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Elevating Black Artists and Recovery With Appointment of Royal Alley-Barnes

Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced that Royal Alley-Barnes will be appointed to be the Interim Director of ARTS and the first Black woman to hold the position. Director Alley-Barnes will lead ARTS during this critical time in recovery while the next administration seeks a new permanent director.  

“I am incredibly excited that Royal Alley-Barnes has agreed to serve as the acting director of the Department of Arts and Culture. I am confident that Royal is the right person to lead ARTS as we focus on helping BIPOC and underrepresented artists recovery from the significant impacts of COVID-19,” said Mayor Durkan. “Royal is not only incredibly accomplished, but also a devoted community member and public servant. We could not be more grateful that she has agreed to lead one of Seattle’s most treasured City Departments.” 

“There could not have been a more timely and superb selection than Royal Alley-Barnes. She is an extremely talented and giving artist in her own right. She has also managed a wide variety of major City Projects for the Parks Department–Business and Contracts, Central Region Administration and assumed the duty of Directing the Woodland Park Zoo,” said former King County Councilmember Larry Gossett. “The words innovative managing consultant do not do justice to the number of local government agencies she has helped prepare for audits and/or helped develop unique budgeting strategies to save them large sums of money. Her middle name could be changed to “Innovator” and no one would blink an eye.” 

“We could not have a better leader for the Office of Arts and Culture than Royal Alley-Barnes. She brings a lifetime of commitment to the arts, culture, social justice, education, and the civic health of our community. Congratulations to Royal, and congratulations to us,” said Marie McCaffrey, Executive Director and founder of HistoryLink. 

Royal Alley-Barnes has previously served as the Executive Director of Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, in Seattle Parks, and as Woodland Park Zoo Director. She was also formerly a budget and policy analyst in the City Budget Office. As the first Black director of ARTS, Director Alley-Barnes will elevate the voice of communities of color in Seattle arts and culture.   

The arts community has been deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. From managing shutdowns, quarantines, social distancing, and reduced budgets, the pandemic has thrown significant curveballs to creators in Seattle. Seattle Arts has worked hard to support their community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Director Alley-Barnes will lead ARTS as Seattle and King County work to stabilize and fund the arts and artists in the Seattle area. 

Director Alley-Barnes has led an esteemed career bringing together arts, community, and public service. For more than 40 years, she has helped develop generations of artists through lecture and teaching, and presenting across a broad range of artistic mediums and platforms: from art history and education to an array of visual arts, while also building community by knitting together Seattle’s diverse cultures to harness collective power. Her work in the arts has been an overarching influence that informs her work in the public sector as she helped determine the highest and best use for four city-owned arts facilities.  

Royal Alley-Barnes has a long list of awards and accreditations including the prestigious University of Washington Charles E. Odegaard Award for Outstanding Achievement (2008), City of Seattle Youth Commission Policy Leader (2009), and John C. Little Spirit Award (2010), and Ford Motor Company National “Freedom Sister” Award (2012). 

Director Alley-Barnes will work closely with the incoming administration to ensure ARTS values are represented in a community driven, inclusive search process for a permanent director.