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The Ethnic Heritage Art Gallery

Editor’s note: our art critic, Susan Platt is recovering from surgery and we are grateful to Esther Ervin for contributing this month.

This quote from a local, celebrated Black artist who grew up in Auburn, Washington captures the force and feeling that brought the Ethnic Heritage Art Gallery into being:

“Racism—it was waiting for me as I left my mother’s womb. It is institutional. It is built into society. The traditional values and beliefs of people of color hold the universal consciousness of mankind. We have racism because this consciousness has been silenced. Art can make this consciousness heard by creating an equitable reality where cultural diversity flourishes. Cultural diversity needs to be nurtured and valued.” 

~Marita Dingus, 1992

To help advance the city’s Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI), the Ethnic Heritage Art Gallery (EHAG) was established by the City of Seattle Employee Affinity Groups to showcase established and emerging artists of color from four ethnic and cultural communities. By providing a location to show ethnic artwork on a rotating schedule, they help recognize the contributions and cultural arts of the greater Seattle community.

The Employee Affinity Groups began by approaching Deborah Paine, (now retired) then Curator and Collections Manager for the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, (Office of Arts & Culture’s name at that time,) in 2008 to forge an alliance, and establish and maintain gallery space on Level 3 and in the 6th floor lobby of the Seattle Municipal Tower (SMT.) This agreement also called for regular assessments to assure quality and professionalism in the management of the gallery space. The management of SMT was also a party to the agreement.

The arrangement was solidified in a written proposal to the General Manager of the Seattle Municipal Tower in January of 2009, requesting the specific areas to be used. Those submitting the proposal were representatives of the City of Seattle Employee Affinity Groups: Preston Hampton of the City Light Black Employees Association and the Citywide Black Caucus, Pamela Masterman of the Native American Civic Employees, Patricia Lopez, President of the Latino City Employees and Brenda M. Sevilla of the Filipino-American Civic Employees of Seattle.

Deborah Paine, also communicated with the General Manager, offering her support as a consultant for exhibition planning and installation. These combined actions established a home for the Ethnic Heritage Art Gallery on Level 3 of the Seattle Municipal Tower, where EHAG has run continuous quarterly exhibitions since January of 2009.

The operational rules of EHAG and it’s board are outlined in the EHAG Charter of 2014, which defines the roles of the Ethnic Heritage Art Gallery and of Arts & Culture with respect to gallery publicity, installation, de-installation and other management duties. The main goals of this Coalition are to:

  • Build and strengthen relationships between ethnic communities and the City of Seattle

  • Foster pride and appreciation for diverse cultures within the workplace and the community at large