The Mercer Island Center for the Arts will be the hub for creativity in our community.

Value of a cultural community | On Arts

By Elliot Newman

Special to the Reporter

Forty-six years ago I visited Seattle on a business trip. It was not hard to fall in love with the beauty of the mountains, lakes and awesome scenery. I visited a place called Mercer Island and knew right away that someday I wanted to live there.

Well, 10 years later my family and I made that move. We felt that the Island had many of attributes that are important to my family including a good school district, a well-respected city government and a community with a value system that aligned with ours.

Six years after our move, I was elected to the City Council and two years later I was elected mayor of Mercer Island. My main platform was to “maintain and enhance” the quality of life on the Island. It was an outstanding city to raise our family, but at that time, the character of the Island had not changed in many years.

There were many unattractive cement and asphalt parking lots (usually empty) scattered over the entire Town Center. Ugly overhead electrical lines did not help the aesthetics that many residents desired. It has taken over 20 years for economic drivers to become appropriate for businesses to invest as envisioned by the council to make the Town Center into a vibrant center for our residents.

Now it is time for another enhancement to Town Center, and a much-needed addition to our community — a central venue for all the arts on Mercer Island.

Imagine a place in or close to the Town Center where all residents, and seniors in particular, could walk or drive a short distance to enjoy various forms of entertainment without being concerned about our new traffic woes.

The multi-use facility would be a building where people of all ages could attend and participate in a variety of different art forms and social events. These could include classes, lectures, films, exhibitions and social and private gatherings. Many of our neighboring cities have constructed buildings of this sort and have successfully created venues for their residents to enjoy.

One of the most powerful ways to bring people together is through the visual and performing arts. Creativity can spark our children’s interests and help seniors stay physically and mentally active.

Performers and their audience, a guest speaker and a questioner, an author and a roomful of strangers can share a new and special relationship. Several arts organizations on the Island, including the respected Youth Theatre Northwest, lack a permanent place to hold their practices, rehearsals and performances, and therefore cannot provide the full value of these benefits to our community. The Mercer Island Center for the Arts will be the hub for creativity in our community. A place where we celebrate values that tie us together. I applaud MICA for their efforts to build a venue so that we may enjoy all forms of art. I invite you all to join me in helping this vision of an art center on the Island become a reality.

Elliot Newman served as mayor of Mercer Island for two terms.