Town Hall’s Statement Concerning the Ongoing Coronavirus Outbreak

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Town Hall Seattle is committed to the health and safety of everyone who attends our events. With this in mind we are closely monitoring both the global and local status of the coronavirus outbreak, as well as insights and recommendations from health organizations including Public Health Seattle and King County, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others.

We want to reassure the total Town Hall community—partners, presenters, and audiences—that we’re both recommitting to our standard practices and introducing new precautions, such as extra cleanings of high traffic areas and objects that are regularly touched (including door knobs, handles, elevator keypads, etc).

You can assist in preventing the spread of coronavirus and other contagions by thoroughly and carefully washing your hands regularly; staying home if you have a fever, cough, or other serious symptoms (especially since Town Hall’s events are often audio-recorded and/or filmed. Check here for the latest); and monitoring local news for advice about keeping yourself and loved ones safe in case of an outbreak.

If authorities issue advice to stay home or avoid non-essential activities, and/or suggest the organization should cancel events, we will prioritize the health and safety of our audiences and our employees. We will alert the entire Town Hall community through various channels immediately should a cancellation(s) arise.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.

We Did It!

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Our General Manager, Mary Cutler, floated into the office this morning, arms swaying and voice sing-song: “Today is a normal day. Let’s all pretend it’s a normal day.” It is, decidedly, not a normal day. But we echoed her feigned calm and did our best to think about anything other than what was happening across the street. Our final inspection was underway. If given the thumbs up, the building—after nearly two full seasons of renovation—would officially be ours again.

That calm pretense was traded for cheers as Mary shared the good news: we passed. As of 11:46 am today, May 16, Town Hall Seattle is no longer a construction site.

The staff raced over and (without hard hats!) entered through the freshly painted 8th Ave doors, explored stairwells, and marveled at the Reading Room’s bare but beautiful form. We gathered on the Great Hall stage to pop a bottle of champagne, toast one another and the community that made this possible—and also to really feel what’s on the horizon. Wier’s toast hit home: “Twenty years of Town Hall. And now, right now, we get to start it all again.”

Whether you’ve been with us since 1999, met us during Inside/Out, or are stumbling across this post because a friend happened to share a link: we are so incredibly glad you’re here. The future and possibilities of Town Hall have never been quite so bright, and each of us are necessary to manifesting its potential.

We mean that in the grand sense, and also in the practical. This summer is our soft launch; there’s still a lot of fine tuning ahead of us and we need your help–your presence and participation–to get it right. Please lend us your patience (and opinions!) as we grow into the new building, and we hope you’ll enjoy new details coming into place every time you visit this spring and summer (from smaller items like wayfinding signage to big things like bar service and commissioned artwork). With your help, the building will be the best version of itself in time for our big Homecoming festival this September!

Our very first event in the Great Hall is just days away (Tuesday, May 21), and we can’t imagine a more fitting debut for the room. Joshua Roman, our longtime friend and Town Music Artistic Director, will lend us his virtuosic talents in a solo cello concert. There are still a few tickets remaining, and we hope you’ll join us to help mark the moment.

Even as we celebrate the end of our own renovation, we should note: more than just Town Hall has been under construction. Our full block is in the midst of being developed. While the plaza and Ovation towers are being built, the Forum is accessible via our new at-grade West Entrance, reachable from the loading zone on Seneca street.

An Important Update About Our Renovation

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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.

Welcome to the Town Crier

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“A city’s streets to me are like the wrinkles on an old face,” wrote Margaret Bundy, the editor of Seattle’s Town Crier from 1930 to 1934. “They depict the comedy and tragedy of the life that has passed there; in short, they reflect character.” Town Hall has reflected the character of Seattle for 20 years. As a shared stage for Seattle’s cultural producers and civic groups, Town Hall is where Seattle comes together—to express our creativity, to listen and be heard, and to consider what sort of future we want to create together. And housed in a 102-year-old landmark building, we feel a deeply rooted connection to our town’s history.

That said, welcome to our new blog, the Town Crier, harkening back to our past while propelling us forward.

The original Town Crier was a weekly magazine, published between 1910 and 1938. It focused on Seattle’s news, arts, and culture. It represented a diversity of local voices, featuring artists, musicians, photographers, actors, and more, alongside reviews of local performances and discussions of local, national, and international events. The parallels to our own bustling, broad calendar are undeniable, and as we revitalize our century-old building (its set to reopen in March 2019!)—giving new life to an old name feels especially appropriate.

Town Hall strives to capture today’s voices, just as The Town Crier did a century ago, in fresh and illuminating ways. Through our blog, we’ll profile Town Hall’s speakers past and present—visionaries and thought leaders in the arts, sciences, and civics. We’ll interview Seattle’s policy makers and culture shifters. We’ll invite our community to contribute their own words and experiences. We’ll have a little fun. We’ll ask questions, and by doing so, hopefully we’ll all learn something new. Because Town Hall is a place to reflect—and inspire—our best impulses: creativity, empathy, and the belief that we all deserve a voice.

We look forward to sharing this all with you in Town Hall’s official blog, the Town Crier.

Doing It Right

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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

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

Town Hall Receives Additional $1M in 2018 Supplemental State Capital Budget

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Gov. Jay Inslee signs the supplemental state operating budget on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

Governor Inslee recently signed the 2018 Supplemental State Capital Budget, which includes $1 million for the renovation of our historic building. Town Hall is deeply grateful to the Washington state legislature for investing in this iconic building and the community it houses, and we extend particular gratitude to Representative Nicole Macri for her strong initiative and advocacy on our behalf, and to Senator Jamie Pedersen, Senator David Frockt, Representative Steve Tharinger, and Speaker of the House Frank Chopp for their support.

Town Hall Executive Director Wier Harman issued the following statement: “We consider ourselves profoundly fortunate to steward this beautiful century-old building on behalf of the community. Town Hall is far more than a place where stuff happens. It’s a collective resource, a practical piece of our region’s civic and cultural infrastructure. And critically, it’s a space where everyone is welcome—on the stage and in the audience.

The state, along with other donors, recognizes how close we are to the finish line—and when unanticipated expenses arose around seismic stabilization and hazardous materials remediation, we are so grateful to have received the support necessary to finish our project, for the benefit of the whole community.

This investment is a vote of confidence in Town Hall’s work and our ability to continue to grow alongside our region. We are proud to be a part of this community, and we look forward to welcoming our legislators—alongside the entire community—to our grand re-opening in early 2019.”

This new funding is in addition to the $1.52 million awarded to Town Hall through the state’s competitive 2017–19 Building for the Arts grant process. Construction began in August 2017 and is expected to end late 2018 for a grand re-opening early 2019.

Please consider taking a moment to thank our legislators for their advocacy and investment in Town Hall.

Rep. Nicole Macri (District 43)

Sen. Jamie Pederson (District 43)

Sen. David Frockt (District 46)

Rep. Steve Tharinger (District 24)

Rep. Frank Chopp (District 43)

Take Town Hall With You Wherever You Go

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Town Hall is always looking for ways to make our programs even more accessible—from livestreaming sold-out programs, to making our talks freely available through our media library and podcasts. With our new Digital Stage page on our website, it’s easier than ever to take Town Hall with you wherever you go!  On this page, you’ll find our In the Moment podcast, access audio and video of past events, see upcoming livestreams, and find our latest initiative: articles and interviews with upcoming speakers.

We distill our lengthy conversations with speakers down to just a few choice minutes, and that means some fun exchanges don’t make the final cut. Just for you, our Members, here are some behind-the-scenes extras from the clipping room floor, material that didn’t make it into the publicly-released version of Jonathan Shipley’s interview with lexicographer Kory Stamper:


JS: What are some interesting things to happen in a dictionary office that most of us know nothing about?

KS: There is no speaking. The work that we do is mentally intense and so it is very, very, very quiet in a dictionary office. We don’t talk to each other about lunch plans or…

Do you like each other?

(Laughs) We do like each other! But it is an office of pretty extreme introverts. We email each other and there’s a company Slack channel and all that, but during the work day the office is almost entirely silent because of the way that work is.

Another thing – most people think that if you work at a dictionary office you know everything. That, in fact, is not the case. We don’t know everything.

If that were the case you’d all be wizards on ‘Jeopardy!’ and win millions of dollars and no longer have to work at a dictionary office.

Lots of times people will ask weird questions about anything. I’ve gotten questions like, ‘What do you look for when purchasing an Alaskan Malmute?’ One of my colleagues got a question, ‘Where can I buy beans?’ People assume we know everything.

Is there a certain person at the office who handles all of these questions?

It’s different for every dictionary company. At Merriam-Webster the way we did it was there were three editors who basically took turns going through all the customer email. They’ll either answer them, forward them on to another editor to answer…

Or send it to all staff to giggle at?

It’s kind of funny because it’s so common now that it’s, ‘Whatever.’

Stay tuned to our Digital Stage for more original content, articles and interviews, and unique previews of the big ideas on their way to Town Hall’s stages!

April is National Volunteer Month

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April is National Volunteer Month, and Town Hall would \like to say thank you to everyone who has volunteered with usl.  Volunteers make our events possible, introduce new people to Town Hall, and offer invaluable support in our offices. More than 120 of you dedicate your time and efforts to help our community–thank you!

We spoke with a few of our most steadfast volunteers about their experience with Town Hall:

I learned about Town Hall shortly before moving to Seattle in January 2014 and I just knew it would be a place I would feel at home.  I love being involved with such a vibrant, vital community organization. Town Hall always makes me feel valued as a member and a volunteer. It’s my happy place.” -Wendy

I like that I can volunteer for author talks, radio shows, spelling bees, children’s concerts . . .  I can also choose to stay for the event or not, and/or leave early to catch a bus. . . Both the staff and the volunteers are interesting people, and most times I learn something from them during the shift. For the most part, people who attend events appreciate that we are volunteers and are doing our best to make sure they have a good experience.” –Sarah Horrigan

“I started volunteering when I moved here. So far it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time. I look at Town Hall as my “food” for thought. So I have dinner there a lot.” -Lucy Bauer

Thank you! If you’re interested in volunteering with Town Hall, we’re currently looking for:

  • Photographers to capture our events. Enjoy free tickets and insider access to our events, and help us document this amazing year spent Inside/Out. Interested? Contact:
  • Volunteers to table at events, helping patrons become new members, answering questions, and sharing your love for Town Hall. Interested parties should contact:

Volunteers to support our events at the box office, check-in, as well as ushering and assisting patrons. Interested parties should contact:

Distilled Tickets are on sale now!

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Inside/Out has introduced us to new community members and given us the opportunity to confront and overcome new challenges—and we’ve felt the support of you, our Members, every step of the way. Your commitment and belief in Town Hall has made it possible for us to program an experimental season while diving wholeheartedly into the exciting, new, and unfamiliar. That’s why yours are the familiar faces we’re most excited to see at this year’s Distilled fundraiser on May 18!

Distilled is Town Hall’s annual fundraiser where we boil down the essence of our organization–the empathy of an organizer, curiosity of a scientist, creativity of the artist, voice of the people–into a night of celebration and support. We’ve programmed an evening that embraces the new while capturing the soul and substance of Town Hall—a dash of civics, a splash of art, a heap of fun! Your night begins with a cocktail party at Canvas’ sleek modern event space in SODO alongside fellow Town Hall supporters and a few Seattle luminaries. Together, we’ll enjoy signature drinks from Sound Spirits, delicious hors d’oeuvres, games, and great conversation. The festivities continue with live music, a program featuring friends of Town Hall, a classic address from Executive Director Wier Harman, and a chance to raise your paddle in support of Town Hall.

Town Hall is more than a building; it’s the act of coming together. Wherever the like-minded and curious minds of our city gather to support bold ideas becomes a laboratory for brewing change. Town Hall’s magic is found in the warmth of our community and the buzz of inspired ideas. So whether we’re mingling in the Great Hall or somewhere entirely new, it’s our community and our devoted Members that comprise Town Hall’s lifeblood.

Come together for a night of cocktails, conversation, and music, and the opportunity to raise-the-paddle in support of accessible and enriching programming for all. Add your love to the mixture and help us concoct the essential night out for Town Hall!

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Thank You for Your Civic Action

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We want to extend a huge and heartfelt “THANK YOU!” to all our members, donors, and fans who supported the King County Access for All campaign this summer. While the measure didn’t quite garner enough votes, it was still encouraging to see so much passionate support and collaboration from our whole cultural community.

Below is a message from the Executive Director of Cultural Access Washington, which conveys our shared  gratitude and optimism.


Dear Supporter of Access for All,

On behalf of Cultural Access Washington, thank you again for your financial support of the Access for All campaign. As you have seen, the measure came within about 7,500 votes of passing out of more than 437,000 votes cast. It is a blow to lose, particularly by such a narrow margin.  Still, with your support, our campaign accomplished much.

Although the measure was defeated, the effort to broaden access to cultural activities is very much alive. The board of Cultural Access Washington is now at work with a task force to analyze election results and recommend a path forward which may include another run at the ballot for Access for All.

This effort started more than a decade ago. It is obviously challenging, but the benefits of passing a measure—especially one that incorporates all that has been learned through these past months—is a goal very much worth pursuing.

We will continue to keep you posted on next steps. Thank you for your strong and inspiring support. We are confident that together we will pass a program that will serve all members of this region for many years to come.

Best Regards,

James A. Kraft

Executive Director

Cultural Access Washington

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