Stranger: Can the Arts Address Seattle's Homelessness Crisis in a Meaningful Way? Seattle Symphony Is Trying

Stranger: Can the Arts Address Seattle's Homelessness Crisis in a Meaningful Way? Seattle Symphony Is Trying
Originally published in The Stranger.

A
t last count, about 3,000 people sleep on the streets of Seattle every night. Thousands more live in transitional or insecure housing, while others couch surf or sleep in cars. Anyone with two eyes, a heart, and a view of a tent city wants to do something about our housing crisis, which only grows more vexing considering the growing list of national crises demanding urgent attention with every passing hour of Trump's reign of terror.

And yet, no one seems to know what to actually do about it. The problem's magnitude and complexity have troubled every group that has tried to deal with it: city government, private relief charities, concerned citizens, and even arts organizations.

Local arts groups dealing with homelessness as a subject or a source of activism meet the dilemmas that always attend the task of simultaneously doing social good and putting butts in seats. But they also face a paradox particular to Seattle. Our progressive zeal leads us to demand of any major institution: "What are the arts doing to address homelessness?"

Our contrarian skepticism then leads to the follow-up question: "What can the arts do about homelessness?" Bore people to death with a Berlioz concerto? Photograph their prostration? Exploit them for grant money in a woke af marketing campaign? People who don't have housing need housing, not music appreciation classes.

But complex problems require creative action.

This week, the largest arts organization in Washington State builds on an ambitious program that seeks to answer both of these contradictory questions, while also extending its aesthetic commitment. Enter the Seattle Symphony's "Simple Gifts" initiative.

You can read the full story in The Stranger.‚Äč
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