Letters to the Editor

Process has hardly been a ‘model of inclusion’ | Letter to the Editor

I am writing in regard to Vashon Allied Arts’ proposed new performance center design, which is currently under review at King County.

It has been disturbing for me to watch the badly flawed process that led to the building’s design. A letter in last week’s Beachcomber called this process “a model of inclusion.”

That is a characterization akin to saying that black is white.

A strategy of inclusion is essential to an organization that presents itself as the face of the arts community on Vashon. Instead, the design process we have witnessed has been hierarchical in the extreme, driven by a promise of millions of dollars from a single wealthy patron, with the all-important work of programming and conceptual design of the building done by an exclusive team committed to pushing through their own vision. Emblematic of this approach was removal of a University of Washington student’s design suggestions in a design review for the town after pressure from the executive director.

The resulting building is a perfect reflection of this process. It is inappropriately sited. It is an order of magnitude out of scale. And it is not consonant with the foundational goals of VAA.

There is a groundswell of disaffection and alienation from VAA shared by many Island artists. It cannot have gone unnoticed by the VAA board; I think to a large degree it is a consequence of the elevated money quest the board has embarked upon in its goal to become a “regional hub for the arts.”

I call upon the board to put the permit application on hold, call a series of widely advertised public gatherings and listen to the community’s concerns. So far, mine have been met with barrages of salesmanship and cheerleading.

Hectoring, lecturing and sales-pitch delivery are not tools of inclusion.

I have been intermittently involved with VAA for almost 40 years and am concerned about the future of this much-loved institution. I sincerely hope the board reconsiders and recovers. A great deal is at stake.

 

— Evan Simmons

 

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