Seattle, WA
September 21, 2020

An End-Of-Season Message from Wier

Looking back, I don’t think anyone will remember Town Hall’s 2019-20 as easy, but it certainly started and ended in celebration. This eventful year featured our first (almost!) full season back in our beautifully renovated building, and a return to our nomadic, Inside/Out years with an (almost!) fully virtual program. I reflected a bit on the highlights of the year in the video below, and I hope you’ll take a look.

I’m in the building once-twice a week, and every time I experience a deep feeling of loss. I wonder when we’ll have a full audience in the Great Hall again; when the building will hum with the energy of multiple events, when we’ll gather for another party in the Reading Room or a pre/post-show drink in the Otto. We don’t know when it will be, but we’re already planning for the time that we can welcome you back, and envisioning how it might work. Here’s our commitment to you for the next season:

  • continued presentation of digitally-produced events
  • livestreaming events that happen once we’re back in the building, in addition to small live audiences when its permitted
  • sustaining our $5 ticket model

Since early March, we’ve offered our digitally-produced events completely free with an option to support us with a donation. Everything you’ve heard about the struggles of non-profits right now is true; and like other organizations, we’re facing decreased revenue and deep impact on our financial stability. Next year’s budget is 65% of our 19-20; to address this shortfall, we’re introducing a $5 charge for our digital events. Though we will continue to offer free tickets to anyone 22 & Under, reintroducing ticket income will allow us to continue to produce at our fullest capability.

Our programming will be dark—and our administrative offices will be closed—from July 3 – July 26. If there is a time-sensitive need while our office is closed, please send us an email at help@townhallseattle.org. We’ll be back in the office on Monday, July 27 returning phone calls and emails. Before we go away for July, be sure to join us for Pramila Jayapal sharing stories of her political and personal history with Naomi Ishisaka on Wednesday, July 1 and a special live episode of Life on The Margins, featuring Ijeoma Oluo, on July 2. We’ll pick up the thread again with a cool program with the Institute for Systems Biology on July 30.

And so here we are—celebrating the start of a new chapter with a new building, and celebrating the start of a new chapter with a new online stage. Wherever we find each other in the year to come, thank you for being essential to Town Hall’s commitment to the truth; to civil discourse; and to strengthening our community, through shared experiences of ideas and arts, at a time when we surely need it.

With gratitude,

Wier Harman
Executive Director

Streaming Saturdays With Earshot Jazz

Want to feel the energy and emotion of live music while you’re stuck behind closed doors? In collaboration with Earshot Jazz, Town Hall is streaming live Saturday jazz concerts at the end of March and the first three weeks of April, directly from our stages! 

What about the virus?

On March 23, Governor Inslee issued a shelter-in-place order for all individuals, with the exception of essential workforce. That description of essential workforce includes allowances for “artists and musicians providing services through streaming,” provided guidelines around safe assembly are also followed. No more than 10 artists and technicians will be present at these events, and social distancing and enhanced hygienic measures will be employed. 

Town Hall and Earshot Jazz agree that music is essential to surviving, even thriving, during this health crisis–and we’re committed to offering live music that supports the health of our local artists, even as it fills your heart and moves your spirit. Whatever else you feel like moving, too.  

Who’s Onstage?

3/28 Alex Dugdale Quartet
Seattle’s favorite tap-dancing saxophonist takes the stage backed by a hard swinging trio of piano, bass, and drums.

4/4 Marina Albero Group
This Barcelona transplant brings Spanish inflections to stunning jazz piano technique and a fascinating approach to the hammer dulcimer.

4/11 Jacqueline Tabor
Award-winning vocalist Jacqueline Tabor showcases signature bluesy vocals—and unveils a new ensemble of Seattle jazz masters.

4/18 Kate Olson Ensemble
Joined by a fluid and inventive quartet, saxophonist Kate Olson brings her distinctive energy to Town Hall.

4/25 Tarik Abouzied with Erskine, Tindall, and Heyer
The veteran drummer of celebrated Seattle projects Happy Orchestra and McTuff brings together talented West Coast musicians for an energetic, uplifting concert.

5/2 Remembering Lee Konitz
Four powerhouse jazz performers come together to affirm the legacy of the peerless alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, who passed away on April 15 from the Coronavirus.

Add some groove to your Saturday nights with weekly concerts from Town Hall and Earshot Jazz!

Updates: Town Hall and the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Friends,

On March 23, Governor Inslee issued a shelter-in-place order for all individuals, with the exception of essential workforce. That description of essential workforce includes allowances for “artists and musicians providing services through streaming,” provided guidelines around safe assembly are also followed. No more than 10 artists and technicians can be present at these events, and social distancing and enhanced hygienic measures must be employed.

That means Town Hall is able to continue to offer its program of livestreams—many in collaboration with partners like Earshot Jazz, CityClub, and Citizen University—for the foreseeable future. If you squint, maybe it’ll feel like we brought Town Hall over to your house, without the squeezing past people to find your seat.

How long is “foreseeable”? Well THAT’s anyone’s guess—but know that we are committed to playing our part in the heavy worldwide lift to blunt the impact of Covid-19, AND doing what we can to support and sustain Town Hall’s close-in community of artists and presenters, organizations and audiences.

It’s a community that has been tended and nourished by trust and good will for nearly 21 years—and coming off the achievement of our capital work together, that bond feels especially strong right now. We work to keep open lines of communication—always and forever—so please let me know if you have any ideas, questions or concerns.

Wier Harman
Executive Director


March 11, 2020

Hello friends,

In light of Governor Inslee’s declaration this morning restricting public gatherings, Town Hall has suspended in-person attendance at programming throughout our building—including our smaller performance spaces unaffected by his announcement—until March 31. The period of closure may ultimately prove to be longer, but for now please check our website for information on the status of individual programs in April and beyond. We will share more general updates as soon as we have them, and feel free to reach out to info@townhallseattle.org with specific questions.

While our building will not be open to the public, we are presently exploring prospects for digital delivery/livestreams of some currently-announced and soon-to-be-announced programs. More information will follow later this week.

If you have purchased tickets to one or more events during this time and would like a refund, please contact us at patronservices@townhallseattle.org. We also hope you will consider supporting Town Hall during this financially challenging time by not requesting a refund and treating the price of the ticket as a contribution.

We at Town Hall are awed by the sense of collective responsibility and sacrifice emerging across our community—the realization that our only chance to bend the curve of infection is through coordinated action.

This time asks for maximum patience and understanding, even as it asks us to make choices we’d thought impossible even days ago. It will not be easy, but let’s try to find a sense of our own power now, by imagining what we can accomplish together.

Wier Harman
Executive Director

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March 6, 2020

Hello friends,

Town Hall exists to inspire a healthy, sustainable community that supports and cares for one another. Now, as people across our region and around the world grow more concerned about the spread of COVID-19, ideas of “health” and “community” have taken on a more direct meaning.

Our leadership team meets daily to share news and coordinate response regarding the coronavirus, so we are able to adjust our approach based on the most current information available. And so, like other organizations lighting up your inbox today, we want to take a moment to address our approach to the coordinated regional response, and what it means for upcoming programs. Here are some things to know:

–We are taking our advice and direction from Public Health—Seattle & King County, along with other sources. The latest general statement from the agency can be found here: https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/news/2020/March/5-slowing-the-impact.aspx

–At this time, we have determined that we will remain open and continue presenting events for the foreseeable future.

However, a look at our calendar will show that a number of programs are being cancelled or postponed at the request of presenters or institutional partners. In these cases, we are working quickly to notify ticket buyers directly about cancellations and to share new dates for postponements. Information about requesting refunds and automatic rescheduling of tickets for postponed events is included in these specific event-by-event communications.

–In light of this, we recommend that you check your email, our website, and/or our social media channels for the latest information about an event you are planning to attend.

–For events which are taking place, know that we are implementing additional disinfection measures across all areas of our building, with special focus on high-traffic areas and objects that are regularly touched (including door knobs, counters/tables, elevator keypads, etc). We are also working to create greater distance between seats, when it is feasible.

–Meanwhile, audience members can take a variety of precautions. First, evaluate whether you should be considered a “person at higher risk,” advised to stay home and away from large groups and gatherings where there will be close contact with others—like Town Hall. People at higher risk include:

    • People 60 and older
    • People with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes
    • People who have weakened immune systems
    • People who are pregnant

For all other attendees:

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Practice excellent personal hygiene habits, including washing your hands with soap and water frequently, coughing into a tissue or your elbow, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Stay away from people who are ill, especially if you are at higher risk for coronavirus.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects within your home (like doorknobs and light switches). Regular household cleaners are effective.
  • Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy foods, and manage your stress to keep your immunity strong

–Know that many Town Hall programs are made available as audio and video recordings. And while we are presently in the middle of transition in our livestreaming capability in the renovated building, we hope to have this resolved soon, and to encourage it as a viable option for staying in touch with our programs in real time.

Finally, we encourage everyone to read these recommendations from the King County Public Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control for reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection for ourselves and others. 

Stay healthy, and we look forward to seeing you this spring! 

Wier Harman
Executive Director

Plaques are Back!

Hello Friends,

The capital campaign to renovate our historic building has been a monumental effort for our community, board, and staff over the last two years. We’ve hit several major milestones over the last few months, and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel (and renovation project!). Most recently we had great success with our Take the Stage crowdfunding campaign where nearly 450 of you gave almost $245,000 and helped unlock a $200,000 challenge match from an anonymous donor.

This groundswell of community investment has inspired another donor to help propel us towards the finish line of this campaign. Longtime donor and friend of Town Hall Chuck Nordhoff has stepped forward with additional matching dollars for donors who want to add their names to the Great Hall stage. He will match $50,000 for named plaque gifts made from now until April 15!

Because of this incredible generosity, we’re extending the opportunity to have your name inscribed on the Great Hall stage. So if you missed your chance to Take the Stage, you can still support the renovation, inscribe a plaque, and become a permanent part of a Seattle landmark! Visit lovethistown.org to learn more.

Town Hall Seattle has a collective voice; this community of speakers and artists and audiences belongs to all of us. It has always been true, and never more so than right now, as so many of you have stepped up to secure the future of the building and the organization. Thank you for being a part of Town Hall–and thank you for your support as we finish our long journey home!

With gratitude,

Wier Harman
Executive Director


PS – With your help, we’ve already come so far and have just $2.5 million left to raise to complete our historic renovation. Visit lovethistown.org to inscribe your plaque today!

An Important Update About Our Renovation

Dear friends,

Although our calendar has been a little quieter over these last weeks the work behind the scenes at Town Hall has never been more intense. Our staff is excitedly planning for the opportunities of a transformed building as both our renovation and the capital campaign approach their finale. However, amid all our energy and optimism, I’m writing with disappointing news regarding construction setbacks.

Our general contractor, Rafn, has encountered new and significant issues with plaster in the Great Hall and on the second floor that will affect the timeline of our reopening. Complications like these are unusual so close to completion, and we’re working with Rafn to understand the problem and its implications for our schedule. While they have yet to propose a new timeline, as of today they’re anticipating a 60-day delay. This team was selected especially for its experience with historic renovations, so we’re relying on their expertise to choose doing the work “right” over doing it “fast.”

All of which means we won’t be able to move back in time for our planned Homecoming festival. So much heart and hustle has gone into booking an outstanding lineup of Town Hall and partner-produced programs—it isn’t possible to simply slide the whole thing over by a month or two. So we’ve decided to move the festival to September, in order to present a lineup that’s as exciting and vibrant as the one we had planned. 

But don’t worry—we won’t be “dark” this whole time. In March we’ll return to hosting events in venues throughout the city. And the project truly is in its homestretch, as any tour of the building will attest. We will reopen in just a few months—we just don’t have an exact date yet—and we’ll start producing programs back home as soon as we have our certificate of occupancy (likely well before the official festival). We’ll ask for your goodwill as we start living into our building’s new spaces, systems, and capacities as we discover the place all over again together. And we’ll ask for your honest feedback to help us fine-tune the new (and familiar) Town Hall experience.

Over nearly 20 years Town Hall has come to mean so many things to this city—to some it’s a nonstop calendar of ideas, creativity, and activism; to others it’s a tool of expression and organization, or even a “feeling” of community, or a link to “old Seattle.” And to our staff, board, and volunteers, it’s an act of hospitality—an invitation to a more informed, engaged and connected life in this city. The building is a monument to (and an instrument of) all this, and more.

Together we’re not just restoring a landmark building—we’re securing Town Hall’s unique role as a people’s hall, for our generation and those to follow. It is only possible with you and through you. It really is your Town Hall—stay close now and you’ll feel it as we all come home together.

– Wier

P.S. As always, we want to hear from you. Please reach out to Missy Miller (Communications Director) if you have any questions or concerns.

Doing It Right

Our 2017–18 Inside/Out season has been a grand experiment. Last summer we handed the building keys to Rafn Construction, packed up our whole operation, and set out for an all-hands-on-deck exploration of the fundamental questions about how and why we do what we do. We set goals to meet new audiences and institutional partners, to listen and collaborate more closely with our community, and to develop a more welcoming culture for Town Hall.

We made big discoveries and fast friends—and our 44 (and counting!) neighborhood venues have shown us extraordinary hospitality. (No way to thank everyone, but this year would have been inconceivable without our partnership with Seattle University.) We learned that while a lot of our old friends miss our home as much as we do, it’s also been kind of fun to try something new and meet people in their own neighborhoods. Well, that’s a good thing, since we’ll continue Inside/Out in the fall before we come home in early 2019 to a revitalized Town Hall.

This season has been uncharted waters for us, so there’ve been a lot of ways to “get it right.” With the time we have left Inside/Out, you’ll know you’re doing it right if…

…it’s a sunny Tuesday and still you say: “what the heck? I wonder what’s on at Town Hall?”
…you attended a program because it was just down the street.
…you attended a program because you “always wanted to know what that place was like on the inside.”
…you wanted to know more so you bought the book.
…you stopped by a table afterwards to learn how to get involved.
…you introduced a friend to Town Hall.
…you introduced yourself to the person next to you.
…you stepped up to a Q&A mic and asked a question in the form of a question. (No, really: THANK YOU. That guy at Freeman Dyson’s recent talk (he knows who he is) could learn a thing or two from you…)
…you showed up with an open heart and a curious mind—or vice versa—and used Town Hall to expand your horizons, not just to ratify your beliefs.

Think about this over the summer—what did you discover about Town Hall this year? What have you always hoped we could do, or would be? What have you missed this year, and what have we gained? Please respond to the post-show survey or write me with your thoughts at info@townhallseattle.org.

Thanks for staying with us this season—we are truly grateful. We’ll see you again in September after our last (ever) summer break! (Air conditioning—now that’s a change we’ll all welcome…)

 

 – Wier Harman, Executive Director

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