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Seattle, WA – More than 1000 supporters from all aspects of the Puget Sound region’s arts and cultural sector filled the Grand Ballroom of the Westin Seattle on May 28th, 2014 for ArtsFund’s 26th Annual Celebration of the Arts Luncheon, featuringa keynote address by Robert L. Lynch, President and CEO, Americans for the Arts.  The luncheon was sponsored by Presenting Sponsor The Boeing Company, as well as by Supporting Sponsor Safeco Insurance. 

ArtsFund President and CEO Mari Horita welcomed the attendees by prefacing, “The strength of our region’s arts sector is in its excellence, depth, diversity, variety, and connection with people from all walks of life.”  Reiterating ArtsFund’s commitment to support the arts through leadership, advocacy and grant-making, Horita furthered, “ArtsFund is committed to opening new pathways for arts groups and donors alike.”

In addressing the impact of the arts on individuals and communities throughout the nation,Mr. Lynch stated, “Investment in the arts has an extraordinary ROI.  In addition to the inherent values of enjoyment and learning and the community values of jobs and economic development, the bigger return on investment in the arts is transformative: a better child, a better city, a better nation, and perhaps a better world.”

Ray Heacox, President and General Manager, KING Broadcasting, and ArtsFund Board Chair, remarked,“KING is part of a creative industry, and the strength of our arts sector is one of the reasons our region can attract creative thinkers and nurture and support innovation.  I’m proud of KING-5’s commitment to the community and our focus on being a responsible and involved corporate citizen, and we view our partnership with ArtsFund as a sound investment in the health and sustainability of our region.”

Award Presentations:

ArtsFund’s award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts award was presented to renowned author, artist, performer, and Pacific Northwest native Sherman Alexie.  The award was presented by Tree Swenson, Executive Director, Richard Hugo House, and writer Elissa Wachuta, inaugural fellow in the Made at Hugo House Program.

ArtsFund’s award for Lifetime Dedication to the Arts to the Behnke Family was presented by Peter Boal, Artistic Director, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Sylvia Wolf, Director, Henry Art Gallery.  Horita credited the Behnkes as, “a remarkable family whose generosity, vision, and leadership has lifted our community in many ways”.  Accepting on behalf of the Behnke Family were Carl and John Behnke.

Robert L. Lynch’s keynote was introduced by Susan M. Coliton, Senior Fellow, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

About Robert L. Lynch:

Robert L. Lynch is President and CEO of Americans for the Arts. With more than 39 years of experience in the arts industry, he is motivated by his personal mission to empower communities and leaders to advance the arts in society, and in the lives of citizens. In 1996, Lynch managed the successful merger of the National Assembly of Local Arts Agencies, where he had spent 12 years as executive director, with the American Council for the Arts to form Americans for the Arts. The Business Committee for the Arts merged into Americans for the Arts in 2008.

Under his direction, Americans for the Arts has become a leader in documenting and articulating the key role played by the nonprofit arts and culture industry, and their audiences, in strengthening our nation’s economy. This has been done through its signature study of the economic impact of the nonprofit arts community, Arts and Economic Prosperity IV, and the latest study measuring the arts in communities, The National Arts Index.

In August 2012 and 2013, Lynch was selected as one of the most influential executives in the nonprofit sector for the NonProfit Times Power & Influence Top 50, and in January 2014 he was awarded the Sidney R. Yates Award for Outstanding Advocacy on Behalf of the Performing Arts.


About the Behnke Family:

Sally Skinner Behnke (1923-2013) was the first woman to chair the ArtsFund Board of Trustees in 1993, and along with her late husband Robert and their children Carl and Renée Behnke and John and Shari Behnke, she made support of the arts a priority, in addition to the family’s generous work in the areas of medicine, health and social services. The Ned Behnke Speech Language Preschool at the Hearing, Speech and Deafness Center honors late son Ned, a prominent visual artist. In 1996 Shari created the Neddy award to honor Ned’s work and his deep connection to the Seattle art community. This annual fellowship is awarded to Puget Sound-area artists through Cornish College of the Arts. John and Shari, with Sally and Bob, endowed The Behnke Center for Contemporary Performance, the home of On the Boards, to honor John.

Carl has been a Board Member of Pacific Northwest Ballet since 1993; he has served as Chair, Secretary and currently as Immediate Past Chair. Carl & Renée were leaders in building PNB’s Phelps Center; Eastside school, The Francia Russell Center; and Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, and Renée is a past Board Member of PNB and Seattle Art Museum.   Carl serves as Second Vice Chair of the Board of the Tateuchi Center and is a Past President of PONCHO.

John has served on the Board of Directors for On the Boards since 1988 and is the current Vice President.  He has served as a Henry Art Gallery Trustee since 2000; he is a former Board Chair and a longstanding Collections Committee Member.  John and Shari developed the Brink award, presented annually by the Henry to emerging Pacific Northwest artists. In 2012 Shari established The New Foundation, dedicated to supporting artists with access to education, unrestricted capital and visibility.



About Sherman Alexie:

Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the PEN/Malamud Award for Short Fiction, a PEN/Hemingway Citation for Best First Fiction, and the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, Sherman Alexie is a poet, short story writer, novelist, and performer. He has published 24 books including What I’ve Stolen, What I’ve Earned, poetry, from Hanging Loose Press; Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories, from Grove Press; and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a novel from Little, Brown Books for Children. He has also recently published the 20th Anniversary edition of his classic book of stories, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Smoke Signals, the movie he wrote and co-produced, won the Audience Award and Filmmakers Trophy at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival.
He is a founding Board Member of Seattle based Longhouse Media, a non-profit organization that is committed to teaching filmmaking skills to Native American youth and to the use of media for cultural expression.  A Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian, Alexie grew up in Wellpinit, Washington, on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Alexie has been an urban Indian since 1994 and lives in Seattle with his family.



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ArtsFund’s Mission:  ArtsFund strengthens the community by supporting the arts through leadership, advocacy and grant making.

ArtsFund’s Vision:  A community with a dynamic and world-class arts and cultural sector where the arts are accessible to all and valued as a central and critical component to a healthy society.


 ArtsFund 2014 Luncheon Release