Tim Summers, Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, Sub Pop Records, Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas, and The Seattle Foundation receive Seattle Mayor's Arts Awards on September 3, 2004.

  • By Jen Kagan
  • Posted 8/30/2017
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 20435

On September 3, 2004, Mayor Greg Nickels (b. 1955) presents the second annual Seattle Mayor's Arts Awards at Seattle Center as part of the opening ceremonies for the Bumbershoot music and arts festival. Tim Summers (b. 1957) is honored as Unsung Hero, Outstanding Individual Commitment to the Arts. Kent Stowell (b. 1939) and Francia Russell (b. 1938) receive a Special Lifetime Achievement award. The pioneering grunge-rock record label Sub Pop is recognized for Excellence and Innovation by the Next Generation. The Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas receives its award for Outstanding Contribution to the Community. And The Seattle Foundation is recognized for Outstanding Arts Philanthropy.

Tim Summers

After reading about the soggy Pacific Northwest weather in Ken Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion, Tim Summers decided to move to Seattle. He arrived in 1980 and studied math at the University of Washington, where his interests in abstract geometry and music led him to the world of contemporary dance. The performance company On the Boards was only two years old then and Summers religiously attended performances that featured artists and dancers like Laurie Anderson and Pat Graney.

He has been photographing the dance and performing arts scene in Seattle since then, in addition to volunteering on the boards of arts organizations, providing informal mentorship and sponsorship to emerging artists, and attending the BFA shows of graduating art students. In a 2017 interview, Summers recalled that at the time he received the Unsung Hero, Outstanding Individual Commitment to the Arts award:

"I was involved in several arts organizations at every level. There were a lot less then than there are now, so to be on the board of four or five of them at the same time meant that you were pretty active in the community. Maybe that's why I stuck out? I don't know. But I've always been photographing it and documenting it" (Kagan interview).

In 2004, Summers was on or had recently been on the boards of the Pat Graney Company, Beyond Dance, Kick, the Maureen Whiting Company, and the d9 Dance Collective.

Summers also spent "a lot of time hanging out" (Kagan interview) at Cornish College of the Arts and the University of Washington art department, building mentorship relationships with and providing financial support to young artists and trying to convince them to stay in Seattle to build the local arts scene instead of moving to New York.

For all the documenting he has done, there's little documentation in newspapers or arts publications about Summers himself; the evidence of his presence at performances, when it appears at all, is usually a byline under a photo he took in an article not about him. He recognized this: "Where it manifests visually, for the public to see, is in the photos I take ... but it's not the end-all, be-all of what I do" (Kagan interview).

Kent Stowell and Francia Russell

Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, the longtime artistic directors of the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB), were honored with a Special Lifetime Achievement Award. Stowell and Russell both began their careers in ballet as dancers. They met in New York City and married in 1965. The couple played a guiding role in turning Pacific Northwest Dance, the forerunner of PNB, once a project under the umbrella of the Seattle Opera, from "a regional troupe" (Kisselgoff) into a nationally renowned independent ballet company and dance school.

Stowell and Russell were hired as artistic directors after the artistic director of Pacific Northwest Dance, which had been established in 1972, left abruptly in March of 1977. The ballet company became an independent organization a year later, and in 1979 was renamed Pacific Northwest Ballet. At PNB Russell and Stowell both wore many hats -- or shoes, as it were -- fulfilling teaching, production, and administrative responsibilities. Through the 1980s and 1990s, with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, support from the PNB board, and recognition from local and national press, Stowell and Russell were able to stabilize and grow the company.

In 1996, Dance Magazine recognized Stowell and Russell and summarized their achievements:

"The company toured both coasts and performed abroad, bringing Balanchine ballets that had never been let out of the NYCB [New York City Ballet] repertoire. Meanwhile, the school reached capacity. The number of dancers tripled, and the budget quadrupled. The company earned a reputation as one of the top five companies outside of New York. In 1993 local residents demonstrated their support by contributing $10 million and moving the company into the enormous Seattle Center, home of the opera, symphony, and the Seattle Supersonics basketball team" (Gladstone).

A few months before receiving the Mayor's Arts Award for Special Lifetime Achievement, Stowell and Russell had announced that they would be retiring from the Pacific Northwest Ballet the following year. They had been at the helm of Pacific Northwest Ballet for 28 years when they retired from the company in 2005.

Sub Pop Records

Sub Pop Records, the record label founded by Bruce Pavitt (b. 1959) and Jonathan Poneman (b. 1959) in 1988, received the award for Excellence and Innovation by the Next Generation. The label's grungy beginnings are now the stuff of Seattle music legend: Subterranean Pop, the DIY music 'zine Pavitt started as a student at Evergreen State College; the release of Nirvana's first album, recorded for $600; the word "grunge" itself.

The images, sounds, and words that started the grunge movement coalesced in Sub Pop's 1988 release of "Sub Pop 200," a compilation that included songs by Soundgarden, Nirvana, Mudhoney, and Green River, as well as a 20-page catalogue with photos by Charles Peterson. The "Sub Pop 200" catalogue is where "grunge" was first used to describe the music the label helped popularize. Poneman said later, "It could have been sludge, grime, crud, any word like that" (Marin).

By 1992, Sub Pop was "the seminal Seattle label" according to Rolling Stone (Azerrad); the grunge gold rush it had started was attracting bands to the city from all over the country in the hopes of getting signed to a record label. In 1995, the Nirvana record that Sub Pop had released several years earlier went platinum.

As the grunge years came to an end, Sub Pop sold a large stake in the company to Warner Music Group, ending its run as an independent label. Pavitt left in 1996. But Sub Pop continued to invest in a wide range of artists and genres including "electronic noise thrash (Wolf Eyes) to blip-pop (Postal Service) to psych-rock (Comets on Fire) to punk (The Thermals, The Catheters), gentle folk (Iron and Wine), micro-rock (The Shins, Rogue Wave) and more" ("2004 Recipient Bios").

Jonathan Poneman accepted the award on behalf of Sub Pop Records while wearing a garlic hat.

Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas

The Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas, or CD Forum, was recognized for Outstanding Contribution to the Community. The CD Forum was founded in 1999 by Stephanie Ellis-Smith with the goal of providing "progressive programs that encourage thought and debate on the role of African-Americans in American culture" (CD Forum website).

For example, the year it was recognized with the Mayor's Arts Award, the CD Forum convened a series of events in conjunction with Humanities Washington to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court school-desegregation decision. The CD Forum also put on "Black to the Future: A Black Science Fiction Festival," the first festival of its kind in the country. The three-day festival, which took almost two years to organize and fund, brought African American speculative-fiction luminaries including Octavia Butler (1947-2006), Walter Mosley (b. 1952), Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, and Charles Johnson to Seattle Center for writing workshops, panel discussions, film screenings, and performances.

In a review of the festival for the Los Angeles Times, Lynell George interviewed several organizers and attendees who were pleasantly surprised to find so many fellow black science-fiction fans in Seattle:

"[Octavia] Butler, dubbed the event's 'first lady,' stares down at hundreds of eager writers, readers, artists, fans -- most of whom are African American. She's been transported light-years away from those early days of being sometimes the only black person at sci-fi conventions or festivals or writers' retreats or workshops ... Instead of rubber ears or light-sticks, the festival was a-swirl with kente and mudcloth, women in colorful head-wraps, men with cascading dreadlocks and throwback brass ankhs" (George).

Over the years, the CD Forum presented and sponsored dozens of panel discussions, talks by black scholars and writers, film screenings, theater performances, and symphony concerts across Seattle from Mount Zion Baptist Church and the Elliott Bay Book Company to the Langston Hughes Cultural Arts Center and the Seattle Art Museum Lecture Hall.

The Seattle Foundation

The Outstanding Arts Philanthropy Award went to The Seattle Foundation. The foundation was established in 1946 by Dr. Richard Fuller (1897-1976), who with his mother, Margaret Fuller, had founded the Seattle Art Museum 13 years earlier. The foundation's goal was to create a "permanent endowment that would be used to improve the welfare of Seattle area residents" ("History & Mission"), as well as the organizational infrastructure to enable families to create charitable funds that would distribute grants, gifts, and trusts to local nonprofit organizations.

The Seattle Foundation, which began as two funds with a total endowment of just $289,000, had grown by 2004 into a collection of more 1,000 funds with more than $350 million in assets, which distributed more than $30 million to King County nonprofits.

Among the arts organizations that The Seattle Foundation provided grants to in 2004 were Artist Trust, Arts Corps, Cornish College of the Arts, Henry Art Gallery, Intiman Theatre, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, Pratt Fine Arts Center, the Hugo House, Seattle Art Museum, and the Seattle Opera. In 2003, The Seattle Foundation also granted $100,000 to the Seattle Cultural Arts Coalition to develop an online repository of local arts events, TakePartInArt.org.


"Mayor's Arts Awards: 2008 Recipients," Seattle Office of Arts and Culture website accessed August 23, 2017 (http://www.seattle.gov/arts/mayors-arts-awards#2004); "2004 Recipient Bios," Word document in possession of Office of Arts & Culture, Seattle, Washington; Lynell George, "Black Writers Crossing the Final Frontier," Los Angeles Times, June 22, 2004, (www.latimes.com); CD Forum website accessed June 23, 2017, via Internet Archive website (https://web.archive.org/web/20040612160737/http://www.cdforum.org:80/); "Black to the Future Schedule," CD Forum website accessed via Internet Archive, June 23, 2017 (https://web.archive.org/web/20040603004512fw_/http://cdforum.org:80/bttf/schedule-directions.html#directions); "The Brown v. Board of Education 50th Anniversary," Brown v. Board Seattle website accessed via Internet Archive, July 7, 2017, (http://web.archive.org/web/20040606112039/http://www.brownvboardseattle.org:80/); Therese Littleton, "Black to the Future in Seattle," Internet Review of Science Fiction, July 2004, (http://www.irosf.com/q/zine/article/10063); "History & Mission," The Seattle Foundation website accessed via Internet Archive website accessed July 8, 2017, (http://web.archive.org/web/20040621171847/http://www.seattlefoundation.org:80/index.php?p=History_&_Mission&s=12); "Anne V. Farrell Leadership Grant," The Seattle Foundation website accessed July 8, 2017, (https://community.seattlefoundation.org/netcommunity/page.aspx?pid=780); Melinda Bargreen, "What's PNB's Next Step?" The Seattle Times, March 14, 2004, p. M-1; James Keblas, "My Bumbershoot: Hats Off to the Mayor," The Seattle Times, September 4, 2004 (www.seattletimes.com); Michael Upchurch, "Publicity Photographers Capture the Essence of the Show," Ibid., December 6, 2009; Jen Kagan interview with Tim Summers, August 1, 2017, Seattle, audio recording in possession of Jen Kagan, Brooklyn; Michael Azerrad, "Grunge City: The Seattle Scene," Rolling Stone, April 16, 1992, (www.rollingstone.com); Rick Marin, "Grunge: A Success Story," The New York Times, November 15, 1992 (www.nytimes.com); Anna Kisselgoff, "A Regional Troupe Nurtured to a New Height," The New York Times, October 24, 1996, p. C-13; Valerie Gladstone, "Dance Magazine Award Goes to Pacific Northwest Ballet's Russell and Stowell, Tap Star Glover, and City Ballet's Boal," Dance Magazine, April 1996, p. 38; Sandra Kurtz, "An Era Ends in Seattle," Dance Magazine, June 2005, p. 20; HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Rock Music -- Seattle" (by Clark Humphrey), "Fuller, Dr. Richard Eugene (1897-1976)" (by Paula Becker), and "Pacific Northwest Ballet" (by Paula Becker), http://www.historylink.org/ (accessed June 23, 2017).

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