Washington State Arts Commission

Fiscal Year 2023 Annual Report

Photo of Karen Hanan

From the Executive Director

Over the past year, our vision for the agency has driven us to new heights, with an unwavering commitment to strategic growth and innovation.

One of our proudest achievements has been the increased diversity in our Public Artist Roster, with artists that represent a broader range of backgrounds, perspectives, and voices. The launch of Wellness, Arts, and the Military is another testament to our commitment to innovation. This program—the first of its kind at the state level—has already witnessed tremendous success in promoting emotional and mental well-being among military personnel, Veterans, and their families.

We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Thomas Grant Richardson as the new Director of the Center for Washington Cultural Traditions, whose expertise and passion for preserving our state’s cultural heritage will undoubtedly lead to groundbreaking work in the coming years. As we celebrate the end of a successful term for Rena Priest, the sixth Washington State Poet Laureate, we pause to acknowledge the power of poetry in fostering creativity and connection in our communities. We are thrilled to now welcome Arianne True as the seventh Washington State Poet Laureate and eagerly anticipate the achievements of her term.

The past year has seen our agency make significant strides in realizing our vision for a more diverse, innovative, and expanded arts landscape in Washington. We remain dedicated to these ideals and look forward to another year of growth, exploration, and creativity.

Washington’s creative sector


of Washington’s economy (GDP), which is



jobs in Washington’s arts and cultural sector


Washington’s per capita investment in arts and culture. The national average is $2.10


Washington State’s national ranking

Art In Public Places

Koda Witsken (center) and students in front of her mural We Are Challenger, 2023, before installation. Challenger High School, Spanaway. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The State Art Collection includes more than
5,000 artworks, located where people study, work, and live.

The public selects and owns the Collection.


Now is an exciting time for AIPP. The program faces novel challenges and complex projects. AIPP has focused on ensuring all Washington counties have works from the State Art Collection by reaching out to school districts whose buildings pre-date the state’s public art legislation.

In FY23, AIPP partnered with the Washington State School for the Blind and the Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youth to acquire artworks that can be experienced by their students. As the state invests in mental health, AIPP is working with behavioral health hospitals at the University of Washington and Western State Hospital to add artworks that can help create a therapeutic environment. AIPP is translating its online resources into Spanish for artists, local art selection committee members, and other constituents.

AIPP has continued strategies outlined in the FY22 Annual Report to diversify the Public Artist Roster and, by extension, works in the State Art Collection. As of this publication, over 50% of AIPP’s active projects are with self-identified artists of color. When AIPP surveyed the Collection in 2019, roughly 12% of artworks were created by artists of color. That number has since increased to 19%.

“I cannot say enough how much I appreciate and admire you for including students and the community in this process. I appreciated how you included the students’ voices in the inspiration and creative process.”

– Paul Marquardt, Bethel School District
(via email to artist Koda Witsken about her project for Challenger High School)

public sculpture at night
ININYAX’A7N (Thunderbird), 2023 by James Harry. Whatcom Community College, Bellingham. Photo by James Zyon.
A team from Spokane’s Burton Construction replaced all 50,000 reflectors to renew Dick Elliott’s Circle of Light (1992) at the Yakima Valley SunDome. Photo by Yakima Valley Photography.
Jonathan Hickerson reinstalls hand-built Porcelain Tile Mural (1984) by Rudy Autio at the Walla Walla Center for Children and Families. Photo courtesy of ArtsWA.
- In FY23, Art in Public Places expanded its conservation team to include staff based in Walla Walla and Seattle, which enabled team members to repair or maintain artworks in counties across Washington State.
workers repairing public artwork


The AIPP Collections team cares for the State Art Collection’s 5,000 artworks. We maintain and repair them, hire outside experts when needed, and track locations, conditions, and historic records.

Serving the State

In 2022, ArtsWA added two Conservation Leads. Jonathan Hickerson and Gabriel Brown are based in Walla Walla and Seattle. They focus on artworks in Central and Eastern Washington, as well as 3-dimensional artworks. With staff in more parts of the State, ArtsWA can address long-standing and emergent needs.

Staff and contractors conserved and maintained nearly 200 artworks across Washington. We cleaned and installed a suspended sculpture at Amistad Elementary (Kennewick). We repaired and moved a handmade ceramic tile mural at the Walla Walla Center for Children and Families. We cleaned, resealed, and re-sited a beloved artwork at Wy’East Middle School (Vancouver). We repaired artworks across the University of Washington’s campus ahead of an art conservation conference and tour.

The State Art Collection was the centerpiece of the exhibition Arbitrary Borders: Works by Artists of Color in Washington’s State Art Collection at WWU at Western Washington University (Bellingham). All thirty-five artworks will be reinstalled in permanent homes across campus in the coming months.

The complete restoration of Circle of Light (1992) by Dick Elliott capped our year.  This monumental artwork at the Yakima Valley SunDome is the largest in the State Art Collection and, at half a million dollars, its restoration was the most significant project our team has undertaken.

My Public Art Portal

My Public Art Portal includes photos, interpretive text, materials info, location details, short artist bios, mapped locations, and more. It is fully searchable and mobile friendly. My Public Art Portal motivates users to explore and be curious through its interface design, which includes links to related content on every page. This content has been developed over the past seven years. With additional artworks are acquired each year, the work is ongoing.

My Public Art Portal makes the Collection accessible and transparent. It is also a useful reference tool for field workers and partner sites when conducting maintenance, inventory, or other tasks. My Public Art Portal also makes the Collection real and tangible for elected representatives and constituents, who can easily explore it online. It has improved relationships with partner sites across the state and grown engagement with K-12 public schools, who host 60% of the Collection. My Public Art Portal also features general lesson plans and coloring pages that educators can download.

Web exhibitions and the simple user interface are important parts of My Public Art Portal. ArtsWA invites a variety of Washingtonians to curate these web exhibitions, which offer different perspectives on the State Art Collection.=

ArtsWA’s goal is to maintain My Public Art Portal and keep the interface fresh and fun. The team consistently strategizes about how to best present the art for the enjoyment and education of constituents across the state

FY 23 stats

370,750 pageviews
5,014 artworks
1,269 artists
1,149 locations
11,300 photos

AIPP by the numbers

paintbrush graphic


commissioned artworks installed


artworks acquired through 2 curated projects


counties received new State Art Collection works


artists on Public Artist Roster

206 added during midterm call:

62% are new or emerging public artists

44% identify as BIPOC


artworks conserved or maintained

Grants To Organizations

TMB Brass performs at HONK! Festival West, a FY23 GTO grantee.

Grants to Organization (GTO)’s grants advance cultural equity, cultivate an inclusive creative economy, and increase arts participation statewide.

In FY23, GTO continued to disburse pandemic-relief support to organizations across the state. GTO staff created simple applications for newly funded organizations and extended existing contracts—with additional funding—to previously reviewed organizations. These improvements lessened the administrative loads for organizations struggling with reduced staff.

Throughout FY23, organizations worked to rebuild live audiences while maintaining various online and other socially-distanced offerings that had kept communities engaged during the height of the pandemic. As Federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding programs began to run out in FY23, organizations were compelled to rebuild with less federal relief support. In response, ArtsWA went to work and sent a request to the state legislature for increased support in the next funding cycle.

During the FY23 funding cycle, GTO provided grants for general operating support and project support. GTO awarded 362 grants that distributed $940,620 across Washington State. $413,852 was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, $468,000 was provided by the Federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and $58,768 was provided by Washington State. Grants reached organizations in 27 unique counties, who in turn provided services that reached all 39 Washington counties, providing critical services to the public during difficult times.

GTO grants helped ensure Washingtonians could engage in creative and communal arts and culture experiences during times of isolation and uncertainty. GTO grants funded projects, programs, and services that spanned artistic disciplines, cultures, cultural relevance, and traditions. GTO grants are a public investment and commitment to Washington’s cultural vitality.

“As a small, volunteer-run nonprofit, we rely on donations and grants to continue to exist. We very much appreciate that Washington State is providing grant funding in the arts, which is not a priority for most funders. Thank you!”

—Catherine Montrose, DeMiero Jazz Festival, Snohomish County

GTO by the Numbers


ReStart Washington grants (pandemic relief), totaling $454,000


ReVive Washington grants (project support), totaling $332,020


ReNew Washington grants (emerging organization support), totaling $85,600


Art Service Organization support grants, totaling $73,000

Arts In Education

Jazz Scholars performance by FY23 AIE Partnership Grantee Seattle Jazz Orchestra. Photo by Jim Levitt.

The Arts in Education (AIE) program supports accessible and culturally relevant arts learning as a fundamental part of basic education for every student in Washington State.

During FY23, The AIE team worked towards these goals through programs including:

  • AIE Grants (PreK-12)
  • A4A Recovery Grant (FY23)
  • Creative Start Program (Early Learning)
  • Washington State Teaching Artist Training Lab (TAT Lab)
  • Poetry Out Loud Program
  • WA Youth Arts Leadership (WAYAL) Program
  • The Arts for All (A4A) Coalition
  • AIE Program areas of innovation in FY23 included:
  • Piloting the Washington Youth Arts Leadership (WAYAL) Program
  • Collaborating with ESD 123 and Wolf Trap Institute’s education programs to bring arts integration residencies to early learning classrooms in Eastern Washington.
  • Partnering with Career Connect Washington’s program builders to design career-connected (arts) curriculum in the North Central region
  • Supporting Washington State’s arts education and equity goals as a member of the Arts for All (A4A) Coalition

Arts in Education Program goals

As written in ArtsWA’s 2022-2027 strategic plan, the Arts in Education Program goal is to “Support Statewide Access to Arts Education for all PreK-12 Students” by:

  • Fostering collaboration within the arts education landscape
  • Expanding learning opportunities for educators working to close the opportunity gap
  • Strengthening youth, educator, and family civic engagement with the arts and cultural sector
  • Ensuring arts learning is accessible to all PreK-12 students in Washington State
  • Elevating the role of arts education in Washington State through Data, Research, and Accountability

Creative Start

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.

During the 2022-2023 school year, Creative Start Grants supported arts integration projects that reached 2,590 early learners, involved 379 early learning educators, and worked with 42 different teaching artists. Projects encouraged innovation in teacher practice, community connections, and joyful learning.

Creative Start partnered with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and TAT Lab to present a 3-day virtual conference. Hosted online August 2-4, 2022, the Arts Uplift! Conference gathered over 100 attendees and 16 presenters together to explore accessible and inclusive arts instruction for early learning communities.

child playing hand drum
FY23 Creative Start Grantee: Educational Service District #123. Classroom makes a Native American elk hide drum after participating in an art lesson. Photo by Lisa Brouwer-Thompson.

2023 Washington State Poetry Out Loud Champion Matthew Valentine from Olympia High School (Thurston County). Photo by Pavel Verbovski.

Poetry Out Loud participation:

12,134 students

189 teachers

38 schools

Poetry Out Loud

Poetry Out Loud (POL), is a national poetry recitation contest for high school students sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation and produced in this state by the Washington State Arts Commission. POL elevates and celebrates the literary arts as an essential part of Art Learning inside and outside the school day.

The program continued to make participation in POL as accessible as possible for students, and educators. The traditional form of the program involves students through their schools. POL Virtual provides opportunity for students who attend schools that do not participate in the program, and homeschooled students. The State Final competition was held in-person at Tacoma Little Theatre on March 11, 2023. The State Final included 9 regional champions and included the POL Virtual champion. The event was emceed by Seattle’s Youth Poet Laureate, Sah Pham, and included music presented by the Kareem Kandi World Orchestra.

Washington State 2023 Poetry Out Loud State Champion

Matthew Valentine, a senior at Olympia High School in Thurston County, is the 2023 Poetry Out Loud Washington State Champion. Rising to the top from a competitive field of over 10,000 students from 38 schools across the state, Valentine was among the 9 high school students—all regional Poetry Out Loud champions—who competed in the State Final. Valentine’s poems included “The Mortician in San Francisco” by Randall Mann and “NUMBERS” by Mary Cornish, with “And If I Did, What Then?” by George Gascoigne as the final recitation.

Poetry Ourselves

For the first time in the Washington program an optional, original poetry contest was opened to all school champions and students participating in POL Virtual. Submitted poems were reviewed and judged by 2016-2018 Washington State Poet Laureate, Tod Marshall. At the State Final in March, the following student poems were recognized: First Place: Leki Albright from Liberty Bell High School (Winthrop) with “Some Things I’ve Learned this Summer”; Second Place: Jovi Weller from Sequim High School (Sequim) with “True Beauty.”

POL Partners (2022–2023):

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

Teaching Artist Training Lab (TAT Lab)

TAT Lab is a statewide community of teaching artists, arts specialists, youth arts providers, and certified classroom teachers committed to teaching and learning through the arts. TAT Lab provides workshops, resources, and mentorship to arts educators across Washington State. In the 2022- 2023 year, 25 participants completed the virtual TAT Lab Core program:

  • 100% of participants agree they now have resources that they will use to inform their practice as teaching artist
  • 100% of participants agree that TAT Lab has helped them gain skills and knowledge to support their practice as teaching artists
  • Most participants agree they can explain important TAT Lab concepts to a colleague
  • Most participants valued what they learned during TAT Lab: big idea, learning objective, instructional design, assessment, social justice lens, and social and emotional learning
  • All participants agreed TAT Lab impacted their motivations, their planning habits, their knowledge and practices related to learning objectives. Survey comments emphasized developing learning plans, resources for social justice, and illustrated the positive impact it has had on their approach teaching
woman in movement class
Cohort member Divya Rajan takes part in a movement exercise in the TAT Lab Core Program. Photo by Bruce Clayton Tom.

Washington Youth Arts Leadership (WAYAL)

The Arts in Education Program launched the first iteration of the WAYAL program in Fiscal Year 2023. WAYAL is a yearly cohort of youth and young adults (ages 16-19) from across Washington state. The program encourages young artists to explore and discuss arts and arts administration careers with mentors in the field. The WAYAL cohort met virtually throughout the year in their efforts to learn about the arts sector and creative economy within Washington state. WAYAL’S pilot program was successfully completed in July with 5 youth cohort members. Through the WAYAL Program, youth arts leaders:

  • Explored career pathways in the arts and cultural sector
  • Refined multimedia communication skills
  • Engaged with communities as an artist and critical thinker
  • Gained understanding of the creative economy, arts funding, and related policy
  • Built statewide youth-led community in the arts

AIE by the numbers


AIE Partnership Grants, totaling $424,285.18


A4A (Arts for All), totaling $545,000


Creative Start Grants, totaling $113,850


Teaching Artists participated in TAT Lab

Creative Districts

Staff at the LoveOly fest work with local students on a mural art project. Courtesy of Olympia Creative District.

Creative Districts help communities turn arts and culture into economic opportunities and experiences for residents and visitors.

Growing local economies through arts and culture

The Creative Districts program continued its expansion during FY23. One district was certified this year, Burien, bringing the total number of Creative Districts to thirteen.

Most of the districts introduced or expanded festival events, such as the inaugural SOCO Creative Arts Festival in Kennewick and Bridge Festival in Bainbridge, and Soundcheck Arts Festival in Port Townsend, which is in its second year. ArtsWA provided additional grant support to all the districts. These funds were used for administrative and operational costs. Additionally, all the districts worked on their capital project grant projects. Communities that did not finish their projects this year will finish them next year.

The program saw an explosion of interest. Communities both urban and rural recognize creative sector’s importance to their community’s quality of life and economic health. The following communities, Vancouver, Bremerton, Coupeville, Ione, Newport, Anacortes, Ellensburg, and Walla Walla/College Place worked on moving their communities closer to certification. Several of these communities are likely to be certified in FY24.

The program held the first in-person annual conference since 2019 in June. Representatives from the districts gathered in Port Townsend for two days of networking, learning and strategic planning activities. For the first time, representatives from districts in the active planning process joined the conference. All in all, eighteen communities from across the state attended.

Creative Districts by the numbers


Creative District communities

9 outside Seattle metro area, 6 in rural regions


Washingtonians live in Creative District communities


creative sector jobs

$798.3 M

in earnings


invested in districts leveraged into $858,178 in earned income

Wellness, Arts and the Military

From left: Bryan Bales (WAM Program Manager), Karen Hanan (Executive Director, ArtsWA), Dan Murray (State Homes Operations Director, Washington DVA), David Puente (Director, Washington DVA). Photo courtesy Washington DVA. ArtsWA and Washington DVA signed an interagency agreement in FY23 to grant $250,000 to five DVA Veteran housing facilities for arts-based wellness programming.

WAM provides grants to support art organizations that serve the SMVF population and individual SMVF artists in Washington State.

WAM provided three grants in FY23:

  • The General Operating Support Grant awarded up to $75,000 to organizations that supported the SMVF population through arts programming. In FY23, WAM awarded 14 organizations across the state for a total amount of $644,172.
  • The Self-directed Art Practice Grant awarded grants up to $5,000 to individuals to complete art projects. The goal of this grant was to promote wellness through art and support a wide variety of art disciplines. In FY23, WAM awarded 70 individual artists for a total of amount of $307,286.
  • Through the Interagency Agreement with the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, WAM awarded $250,000 to the DVA for their 4 Veteran nursing homes and their transitional housing program to provide arts programming to the residents. This grant was split equally across the 5 different locations for an amount of $50,000 per location.

WAM Cohort

The WAM Cohort was reset in FY23 to build it from the ground up, putting a focus on the Cohort’s mission, vision, and goals. This effort will continue into FY24 and beyond.

“This is a worthwhile cause that should be continued. I know in my case it has helped with depression and takes my mind off pain and went a long way in restoring my self-worth.”

— Paul Votava, SAP Grant Recipient

Wellness, Arts, and the Military by the numbers


Veterans and active duty service members served (General Operating Support)


SMVF served (Self-directed Arts Practice grant)


counties with SAP grant recipients

Washington State Poet Laureate

Rena Priest read her poem “These Abundant and Generous Homelands” at the 2023 State of the State. Priest was invited by Governor Inslee. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor.

The Washington State Poet Laureate builds awareness and appreciation of poetry through public readings, workshops, lectures, and presentations. Laureates perform this work in culturally and geographically diverse communities throughout the state.

Rena Priest, Washington State’s sixth Poet Laureate, completed the second year of her term in FY23. A member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation, Priest is the first Indigenous poet to be the state’s Poet Laureate. Priest’s term ran until March 31, 2023. She was succeeded as Laureate by Arianne True, who began her term as the seventh Washington State Poet Laureate on May 1, 2023. True will serve until April 30, 2025.

The Washington State Poet Laureate program was established in 2007. ArtsWA and Humanities Washington secured additional funds for the program from the Legislature in FY22, raising the honorarium to $40,000 annually. This honorarium is comparable to the U.S. Poet Laureate.

During her term as Laureate, Priest gave readings, led workshops, participated in ceremonies, and more. Priest was steadfast in the face of pandemic challenges and set an impressive pace of events throughout Washington.

“It was so wonderful having Rena Priest do the opening ceremonies for Bellingham SeaFeast. Her acknowledgment of the event and how it is a vital part of our culture and heritage made the event feel great from beginning to end.”

— Bellingham SeaFeast event organizer

Washington Poet Laureate by the numbers


constituents engaged


events across Washington

Center for Washington Cultural Traditions

Frank Fulmer is a Hoonah Tlingit artist. The CWCT has been able to reengage with Fulmer through the archiving project.

In collaboration with communities statewide, the CWCT conducts research and programming to support and advance understanding of the living cultural heritage of Washington State.

In June of 2022, the CWCT brought on Dr. Thomas Grant Richardson as the new Director.

The Cultural Traditions Survey, an ongoing fieldwork iniative, took an informal year while Thomas traveled the state to meet artists and attend events. Amid these travels, the CWCT began to outline the scope of an archiving project so complex that it required a nationwide search for an archivist.

The Heritage Arts Apprenticeship Program named 15 teams across the state. Each team received grants to carry traditions forward to future generations. These included Indigenous traditions in cradleboard making, Mexican mariachi and matachines teams, Indian classical dance and music, foodways preservation, and Trinidadian steel pan music.

The CWCT sponsored scholarships for the Writing on the Farm: Foodways and Farm Culture in a Changing World retreat at Quillisascut Farm School of the Domestic Arts in Eastern Washington.

For the first time ever, the CWCT had a presence at the NW Folklife Festival in Seattle. The CWCT showcased traditional arts such as Japanese Taiko, Native cedar weaving, and Indian traditional painting. In addition, Thomas hosted two lecture-demonstrations about archival processes. The archiving project continues under the direction of consulting archivist Dr. Alan Burdette, former director for Indiana University’s Archives of Traditional Music.

Center for Washington Cultural Traditions by the numbers


disbursed to artists across Washington

Heritage Arts Apprentice Pairs

15 teams

38 participants

15 communities

Agency Initiatives and Outreach

Strategic Plan

In June 2022, ArtsWA published its 2022-2027 Strategic Plan. The plan took effect on July 1, 2022. ArtsWA staff and managers identified a suite of goals to serve as Year One priorities and developed new metrics to track progress and performance. ArtsWA completed the first year of its 2022-2027 Strategic Plan at the end FY23, and identified new and continuing goals to serve as Year Two priorities.

The five-year plan reflects the needs and ambitions of ArtsWA and its constituents. It builds on the spirit of the last strategic plan while recognizing changes in both the agency and Washington State.


Tribal Cultural Affairs Program

In FY 23, ArtsWA secured funding from the legislature to launch the Tribal Cultural Affairs Program, including funding for grants to be distributed each fiscal year. As summarized by OFM, “The program will shape meaningful interactions with Native communities and expand the availability of Native arts programs by establishing a uniform consultation policy, provide grants for arts and cultural services, and connecting tribes to professional development services.”

Billy Frank Jr. National Statuary Hall Committee

Representative Debra Lekanoff (D-40th) introduced House Bill 1372 to replace the statue of Marcus Whitman in National Statuary Hall with Billy Frank Jr. The legislation notes that “Billy Frank Jr. dedicated his life advocating for equality, justice, and environmental protections. He fought to protect tribal treaty rights, native cultures and traditions, and the natural resources they are based upon.”

ArtsWA was named in the legislation to manage the process of artist selection, design development, and final installation. In FY23, the Committee selected artist Haiying Wu to design the statue. ArtsWA began working closely with Nisqually in FY23 to conduct outreach and education around the statue and its development.


Creative State Podcast

The Creative State Podcast completed its pilot season in FY23. The podcast featured interviews with Teaching Artists, arts and cultural leaders, community organizers, theatremakers, and more. Each episode closed with a segment hosted by the Wellness, Arts, and the Military program. In total, the pilot season comprised 6 full-length episodes and 2 special episodes.

ArtsWA is currently exploring a partnership with Northwest Public Broadcasting (NWPB) to expand Creative State’s scope and reach in FY24.

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

2,637,192 Capital construction funds (Art in Public Places program)
242,000 Capital construction funds (Creative Districts program)
255,525 SunDome Capital Funds
4,815,000 State General Funds
1,117,828 Federal Funds (NEA Partnership Grant)
71,600 Corporate Sponsorship, Grants & Donations
1,000,000 Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund
5,248,963 Partnership with Dept. of Commerce
15,388,108 Total Funding for FY 2023

Agency Expenses

2,390,419 AIPP Artwork Acquisition and Collection Care (w/o salaries and benefits)
1,995,326 Salaries
747,261 Benefits
7,961,418 Grants
1,012,217 Goods and Services
645,814 Contracts
90,647 Travel
232,112 Capital Projects
15,084,214 Total Expenses for FY 2023