[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by verified resident(s). It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of South King Media, nor its staff:]

Linda Akey Flynn’s Letter to the Editor, September 9, 2022 challenged us to state our utopian vision of Burien and how it can become a reality.

We agree with Linda Akey (Flynn)’s vision that Burien can become a community where even its unhoused residents are housed, and those with mental health issues and drug addiction will be treated. Burien can be a city that cares for all its residents, including those that live on Burien’s streets, public spaces, and open areas, and that Burien can be a place where every resident feels safe and secure, where businesses can operate without dealing with broken glass, graffiti, feces on their doorsteps, dangerous threats, and stolen merchandise. Burien can be a place where businesses and residents can feel safe walking on clean streets and living without fear of their cars being broken into or stolen, and homes and property are safe from thieves, and no fear of bodily harm.

But how do we get there? Part of the answer is becoming “Ashland South of Seattle.”

LETTER: BAT Theatre Directors share their utopian vision of Burien 1

Becoming Ashland with its multiple indoor and outdoor performing arts venues and charming hotels may be a reach that takes years to fully develop. Adding arts events and the related arts tourist dollars to Burien is part of why many members of Burien Creative District planning committee, including BAT, worked for years to obtain the Burien Arts and Culture Designation from the State of Washington.

Arts activities have countless benefits for a community. They bring people together, are relatively non-polluting, and much more. But let’s focus on arts events’ ability to lower crime rates and dramatically increase spending in the community so that the City can have the needed funds to take care of the unhoused and those challenged with untreated mental health issues.

Countless studies show arts tourists spend significant money in the community that presents arts activities. Money is spent on things like meals and drinks before and after the event. (Unlike sporting events that typically offer food at the venue, arts events tend to just offer snacks at the venue.) Plus, arts tourists shop before and after the event and spend money on other tourist-related activities that surround attending an arts event.

We know from a University of Washington study on BAT’s economic impact on the City of Burien done in 2017 that BAT’s small 96-house brought an additional $141,000 into the city – not counting what was spent at the theater. That study looked at the economic impact of just 16 weekends of shows a year. Adjusted for inflation, as seen in recent studies from locations like Tacoma, Washington, today, that impact would be about $200,000 of increased spending in the City. Of course, that venue is now gone.

Taking lessons learned, BAT launched a 10-year plan to build a 200-300-seat performing and visual arts venue somewhere in South King County. Initial work shows that such a venue with performances 25 weekends a year and limited activities during the week would add at least $1.2 million of arts tourist dollars to its local community, not counting what is spent at the venue itself. Whether or not that venue is built, we have learned much about the positive economic impacts such a venue has on a community.

Studies also show that an increased number of people out and about in the community before and after an arts event reduces crime in the community. Since many arts events occur in the late afternoon and evening, often not ending until after 10 p.m., the positive impact the presence of arts tourists has on reducing crime is felt at the time of day when many stores are closed, but restaurants and dessert bars remain open.

Our utopian vision has the City of Burien working with artists to bring arts tourists into Burien. This can be through things like yoga and tia chi in the city parks, pop-up art galleries, encouraging buskers and street performers, and scheduling small classical, zydeco, klezmer, mariachi, blues, and other music events in Town Square Park throughout the Summer. (Of course, keeping a date open for BAT’s touring Summer parks show.) The addition of one or more arts venues sized to be affordable and used for small to medium arts events would be a boon, but there is no reason to wait for that to make Burien an arts tourist destination.

With the increased revenue and reduced crime that arts tourism would bring to Burien, the utopian vision Linda Akey (Flynn) set out becomes very attainable.

Maggie Larrick – BAT Theatre’s Managing Director
Eric Dickman – BAT Theatre’s Artistic Director

EDITOR’S NOTE: Do you have something you’d like to share with our highly engaged local Readers? If so, please email your Letter to the Editor to [email protected] and, pending review and verification that you’re a real human being, we may publish it. Letter writers must use their full names and cite sources – as well as provide an address and phone number (NOT for publication but for verification purposes).