Letter to the editor: Why city should invest in Edmonds Center for the Arts


Dear Editor,

On Tuesday evening, Nov. 27, Edmonds City Council will decide whether to include $75,000 to support the operation of Edmonds Center for the Arts as part of its FY 2019 Budget.  

We believe such an investment would be consistent with the values and interests of the citizens of Edmonds.

  • The City of Edmonds values arts and culture, and its own Edmonds Center for the Arts is one of the most impactful performing arts centers in the region. Each year, ECA presents 30 concerts by performers from around the world, hosts over 100 additional partner and rental events in its beautiful and historic auditorium, and engages more than 8,000 students and seniors in arts education and outreach programs that truly change lives. 
  • The City of Edmonds values history, and its own Edmonds Center for the Arts operates the original Edmonds High School campus. This historic property includes the 1921 addition to the original High School, as well as the 1939 Works Progress Administration (WPA) Auditorium and Gymnasium projects. These buildings are meaningful to longtime Edmonds residents and to hundreds of alumni from Edmonds High School, Edmonds Jr. High and Puget Sound Christian College, and they preserve essential pieces of our community’s history.
  • The City of Edmonds values community, and since ECA opened its doors in October 2006, it has been the home for many local arts and community groups (Cascade Symphony Orchestra, Olympic Ballet Theatre and Sno-King Community Chorale), and for hundreds of local volunteers, for students of all ages, for senior citizens, for members of our community living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers, for teachers learning how to incorporate the arts into their daily curriculum, for thought leaders sharing new ideas and finding solutions to challenging problems, and for audience members enjoying spectacular performances by world-renowned artists in a beautiful and intimate facility close to home.
  • The City of Edmonds values prudent financial management and thoughtful investment, and its citizens value a strong return on the investments they make. An investment of $75,000 in support of the continued operational stability and programmatic success of ECA will help yield even higher impact on the local economy, preserve our historic facilities, and increase access to vital programs and services for students, seniors and families in need.  

Important investments have been made in ECA by other government agencies, community partners and individuals:

  • The State of Washington has invested more than $11 million in the renovation of our 1939 Edmonds High School Auditorium into what we now call Edmonds Center for the Arts. 
  • Private citizens, corporations and foundations have invested an additional $5 million into ECA’s historic facility.
  • In the most recent three-year period, Snohomish County, the State of Washington and ECA itself have combined to invest more than $775,000 in facility maintenance including a new roof over the 1939 gymnasium, and upgrades to essential infrastructure and equipment.
  • Hundreds of volunteers have contributed thousands of hours to ECA through their work as ushers, concessionaires, administrative staff and special event support.  The value of volunteer support contributed to ECA each year is estimated to be in excess of $200,000.

The recent Edmonds Arts and Culture Economic Impact Study notes that ECA is estimated to have an annual impact of $7.5 million on the local economy. The operation of the center, the 25 team members it employs, and the activities and audiences it hosts bring significant business and tax revenues to the City of Edmonds.  

The City of Edmonds recently assisted ECA with a refinancing of bonds originally issued to help pay for the renovation of its historic auditorium.  This refinancing will help free up resources for ECA to more quickly begin repaying its loan from the City.  None of the savings realized from this recent refinancing will be utilized for ECA operations as these funds are dedicated to paying down debt related to the 2006 auditorium renovation.

The future of ECA is very bright. New partnerships are in development with major regional institutions and they promise exciting new program and facility development on the ECA Campus, helping ECA to preserve history, while opening doors to new possibilities.  ECA is growing, serving more members of our community every day with more rental events, more presentations and more education and outreach programs. With the City’s help, ECA can continue to do more, grow more and provide more for its citizens.

Edmonds Center for the Arts is a tremendous asset for the City of Edmonds and its citizens. We urge Edmonds City Council to support Mayor Dave Earling’s budget proposal to invest $75,000 in ECA in 2019.  And we thank our Edmonds City Council Members who support including this item in the City’s FY 2019 Budget. Their leadership and vision, and their belief in the value of ECA to the Edmonds community is inspiring and is appreciated by the many thousands of Edmonds citizens who also invest in and benefit from Edmonds Center for the Arts.  


Joseph McIalwain
Executive Director

On behalf of the Edmonds Public Facilities District Board of Directors, the Edmonds Center for the Arts Board of Directors, and the Staff and Volunteers of Edmonds Center for the Arts

14 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Why city should invest in Edmonds Center for the Arts”

  1. ECA is one of the city’s core assets that goes a long way to knitting together our community. Not funding ECA would be extremely short sighted and I urge council to continue their support of ECA.


  2. As a volunteer bartender at ECA I come in contact with many out of towners as well as Edmonds residents. I can personally attest to the number of folks who know our community by coming here to attend a performance at ECA. Some performances, particularly those directed at a particular ethnic audience, are attended by mainly out of towners. ECA is a Chamber of Commerce bonanza to say the least.


  3. You forgot to mention strong and consistent leadership since it’s inception. A dedicated staff has stewarded ECA through every challenge, and support for ECA is a wise investment for the city. I look forward to being at the City Council meeting tonight to show my support.


  4. The Edmonds Center for the Arts is an asset to Edmonds that can not be denied. Having a
    venue like the ECA in our own backyard sets us apart from other communities. It offers outstanding, diversified performances, brings the arts to students of all ages, enriches the lives of the elderly and unites us as community.
    The future is bright for the ECA. Supporting Edmonds means investing in the ECA!


  5. The arts are what remain and endure. Great civilizations and great cities are characterized and remembered for their art. We tend to think of “greatness” as determined by freeways or wars or wealth – but the arts survive. If Edmonds can support the Arts Center, and I hope it will, generously, it will be supporting something both wonderful and intangible. A city invested in arts and music is a place worth living in.


  6. Every business owner in Edmonds, especially restaurants, should be supporting ECA for all the money that is spent in the community by the thousands of people who come to performances. A community without art suffers financially and spiritually. The city needs its leaders to support ECA and I urge them to do so.


  7. Wow! Cutting the ECA funding from the City while supporting additional money to the Senior Center appears to be an interesting decision by the City’s elected officials, outmade without regard to the value ECA brings to Edmonds and South Snohomish County. Short sighted? Sure seems to be.


  8. I subscribe to the Cascade Symphony and support the ECA. But government subsidies are not “investments” – they are giving taxpayers’ money to private entities. The ECA should support itself, and I’ll certainly help it do that.


  9. Public money shouldn’t be spent on “the arts”, as it defeats the purpose. Saying this as someone who loves art; public-funded, designed by committee, art is not good or appealing to anyone. Investing in building renovations and preserving historic sites is not art. Running the ECA for profit is not art.


  10. I support the city investing $75,000 in ECA.

    There is a long history of government financially supporting the arts. Government support of the arts can be tracked to 2144BC in Mesopotamia. The federal government of the United States has been investing in the arts since 1817.

    There is a long list of emotional reasons to support ECA and the performing arts. But even taking emotion out of it and looking at it purely as a financial investment backed by data, there are probably very few places an investment of $75,000 could deliver the same level of return. Here are just a dozen examples:

    1. A recent study concluded that ECA is has an annual impact of $7.5 million on the local economy.
    2. 63% of audience members who attend events at ECA travel from outside of Edmonds.
    3. ECA performers alone contributed an estimated $216,000 in direct spending in Edmonds.
    4. 94% of Edmonds residents consider ECA to be a strong asset of Edmonds.
    5. ECA serves as a hub for the community. ECA is host to more than 600 individual meetings, performances, games, practices, classes and special events each year.
    6. 67 percent of Americans believe “the arts unify our communities regardless of age, race, and ethnicity” and 62 percent agree that the arts “help me understand other cultures better.
    7. Students engaged in arts learning have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates.
    8. Access to the arts for students with low socio-economic-status have even greater increases in academic performance, college-going rates, college grades, and holding jobs with a future.
    9. Research on creativity shows that Nobel laureates in the sciences are 17 times more likely to be actively engaged in the arts than other scientists. Creativity is among the top 5 applied skills. sought by business leaders—with 72 percent saying creativity is of high importance when hiring.
    10. Nearly one-half of the nation’s healthcare institutions provide arts programming for patients, families, and even staff because of their healing benefits to patients—shorter hospital stays, better pain management, and less medication.
    11. Individuals who attend concerts had an increase of 25 percent in feelings of self-worth and closeness to others and a 75 percent increase in mental stimulation.
    12. Attending performing arts directly links high levels of well-being with a lifespan increase of nine years.

    All that for $75,000!!! Seems like an easy yes.


    1. Mike, every Communist country emphasizes bulk public funding of the arts. There’s a statue of Lenin in Seattle to attest to that. No one is arguing against the virtues of art, just that government is a poor vehicle of art in the same way it is a poor vehicle of religion. My mother in law found a great apartment in Seattle and she applied, but was told she had to be an artist because the building was subsidized for artists only. She said, “I’m not an artist.” They said, “No problem, just learn pottery!” and they provided some subsidized resources for pottery classes so that she could say she’s an artist and get a cheaper apartment.

      As you described, the ECA is a business with solid revenue generating potential. Starbucks is too. Starbucks also draws in people from outside the bowl and stimulates other economic activity. Why not give Starbucks some cash? Why not give ECA $200k if $75k doesn’t have diminishing returns? Why not subsidize artists’ rent in Edmonds?

      This is an interesting discussion, and regardless the Council is on it’s own course.


  11. What really is happening is we have a number of things we subsidize in the name of some special interest group. Council listens to the arguments, crafts a plan and does indeed offer subsidies. What we as citizens should do is find a way to discover what we are subsidizing, and see if we have enough revenue to do basic services and some of the wish list of subsidies. Local government can do a far better job of helping us understand where our dollars are going and what we are not going to fund. Doing basics first would be helpful and then if we the citizens want to do more we can decide where the revenue will come from to support a request for a subsidy.


    1. Darrol, Dr. Patrick Moore says that if a scientist wants to study nut gathering patterns of squirrels, he needs to title the study as “The Effects of Global Warming on the Nut-Gathering of Squirrels”, else it wont get funded. All enterprises want subsidy. In the case for ECA, people are emphasizing the revenue-generating history of an enterprise that isn’t able to generate enough revenue for itself? Let’s call it art, which is a subsidy strategy, and get some more funding. I really don’t care, I like the ECA. I like politics and find this interesting. Give the ECA twice the money they’re asking for.

      As far as knowing where our money is spent and determining if there is enough money to go around, that is what prices are for. If there are tickets for sale to a play at the ECA, set the ticket price to get the revenue to cover the production. It’s 100% accountability. Generally Speaking, why use taxes and public planning to obfuscate supply and demand?


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