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September 28, 2012 at 8:48 AM

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Mayor McGinn's vision for Langston Hughes Center includes self-reliance

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Mayor Mike McGinn wants to move the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center from the Parks and Recreation Department to the Department of Arts and Cultural Affairs. The interagency shift is intended to breathe new life and resources into the former synagogue turned theatre and performing hall.

In one sense, this should be viewed as a benign bookkeeping move aligned to better link Langston Hughes, which as floundered as many times as it has soared, with the broader Seattle arts community. Ultimately, city officials would like to see the arts center become more independent and self-sustaining.

But Mayor McGinn has to tread carefully here. Arts organzations across the city have been battered by the recession and the last thing they want to do is forego even a smidgen of city help. Cultural dynamics are also at play with Langston Hughes, a treasure in the Central Area as well as the broader African American community now far-flung to the Eastside and South King County. Echoes of this sensibility can be heard in the tone of City Councilmember Nick Licata, whose Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee must approve the plan. In a statement Licata said: "While I support empowering (Langston Hughes) to reach its potential for serving Seattle's increasingly diverse arts audiences, I need to know how nearby residents, civic leaders, arts professionals and Seattle Arts Commissioners view such a transfer."

What do you think about the mayor's proposal and the future of Langston Hughes?

Photo: Tom Reese/The Seattle Times


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