In a typical year, June marks the end of our season. Same thing in 2021— but truly nothing else about the past year+ has been typical. Since last March we’ve produced over 250 events, only a -handful in our actual home; over 100,000 viewers tuned in to our digital stage, from Ballard and Boston, from London and Lake City. Some of the coolest events were only possible because of this remote approach, like dream discussions pairing authors from across the country with interviewers around the world (Elizabeth Lesser and Jane Fonda, Steve Davis and Chelsea Clinton, Kehinde Andrews and Russell Brand, J Mascis and Richard Thompson). Amid the darkness of the pandemic it felt like a small gift simply to do (a version of) what we do: connecting authors, ideas, artists and activists with curious, engaged Seattleites.
Last year also allowed for exciting growth close to home, through new relationships, initiatives and clear focus on our equity goals. We fostered deeper collaborations with partners like Northwest African American Museum and Urban Native Education Alliance, found new partnerships with organizations like Young Women Empowered and YouthShallLead, launched a brand new ticketing and donation system called my.THS, and hosted three remote artist residencies, with Hailey Tayathy, Joshua Roman, and Timothy White Eagle.
All good—even great—stuff. But all that gratitude aside, we also confess we’re weary of screens, and eager for the chance to be our truest Town Hall self, by offering shoulder to shoulder, face to face experiences in our building. (Remember that place?)
It’ll take a while to tidy up and air out the joint so plan on a customarily light summer, and a return to new normalcy in September. As we finalize work on our building flow, safety modifications, and “front-of-house” protocols, we’re aligning our approach with the latest guidance from King County Public Health and our colleagues in the regional cultural sector.
Meanwhile, in nearly every conversation we’re asked, “How is Town Hall doing financially?” Like most organizations the pandemic required creativity, and difficult choices. To survive the last 14 months, we weathered two separate staff-wide furloughs, cut three full-time positions, enacted significant pay and hour cuts on leadership, and laid off nearly all of our event staff. Together these measures reduced the budget by about 35%—but they kept the majority of our administrative staff intact. Combine this strategy with humbling generosity from our individual, foundation and corporate supporters, and sustaining commitments from our membership, and we’re in a strong position to ramp up to full operations in September.
It was emotional to have only six months back in the renovated building before shutting our doors. Soon, just over two months, we’ll throw them wide and welcome you back into Town Hall. You can expect a blended program this fall, featuring in-person and livestream attendance at a mixed calendar of programs originating from both 8th and Seneca and the world beyond. Until then, revisit the media library to catch something extraordinary you might have missed—and take five minutes to create your account on our new ticketing system my.THS.
Town Hall belongs to all of us, and we can’t wait to invite you back home…
PS: We’re Taking a Summer Break! The Town Hall administrative offices will be closed from July 2 – July 11.