, 2021.

Governor’s Arts & Heritage Awards

We cancelled the 2020 Governor’s Arts & Heritage Awards (GAHA) due to concerns about the pandemic. While this was not an easy choice to make, our goal was the safety and health of all involved in program. We regret that we could gather to celebrate the arts last year. In response, we reimagined GAHA for FY 2021 as the Luminary Awards. This new award honors the artists and cultural organizations who stood as shining lights for their communities during the long darkness of the pandemic. We will announce the Luminary honorees later this year and celebrate the work of each honoree online. We look forward to a day in the future when we can again safely gather to cheer the Washingtonians who have gone above and beyond to lift up their community through art.

Click here to learn more about GAHA.

Washington State Poet Laureate

Rena Priest, an American Book Award-winning poet and member of Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation, is the first indigenous poet to hold the position of Washington State Poet Laureate. Photo still from the “Passing of the Laurel” Poet Laureate ceremony.

In FY 2021, Rena Priest became the sixth Washington State Poet Laureate. A member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation, Priest is now the first Indigenous poet to be the state’s Poet Laureate. Priest’s term will run until March 31, 2023. Each laureate puts their own unique focus on the role, and Priest plans to focus on two main goals during her term: celebrating poetry in Washington’s tribal communities and using poetry to increase appreciation of the natural world and the threats facing it.

Since becoming Laureate, Priest has visited many communities across the state. She has given readings, led workshops, participated in ceremonies, and more. Priest is steadfast in the face of pandemic challenges and has set an impressive pace of events throughout Washington.

The Washington State Poet Laureate program is a collaboration between ArtsWA and Humanities Washington.

Click here to learn more about the Washington State Poet Laureate.

“She did an amazing job connecting with a group of young women who are interested in pursuing a career in writing, filmmaking or other forms of artistic expression. As these young women consider their future possibilities, they were inspired by someone who took this path and has made such a great impact!”

– Workshop attendee, Native Action Network

ArtsWA Financial Report

Thanks to the support of the Governor, Legislature, and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), ArtsWA’s budget remains healthy. The agency’s budget grew significantly from the previous fiscal year, primarily due to federal COVID-19 relief funds.

Funding Sources

2,779,541 Capital construction funds (Art in Public Places program)
2,467,000 State General Funds
893,000 Federal Funds (NEA Partnership Grant)
857,100 NEA American Rescue Plan Act Funds
300,800 Private Contributions
61,000 Pension Stabilization Fund
2,500 State Agency Office Relocation Pool Account
7,102 Industrial insurance refund
1,000,000 Cares Act Funding
8,368,043 Total Funding for FY21

Agency Expenses

2,644,636 AIPP Artwork Acquisition and Collection Care
933,636 Salaries
376,157 Benefits
105,913 Contracts
755,034 Goods and Services
213,961 Equipment and Supplies
3,241,360 Grants
11,266 Travel
8,281,961 Total Expenses for FY21