By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Back in May, the call went out for a new West Seattle Art Walk director, to transform the year-round, peninsula-wide event – from a volunteer-powered WS Junction Association side project into a standalone nonprofit.
Now, the new director is in place: Mia Manzulli. And you can meet her during the September Art Walk tomorrow night. In advance of that, we sat down with her to talk about what’s ahead.
The West Seattle Art Walk dates back at least 17 years – we found a mention of “revived” art walks organized by Junction businesses in fall 2006. The basic current premise is simple – businesses stay open late on the second Thursday evening each month, hosting an art display, often with the artist there to talk with visitors. The Art Walk is enhanced by participating food/beverage venues offering specials that night. Participating venues sign up quarterly.
The longtime West Seattle Art Walk coordinator is Reeve Washburn, who will join Mia at Thursday night’s meet-and-greet. They’re working together until September 30th, and then Mia goes solo.
She’s an East Coast native who’s lived in West Seattle for a year, moving here with her husband because of his job. They have family on the West Coast and have settled in comfortably. “It feels like we’re finally home!”
Her background is in teaching, writing, and editing, but she has art chops, working as an art coordinator at schools, working with visual-arts programs. Having enjoyed that kind of work, she thought the Art Walk role “looked really interesting.” It’s an opportunity to not only make that transition into a nonprofit organization happen, but also potentially to fold in other events under the same umbrella, for example, the West Seattle Art Hop.
During their transition work together, Mia and Reeve have met with other Art Walk organizers around the city, and she says that was enlightening in an unexpected way – they learned that the West Seattle Art Walk already has more organizational strengths, such as the “library” of artists that businesses can contact as potential exhibitors, rather than constantly launching their own searches. That also results in an array of potential poster art from which to choose each quarter. “Other art walks don’t have that.” And the West Seattle Art Walk doesn’t have to scrounge for participants – businesses often reach out to them, expressing interest in being part of it. “That says a lot about the community here,” Mia observed. “So many artists here, so much potential.”
What’s she going to tackle first, on the path to Art Walk transformation and growth? “Signage and wayfinding – people don’t necessarily know who’s where, or even that the Art Walk is happening.” So consistent signage for participating venues will be a step toward that. Rethinking the Art Walk map will be another step. Right now there are paper maps printed well in advance, not reflecting last-minute changes. “We’ve got to think about the map as an app – get it to be more useful, interactive, tech-savvy.” A bit of website streamlining is likely, too.
Going back to her roots in education, she would like to see more youth involvement in the Art Walk, from student exhibitors to improved connections with schools. She welcomes new volunteers, too – roles include photography and neighborhood coordination. (By the way, as noted when recruiting began, her job is a volunteer position for starters, too.)
And she would love to hear your ideas. Thursday night’s meet-and-greet is one opportunity – you’ll find Mia and Reeve at Verity Credit Union (4505 California SW) 5 pm-8 pm. If you can’t catch up with them then, you can email Mia with your thoughts, volunteering inquiries, etc. – email@example.com.
Most importantly – she hopes you’ll just get out on Art Walk night and explore! The new director says the Art Walk’s value is in supporting artists and getting people into local businesses, “making supporting businesses part of your daily experience.”