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Donor Spotlight: Allan Osberg

Allan Osberg, President of Osberg Construction, has been donating to ArtsFund since 1971.  We recently sat down with Allan to talk about his long time commitment to ArtsFund and the growth of the Seattle arts scene.

What got you started in your relationship with ArtsFund?

I’ve been involved since Ned Skinner was part of starting what was then called the United Arts Council of Puget Sound. Ned was President of Alaska Steamship, and Osberg Construction had our first contract in Alaska.  We had to ship materials and equipment up to Nome, and in those days, there wasn’t the big tug and barge service to Alaska as there is today.  Alaska Steamship was pretty much it.  I remember a fellow that worked for Ned saying he needed $300 for this, so we gave him $300, which was a lot of money at the time. And that’s how it started.  At the time, my gift was a friendly response to someone I was doing business with, someone who was doing a great job.

While we’re not closely associated with the arts, we’ve been supporting ArtsFund ever since.  Over time, I’ve gotten to be more conscious of the value of arts to the area.   And while our gift to ArtsFund has never been much each year, over time, I guess it’s been pretty significant.

You mention the value of the arts to the area—how do you define that?

The arts help to make us one of the great cities of the US, if not the world.  It’s something we can be very proud of.  No doubt, the arts help define this region. I think it’s a big attraction.

What’s your relationship with the arts in Seattle, and how has the arts scene changed over the course of your life here?

I remember when I was going to school in the 1930’s, the main source of legitimate theater was the University.  It had at least two to three theaters, and we used to go there often.  And of course, the Symphony was around back then too.  SAM was Volunteer Park only.  There was no opera company, and I don’t think the ballet was even around.  Now, the professionals have taken over!

Years ago, we had tickets to the Rep, and we’d go occasionally to the Opera and the Symphony, and my wife liked to go to the Ballet. In recent years, while we’re not going as often, I see that Seattle has really grown into quite the place for the arts.  Very few cities have such a diverse holding of artistic operations, and such well known ones, such good ones.

This area is known for its entrepreneurial spirit and pioneering new businesses. As the president of a local company, what do you think is the role of business in investing back into their communities?

I’ve noticed that our major businesses are supportive of the arts.  That’s important.  We should all do our part, in some fashion.   I must confess, some things we’ve done have probably been because we’ve seen who’s behind them.   When people you trust say an investment is a good idea, you do it.

What excites you most about the future of the arts here in Seattle?
I can see that that the types of businesses that are coming are pretty much ensuring the future of this region in high tech.  It’s pretty amazing.   And there’s no question that the arts will be involved in that growth.