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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.

Onward!
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

 

 

 

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