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Celebrating Arts Impact on Youth

On March 20, 2019, supporters from the Puget Sound region’s arts, cultural, public, and private sectors filled the Grand Ballroom of the Westin Seattle for ArtsFund’s 31st Annual Celebration of the Arts Luncheon. Artists, presenters, and supporters came together in celebration of the power of the arts to positively transform our communities and affect positive outcomes for young people.

We were thrilled to welcome Stanford Thompson, musician and music education advocate to the stage. Thompson compelled us with his personal story about how playing the trumpet from a young age impacted his life, while explaining the ways that sustained youth involvement in the arts builds executive functioning skills, pro-social skills, and develops a sense of a shared struggle:

“All of the kids in an orchestra have to play at 110%. One wrong note is a wrong note for the whole orchestra. So we replace a sense of competition with the sense of a shared struggle. When kids learn how to struggle together and uplift one another, and then those are the kids that we’re putting back into the classroom and back into the community…guess what happens? Magic.”

Watch Thompson’s keynote speech below. Transcript here.

Thompson’s keynote was introduced by Randy Engstrom, Director of the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture. Engstrom localized his remarks, saying, “The mission and results of [Stanford’s work] are familiar to us here in Seattle, where [The Office of Arts and Culture], along with ArtsFund and others invest in arts education and in our young people.”

Stanford Thompson

Randy Engstrom

We were honored to recognize Mary Pigott with the Outstanding Contribution to the Arts Award for her incredible dedication to our local arts and cultural community. Mary shared why the arts are important to her, starting with one of her earliest arts experiences as a student visiting Seattle Repertory Theatre: “I was transfixed, transported; the words we’d read in class opened wide to became doors to whole worlds I would never have found through my imagination.”

The award was presented by former ArtsFund President & CEO Mari Horita, who currently serves as VP of Community Engagement and Philanthropy at NHL Seattle. Horita shared, “What sets [Mary] apart isn’t so much what she does, but it’s how and why she does it. What makes Mary so exceptional is who she is. She is a selfless and thoughtful donor, focusing on creating the greatest impact and addressing the greatest need and allowing organizations to do things they otherwise could not do.”

Mary Pigott and Mari Horita

Mary Pigott


Mari Horita

Many ArtsFund leaders took the stage throughout the event, including ArtsFund trustee Sung Yang who shared some of the recent findings of ArtsFund’s Social Impact of the Arts StudyYang began:

“How we experience Art is personal. We don’t think of it as a program that could treat mental health, or tackle societal inequality, or create resiliency in communities. We don’t normally think of art as a social service or a human service. Based on a recent poll, only 28% of us believe that arts broadly impact any kind of societal change. But for those of you in the minority who know better, which is probably all of you in this room. Well I’m here to tell you that you were right!” (To learn more about the Social Impact of the Arts Study, visit www.artsfund.org/SIS.)

ArtsFund Board Chair Anthony Miles, Interim CEO Sandy McDade, and Advisory Council member Mary Snapp also shared information about ArtsFund’s current work and community priorities.

Anthony Miles

Sandy McDade


Mary Snapp

Sung Yang

To further celebrate the impact of the arts on youth, the event showcased stunning performances by talented young people including singers from Village Theatre KIDSTAGE and Maiah Wynne, indie folk musician and 2018 MoPOP Sound Off! finalist. Our house band, Nathan and the Pit Musicians, kept the event lively with an upbeat musical medley.


Maiah Wynne

Village Theatre KIDSTAGE performers


Nathan & The Pit Musicians

Thanks to all who collaborated to make this a memorable event, and special thanks to our sponsors who made it all possible!

All photos by Alabastro Photography.