Seattle, WA
September 30, 2023

A Message From Wier

Dear Members,

18 years ago, David Brewster and a group of civic-minded philanthropists saved our graceful old building from the wrecking ball. They placed a bet on an only-in-Seattle kind of shared cultural space: a lofty-but-not-stuffy reflection of our city’s curiosity, creativity, and deep understanding that we thrive when we come together in community.

Nearly two decades later, we find ourselves at a thrilling moment—we’ve raised over $20 million to give our historic home the love it needs, and we’ll break ground this summer on a top-to-bottom renovation. We’re celebrating this new phase in our campaign and our project with a broad public challenge we’re calling “Dig Deep,” a month of community-level fundraising to help start construction. Dig Deep culminates in Groundbreak, the spectacular weeklong sendoff to the 2016–17 season and the “old” Town Hall, to which you are all enthusiastically invited. We’ve packed it full of old friends and fresh debuts, live music and lively conversation. The last day itself will be a morning to midnight party—remember the old “Around-The Clock” programs?—that will have something for everybody. It’s going to be an incredible week and I hope you can join us.

Last thing. Like Town Hall itself, this milestone is only possible because of the humbling support of our members—the advocacy, the affection, the true feeling of connection and belonging that surrounds this place. I wrote last month with a note about my recent health challenges. This may sound strange but I can say that in the weeks following I have learned firsthand what it feels like to have some of that good energy directed to me. The outpouring of well-wishes and support in response to my diagnosis has rendered all of those traits of our community very personally to me. I am humbled and grateful.

These last 12 years have been the most satisfying of my professional life. And right here, right now, I have never been more grateful to be a member of this community. We stand on the edge of big and exciting changes. Thanks for standing with us again—and thank you for making Brewster’s founding bet a winner.

See you at Groundbreak,

Wier Harman
Executive Director

Staff Spotlight: Michael Breeden, Capital Campaign Manager

How long have you worked at Town Hall?

It will be two years next month!

What attracted you to working at Town Hall?

Primarily, the commitment to access for the entire community. Our $5 tickets, and below market rental rates make it possible for virtually anyone to join the conversation…or to take the stage and lead the conversation. I remember coming here as a student, and being so blown away by the fact that I could pay only $5 and have access to the most amazing speakers and conversations.

What book could you read over and over again?

I grew up on the Great Plains in Kansas. I’ve always been a fan of Willa Cather, and have read several of her books multiple times. It has become more important to me as I’ve moved away from my “roots,” and a way for me to reconnect and remember where I come from.

Who would you most like to see presented at Town Hall?

I would love to see more visual artists on our stages. I so enjoyed when SAL presented Marina Abramovic here this winter. But even at a local level, we have incredible artists working here in Seattle. I would love to see them onstage and speak to their creative process, and their experience as an artist in Seattle.

When you are not working, what are you doing?

I think the most consistent activity is going to museums. I’ve always felt at home there. It’s a very personal and intimate experience for me, and the place I go to reflect, draw inspiration, and ground myself.

What is one thing people may not know about you?

I grew up on a working farm. I have all sorts of random knowledge about farming…from birthing a calf to raising a healthy wheat crop.

What aspect of your job do you never get tired of?

Hearing the stories. I know that I love Town Hall for my own reasons, but it is such a privilege to hear from all of you about what this place means to you and why you love it. It’s such a joy to hear these stories, and I count myself very lucky to be in the position where I have the opportunity listen to your tales of this place.

What is your personal platform?

Claim this coming Inauguration Day as your own. What is your personal platform? What fundamental values support it? What is the most pressing challenge facing your family, or your neighborhood, or city, or state, or planet, over the next four years? What will you advocate, and what will you defend? And most important, what are you going to do?

On Friday Jan. 20, Town Hall will open its doors at 8 a.m. to witness the induction of a new U.S. President. Then, in partnership with The Stranger, from 10:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. a selected group of citizens from across our region will be invited to declare their own platforms in a two-minute (350 word) inaugural address from the Great Hall stage, captured on video.

We will record your address in a simple, one-take video to be published to both the Town Hall and The Stranger websites. To submit your platform for consideration, send an email to with the subject line “Inauguration.” Include your name, phone number, one to three issues you will address in your platform. Please disclose professional or volunteer affiliations in the areas you plan to address. (This will not disqualify you. We just want to be aware.)

If you are selected, we will be in touch with more details. Your inauguration platform submission is due Tuesday Jan. 17, 9 a.m.

A platform is not a lament for things in the past, it’s the act of declaring a vision of the future. Begin by asking yourself: What are the greatest challenges we will face over the next four years? What are my personal and civic priorities? What, specifically, am I going to do?

Town Hall does not endorse any political position or cause—we endorse people finding their power through information and community. We are a place to deepen your knowledge, or to learn something new. To explore your passions, and to find new things to be passionate about. To connect to existing activism, and to organize new efforts. To press your case, and to respectfully consider someone else’s.

We are here to help you ask and answer the question “What am I going to do?”

Town Hall Past and Future

We’re just six months away from the beginning of Town Hall’s highly-anticipated renovation. As we prepare to revitalize our 100-year-old building, we are inviting our members to join us on February 26 at 2 p.m. for a celebration of this beautiful, unique space and its role in Seattle’s history. David Brewster (Town Hall’s founder), will be joined by Lawrence Kreisman (Historic Seattle), and Clint Pehrson (Town Hall Board of Directors), to tell the story of this place—formerly Seattle Fourth Church of Christian Science—and its transformation from an expression of 20th century religious community into a 21st century home for civic, intellectual, and cultural life.

David Brewster founded Town Hall Seattle, Seattle Weekly,, and Folio: The Seattle Antheneaum. He will share the story of how this building became Town Hall’s home and the need he saw for a mid-sized, multi-disciplinary arts and civic center in Seattle.

Lawrence Kreisman has spoken eloquently about Town Hall’s Greek Revival building with its fluted column entrance and terra-cotta sheathing, and he has a particular interest in the showpiece of the sanctuary: the stained and leaded glass windows and dome, created by the Povery Brothers of Portland, Oregon. He will discuss these signature features and place the Povery Brothers’ work in context.

Clint Pehrson has practiced architecture in Seattle since 1980, specializing in facilities for cultural institutions—libraries, churches, civic, and arts organizations. In addition to being a current Town Hall Board member, he was one of the original investors who made it possible to purchase the building and create the Town Hall Seattle we know today.

After the program, you are invited for a behind-the-scenes tour of Town Hall.* In a century-old building, there are many interesting places to explore that you don’t normally see—from the organ loft, to backstage green rooms, and so much more. It is wonderful way to imagine what the renovation will mean for the future of the space and your future experience at Town Hall.

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*Tours on February 26th will be limited. After you reserve your ticket, look for your invitation (sent via email) two weeks before the event to secure your building tour space. We will be pleased to help you RSVP for one of our twice-monthly building tours if space does not allow you to participate in this one.

New Member Benefit: Last Chance Member Tickets!

We are excited to announce that we have added a new member benefit for all Town Hall members: Last Chance Member Tickets! We will reserve a block of member-only tickets for Town Hall-produced events in the Great Hall that sell out before the week of the event.

Last Chance Member Tickets will ONLY be available for sale online through our website—no orders, reservations, or holds can be taken over the phone. The online sale will take place 3–7 days before the event date; you’ll receive an email notification when online sales go live at 9:00 am PST.

To make sure you get these email notifications, as well as other important alerts about your Town Hall membership, sign up for our email list here on our website. Enter your preferred email address to subscribe (completing the form as a current subscriber will update your subscription). We highly recommend signing up for the Member Benefits and Coming Soon emails to stay up-to-date with the latest news from Town Hall!

Only a limited number of tickets are available through these Last Chance Member Ticket sales, so have your member number and credit card at hand—and may the odds be ever in your favor!

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Loyalty Donor Spotlight: Gerri and Robert Haynes

Gerri and Robert Haynes

We are so grateful for our Loyalty Members (our supporters with at least three consecutive years of Town Hall membership). Your loyal support sustains Town Hall year after year and is more critical than ever as we prepare for our upcoming renovation! It is our pleasure to highlight two of these supporters: Gerri and Robert Haynes, Town Hall Gold Level Loyalty members.

What drew you to Town Hall and made you want to become members?

Nowhere else in Seattle have we found the diversity and depth of discussions found here at Town Hall—we love the range of speakers and topics, offering Seattle important information through enlightening and entertaining programs.

You’ve been donating to Town Hall since 2002. What keeps you coming back year-after-year?

We want to sustain Town Hall and support the whole process—it is so important for the spirit of Seattle.

What has been a highlight or particularly memorable experience you’ve had at Town Hall?

Just walking into the venue, greeting the curious mind of the participants, is great—and going to the receptions and meeting with the speakers is a treat!

Staff Spotlight: Sarah Szabo, Senior Manager, Individual Giving

Sarah Szabo

How long have you worked at Town Hall?

2 years and 3 months.

What attracted you to working at Town Hall?

I love the diversity of Town Hall’s programming. As someone who has a wide variety of interests Town Hall provides engaging talks and performances for all of me and not just one of my interests.

What book could you read over and over again?

I love Greek mythology and The Iliad was the poem that started me down that path. I read it once a year along with Edith Hamilton’s Mythology.

Who would you most like to see presented at Town Hall?

I am a huge history buff and I believe that it is through, not only the acknowledgement of the events that make up our history (good or bad), but the critical analysis of the culture at the time that led to decisions being made that will lead us to make more educated decisions in the future. So I would love to see even more authors/educators take our stage to engage in discussion of our history and how it relates to our present.

When you are not working, what are you doing?

When I am in town you will find me at the movies more often than not, but I have also started scuba diving in the last year and a half, so am typically somewhere in the Sound once a month. I also take every opportunity to travel, so at least 3 weeks a year I am out of the country on an adventure—my first trip to Japan is coming up in February.

What is one thing people may not know about you?

I always like to keep my hands busy, which is why I have a constant hands-on art project I am working on, whether it is a sculpting class or using my new colored pencils, I can sit for hours, but my hands will be moving. I am in the middle of cross-stitching a Christmas stocking for my father right now and I am loving every second of it!

What aspect of your job do you never get tired of?

Meeting our members, Town Hall has such a large group of dedicated members that we see week after week and it has been a joy to get to know so many of them over the past two years.

Event Feature: Presidential Debate Viewing Party

debate-audienceDear Town Hall Friends,

Well, here we are, less than two months away from election day in this maddening, surreal year for American politics. If you’ve been following the race as closely as we have at Town Hall, you’re on an emotional rollercoaster regardless of how you feel about any of the candidates. I personally feel compelled to start offering trigger warnings to our audiences anytime I bring it up. But as the spectacle, the humor and the fun of a topsy-turvy reality-TV campaign winds to a close, we’re left with the deadly seriousness of this critical juncture in American history, and Town Hall must respond.

Historically, the last weeks of the campaign are when the stakes finally catch up to everyone watching in both the press and the voting public, reaching their crescendo at the first presidential debate. In 2012 the first—frankly boring and sometime pedantic—debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney attracted 70 million viewers. This year, when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump meet on stage for the first time on September 26th, estimates say at least 100 million will tune in. This is Super Bowl and M*A*S*H finale territory. Putting aside all the profound political, economic, and global significance of the thing, this will be a cultural phenomenon. Animistic forces of gender, race, violence, identity, even language itself will be unleashed on that stage. As Clinton predicted, this will be the subject of PhD dissertations for years to come.

One great pleasure of my job at Town Hall is exposure to the constant stream of learned authors, journalists, and thinkers who appear on our stage. From both left and right-wing perspectives, for years there has been rumbling here of a primal unease in America. Economic, racial, environmental and political uncertainties are dominant themes in our civics series. In March Town Hall hosted an overflowing democratic caucus (overwhelmingly supporting the “political revolution” of Bernie Sanders). The radical possibilities of this political season were apparent to anyone who has been spending time here engaging with the ideas on our stage. But on September 26th no one knows what will happen. For those of us who have complained about the stale, predictable nature of American political discourse this is a definite “be careful what you wished for” moment.

Since Town Hall has been the home for me and so many of you in preparing ourselves, emotionally and intellectually, to grapple with the reality of the next few weeks in politics, we are committed to hosting this opportunity to gather in our space and watch this damn debate together. We’ll be streaming the program live on our big screen downstairs as well as projecting a curated selection of reactions from some of our favorite Town Hall speakers as they live-tweet. Plus, our new scholar-in-residence, the always insightful and hilarious Hanna Brooks Olson, will be joining us to provide the much vaunted “hot takes” of contemporary journalism. And of course, the bar will remain open throughout. 

You do not want to be alone for this debate. Whatever happens, the company of your friends, neighbors, and the Town Hall community will be there to groan and kvetch together. I’m very excited to act as host. I like politics alright but I love ideas, and clumsy though they may be these debates are actually one moment when as a country we grapple with major ideas on anything like a grand scale. Such public idea-grappling is, of course, Town Hall’s bread and butter, and as a member of our community you must appreciate that. Join us on September 26th at 6pm for the beginning of the end of this campaign, or (depending on your perspective) the world as we know it.


Thank you.

Edward Wolcher
Community Programs Curator
Town Hall Seattle

Staff Spotlight: Ashly Moore Sheldon, Communications Manager

Ashly Moore Sheldon
Ashly Moore Sheldon

How long have you worked at Town Hall?

I started last April, so 5 months now.

What attracted you to working at Town Hall?

I immediately felt comfortable at Town Hall. Great people work here! As communications manager, I get to write about new and different topics every day in promoting our numerous fascinating events.

What book could you read over and over again?

That’s a tough one because there are several books I could read again and again (and do), but I’ll go with Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams, a recent Town Hall speaker.

Who would you most like to see presented at Town Hall?

Well, I just missed seeing Brandi Carlile perform here for last year’s Talk of the Town and she’s one of my all time favorites. So I’m hoping she’ll come back. And I’d love to see more local independent music on our stage.

When you are not working, what are you doing?

Some of my favorite activities include reading, gardening, soccer, long walks, and hanging out with my family and friends.

What is one thing people may not know about you?

I love movies and for many years of my adult life, I saw a movie in the theater each Monday and then I would write a review of the movie and send it out to a group of friends who had asked to be on the list. It’s a tradition I hope to renew – maybe next year when my younger kid leaves for college.

What aspect of your job do you never get tired of?

Researching and writing about the many fascinating people who perform and speak here never gets boring.

Community Feature: MIT Enterprise Forum

MIT Enterprise Forum Northwestmit-ef-nw-logo is one of the 75+ community organizations that Town Hall hosts each year, and their journey to Town Hall started with Board Member Mark Anderson. Mark said, “MIT Enterprise Forum had been hosting their speaking events at a number of venues around town, each with differing costs, requirements, and infrastructure. It took a lot of time and administrative overhead to select venues and manage the process. I thought Town Hall with its great support staff, outreach, seating flexibility, and catering options would be a great fit for the organization, so I reached out and made the introduction.” We are thrilled to welcome MIT Enterprise Forum Northwest to the Town Hall family!

MIT-EF Northwest is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that’s part of a network of 28 worldwide chapters of MIT Enterprise Forum, and have been an active chapter since 1981. Believing that technology can solve big problems and do powerful things, members share a passion for making a difference in the world through technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Jimmy Jia, Chair of MIT-EF Northwest, offers some perspective about their programming: “Our events focus on technologies with important growth implications for our Seattle community, such as last season’s space and artificial intelligence events. We assemble national-caliber speakers and include social and networking time for audience members and speakers.”

In their 2016-17 season line-up, speakers will be exploring the possibilities of augmented humans, 3D bioprinting, nanotechnology/ molecular manufacturing, smart homes and connected cities. Says Shirley Lunde, Vice Chair, “If you’re passionate about cool and disruptive technologies, you’ll love our Innovation Forum events. We hope to see you there!”

Jimmy Jia: How Energy Gets Its Power


September 21, 7:30 pm
Downstairs at Town Hall

Augmented Humans: Stronger. Faster. Smarter

Businessman showing a superhero suit underneath machinery metal gears idea concept, isolated on white background

October 19, 7:30 pm

For more information, visit

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