2020 was an indelible year for all of us. We were severely limited in ways we could connect and engage with you because of the pandemic, which has disrupted many things that would have happened. We are exploring several new offerings to keep you informed about assorted arts events and activities on the Island and the progress of Mercer Island Center for the Arts (MICA). We want to hear from YOU —

It’ll just take a few minutes – http://bit.ly/2NXvPwg

This survey is a way for us to know how we can better communicate and connect with you despite Covid-19. Please take a few minutes to answer the questions. We value your input and feedback. Please also take a few minutes and share your feedback and opinion on how we can better serve you. We appreciate your participation!

Sincerely –
Prady Misra, Genevieve Morton, John Gordon Hill, Michelle Peyree, Xixi Shakes, James Rudolf, Elliott Newman, Virl Hill, Bruce Lorig (posthumously), and Paul Shoemaker 

As part of our ongoing mission to support the arts and build a vibrant, interconnected community on Mercer Island, MICA is a proud title sponsor of the 33rd annual Mostly Music in the Park festival series. Beginning in 1986, MMIP has been a cultural fixture at Mercerdale Park each summer, and as always, the concert series features a slate of headlining musical acts. However, this year organizers have expanded the offerings with more than just tunes: get your hands dirty crafting your own visual artworks with MIVAL; test your skill at lawn games, and try your luck with weekly giveaways donated by New Seasons Market. Local food vendors, dance demonstrations, and family-friendly activities will also be on hand for each performance.

Concert organizers received over one hundred submissions from musical artists around the world and six were selected. Click on the names to see and hear each artist. Here’s a look at these talented musicians:

Duende Libre – July 11

The festival kicks off with Duende Libre, a local trio that uses jazz as a foundation to explore sounds from around the world. From African rhythms to Latin flavor, Duende Libre’s eclectic performance is sure to bring together lovers of music of all genres.

Donovan Keith – July 18

Austin, Texas-based Donovan Keith is polishing his dancing shoes to get ready for MMIP, so be prepared for a high-energy soul and pop performance that leaves you breathless. Donovan is known for his high-flying vocal ability, magnetic stage presence, and the snappiest three-piece suits you’re likely to see at this year’s festival.

Jessica Lynne – July 25

When you think of Denmark, you probably think of Lego, Vikings, and little butter cookies. How about country music? Well, it’s time to start. Country artist Jessica Lynne grew up in Haslev, Denmark and comes to us by way of Nashville and eventually Tacoma, bringing her rock- and gospel-influenced southern sound to our pacific northwest stage.

Joe Blue & the Roof Shakers – August 1

Get ready to dance until you drop with Joe Blue & the Roof Shakers, five energetic guys known for putting on a show you can really cut a rug to. From blues to classic rock covers and originals, Joe Blue is sure to have the island bouncing.

Mōtus – August 8

If 2019 has not been funky enough for you, we have just the prescription: take a dose of jazz, some R&B, a dash of neo-soul and blend them together with horns, drums, and multiple voices. In other words, you need Mōtus in your life. Don’t miss this unique blend of musical styles.

Filé Gumbo – August 15

If you miss Bourbon Street, dream of lobster étouffée, feel a kinship with Clifton Chenier, and think Paul Simon didn’t go far enough on Graceland, you need Filé Gumbo in your life. This incredible quintet brings their blend of cajun, zydeco, soul, R&B, and Dixieland jazz to the island for what promises to be a spicy final night of the festival.

All MMIP shows begin at 6:00 p.m. and admission is free for all ages. For more information, visit the website.

On March 26 and 27, 2019, more than 800 kids, parents, family members, and supporters turned out at Mercer Island High School for the annual Fine Arts Showcase. Thousands of artistic works were on display for two nights, with pieces and performances from students in every grade, plus interactive elements to engage guests in the creative process. Pottery, painting, sculpture, music, theater, jewelry making, and more demonstrated the depth of talent on the island. With such a large scale event that reaches so many people in so many different ways, it’s hard to deny the impact it has on and support it enjoys in the community.

MICA is an organization committed to enriching the community on Mercer Island. MICA believes in the power of the arts and its ability to transform lives. Shared experience and exploration of the arts will help unite Mercer Island, creating a more culturally connected and vital community.

MICA aspires to help build a community of positive, healthy, and active citizens and it is one of the main reasons we do the work we do at MICA. We all know that the intangibles of arts education can play an enormous role over the long term for both individuals and communities, which is why events like the Mercer Island School District Fine Arts Showcase are so important.

Recently, a study from the Brookings Institute and partly funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, shows a strong relationship between arts education and the development of upstanding community members. The study shows that arts students experience “a 3.6 percentage point reduction in disciplinary infractions, an improvement of 13 percent of a standard deviation in standardized writing scores (communication skills), and an increase of 8 percent of a standard deviation in their compassion for others.” Additional benefits include increased engagement at school, college aspirations, and the ability “to draw upon works of art as a means for empathizing with others.” These sorts of interpersonal skills are incredibly important in real life work and social situations.

For many of the student artists at March’s showcase, The Mercer Island Center for the Arts will be a place to learn throughout their lives, to be a part of a thriving community, to experience new ideas and express their own, and continue to exhibit their work. maybe go on to show their work too. As the MISD expands the minds of students, MICA’s goal is to carry that spirit into adulthood, ensuring the lasting and ongoing contributions of talented islanders.

And don’t just wait around for next year’s showcase; there are plenty of arts events happening on Mercer Island. Check out the arts calendar for new events every month.


September 17, 2018

Paul Shoemaker
Executive Director

Next Steps for MICA

On Monday September 17, MICA engaged with the Mercer Island City Council in a Study Session to discuss what was learned from the Community Visioning Dialogue and plans for a community arts center moving forward. Throughout the summer, MICA engaged with a cross-section of the community in large and small gatherings, with over 200 residents face-to-face and nearly 1,000 people through an online survey. Participants shared their desires for the future of arts and culture on Mercer Island.

Through these discussions, key takeaways rose to the top: strong support for an arts and culture center, need for a centralized space for the arts, and a desire to unite and strengthen the existing arts community – just to name a few. Concerns about the logistics of an arts center were also noted including: parking, location, and cost and sustainability. The information gathered made a clear consensus that a space for the arts is indeed wanted and needed on Mercer Island. Once published, the full Community Visioning Dialogue report will be available online at the MICA website www.mercerislandarts.org. MICA will also share these findings with the community on Monday, October 8 at the Mercer Island Community & Event Center from 7:00-8:30pm.

In a letter to the City Council dated August 23, 2018, MICA conveyed their strong and clear intent to be a key part of the City’s proposed mixed-use development on the site that housed the Tully’s coffeeshop. A new space for the arts, at this location, would stimulate economic vitality, be a dynamic addition to Town Center, and leverage the Sound Transit opportunity providing a beautiful gateway to downtown just to name a few benefits. MICA states that they can uniquely and powerfully fulfill this community need for creating a space for the arts.

With the input from the Community Visioning process and a possible new location for an arts center, MICA’s next step is to plan and launch a capital campaign. Executive Director, Paul Shoemaker, states “we’re almost there – the board and staff have been waiting for a long time to get into a campaign and get an arts center built. As long as the site pans out, we see the time is near.” MICA would like to start their fundraising efforts in early 2019 – but, the key trigger, is a secured site.

Mercer Island Center for the Arts intently listened to the community. As one survey respondent noted, “MICA would serve a great purpose if it helped pull together all the disparate art and culture on the Island.” Enthusiasm for creating a centralized space for the arts is a growing wave and brings a broad base of support, ready to begin to push forward.

For more information on Mercer Island Center for the Arts please visit the city’s website at www.mercergov.org/mica or www.mercerislandarts.org.


Since the start of 2018, we have had many encouraging events, meetings, and gatherings, but Monday evening (October 22) was something special. That night, I truly felt MICA could happen. If you weren’t able to attend, the top five Tully’s developers presented their proposals to the community as well as took questions. All five have included MICA + YTN in their proposals and each one of them brings something different to the table. With that, narrowing the field will be a difficult task for the city. Not only are there five developers willing to help create a space for the arts on Mercer Island, but the community members in attendance were energizing. The room was filled with the chatter of questions, ideas, thoughts, and excitement – positive energy that they too feel this could happen.

What are the next steps going forward? It will take a few weeks for the city to choose the top two proposals. In the meantime, we encourage MI citizens to keep asking those great questions to the parties involved. The City has created a website for feedback, click here. Executive Director Paul Shoemaker and I have said, and continue to say, we will take a phone call and sit down for a coffee, beer (or glass of wine) with anyone who asks. This is our community and I am committed, along with the other staff and board, to seeing a space for the arts come alive.

Sharon Perez
Director Strategic Relationships

In our second Community Visioning Report snapshot we look at the ‘Concerns’ that Islanders have for a new space for the arts. MICA has been a hot-button topic for years. Though there is overwhelming support for the project, we want to manage our neighbors concerns, head-on. We are proactively dealing with each as we look to the future. Some of these concerns will take some time to figure out as a new site becomes clear. But these issues are on the front of mind for both staff and board.

  • Location (park/no park) [Tully’s is number one]
  • Cost & sustainability (public/private funds)
  • Size & scope (too big/too small)
  • Parking & access (central/further located)
  • A clear purpose (why it exists and who it serves)
  • Competing facilities (in Seattle and other neighboring areas)
  • Political will (among city leaders, MICA leaders, and citizens)

If anything from the above list is one of your concerns, or maybe it’s not on the list, and you were not able to have your voice heard, please email Executive Director, Paul Shoemaker shoe@mercerislandarts.org. Even though the process of the Community Visioning has ended, we still want your thoughts.

The 2018 Community Visioning Dialogue was an important journey for MICA. We set out to rediscover the Island’s interest for a dedicated place for the arts. With the help of Phinney Bischoff and a dedicated board we asked questions to a broad cross-section of the MI community in a variety of different settings. Over the next week MICA will feature a few snapshots from the final 59-page report. We understand it’s a lot to read. This is the readers digest version.

One overarching theme we heard is the arts are important to the Mercer Island Community. Islanders engage with the arts regularly as observers, appreciators, and creators of art. In fact, nearly a third of all islanders, that we heard from, create art professionally or as a hobby.

Though there is an abundance of art on MI, we heard that many residents still leave Mercer Island to attend art events in Seattle and Bellevue. Residents feel the Mercer Island artistic community is siloed and fragmented. What people desire is a centralized location for the arts where organizations can share resources and collaborate. A few important numbers:

  • 69% of survey respondents want more opportunities to experience arts and culture on the island.
  • 72% agree that MI would benefit from having a centralized location for the arts.

“MICA would serve a great purpose if it helped pull together all the disparate art and culture on the island.”

In our next visioning report snapshot, we will share the concerns residents have. More soon.

On Sept 17th, MICA made a presentation about the future of arts and culture on MI to the City Council: where MICA is today and what we are doing to help build the future for our community. I was, once again, struck by the community’s support of this project. We were met by a full house of Islanders. And, I’m proud to say that we conveyed their voice as we heard throughout the summer during our Visioning Dialogue. That evening we also reiterated our intention to be a key part of the City’s proposed mixed-use development at the Tully’s site.

When I drove home that night, I thought to myself, how many folks don’t know MICA’s desire to be part of that mixed-use development? If you’re an MI Citizen that doesn’t closely follow MICA you may be wondering, how we got from the previous site and plan in 2016-17 to today?

I’d like to give you some background information and bring you up to speed. Here are the key takeaways to understand the trajectory of MICA:

  • Last fall, the City asked MICA to take a pause. We agreed and began to evaluate our options and decided to look for a new site.
  • On January 26, the City and MICA wrote a letter which reaffirmed our mutual commitment to arts & culture and the importance of creating a home for YTN and MICA. We also began planning a community listening dialogue.
  • In the Spring of 2018, the Tully’s site became an available option.
  • During the months of May – August 2018 we listened to over 200 Islanders in person, nearly 1,000 online, and worked hard to reach a cross-section of Islanders – this is what we heard:

Overall, what we heard is that 72% of MI citizens want a new central space for the arts; 71% want YTN to have a new home. That’s about as emphatic as it gets. In addition, over 600 people have signed our Statement of Support (please sign if you haven’t already).

In June, the Tully’s site was purchased by the city to build parking for the community. They issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to developers for a mixed-use partnership. Several developers responded and on October 5th those RFQ’s were submitted to the city. MICA is fortunate in that the City has weighted their decision to make arts a priority when choosing that developer. That means a developer that includes the arts in their proposal will receive more consideration than one that does not.

Stay tuned, as over the next few months the City will select the developer they feel will make the best partner for the City of Mercer Island. And, with fingers crossed, that will include MICA. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Mercer Island, we cannot let this pass us by, it may not come around again for a long time.

Mercer Island Center for the Arts at Tully’s can be a Central convening space for arts performances, education and collaboration among residents of all ages; a significant economic stimulus to the vitality of our town center and local businesses; a permanent, lasting home for YTN; a source of new pride for the island’s residents’ in the place we call home; and a great way to leverage the Sound Transit opportunity to the fullest and provide a beautiful gateway into MI.

We need to continue to let the City and Council know the community supports MICA at Tully’s. There is much you can do to make your voice heard: send an email, write a letter, attend council meetings, make a public comment, tell your friends, share the Statement of Support, and submit a Letter to the Editor to the Mercer Island Reporter. We encourage to wave your MICA flag!

We believe the time is now, the site is Tully’s, and Mercer Island is the community ready to make this dream a reality!

Paul Shoemaker
Executive Director




There is a great new opportunity for arts & culture for all generations on Mercer Island!

Let your neighbors and the MI City Council know you support MICA & YTN at the Tully’s location and lend your name to the Statement of Support.

*Please sign by September 17th in time for the City Council & MICA study session*

All Mercer Islanders are invited to the upcoming study session with the Mercer Island City Council and MICA. Lots of information from MICA’s community listening sessions and next steps for MICA will be discussed with the City Council. Please join us, bring a friend, and make a public comment.

When: Monday September 17, 2018

Where: Council Chambers

What: Study Session

Time: 6:00pm

Click here for a map of the MI City Hall.

Add to Calendar.