Joshua Heim

Joshua Heim

New arts administrator wants to turn Redmond into an art town

As a native of Hawaii, Joshua Heim's introduction to the arts came in the form of performing with hula as well as theater.

As a native of Hawaii, Joshua Heim’s introduction to the arts came in the form of performing with hula as well as theater.

Since then, he has branched out and gotten involved in visual and fine arts working at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District.

Now the City of Redmond‘s new arts administrator, who spoke at the Redmond Senior Center‘s (RSC) First Friday Coffee Chat last Friday, is working to see how art can serve in civic dialog and create change within the community.

“I fundamentally believe that art is about change,” Heim told his chat audience.

And changes in Redmond are what brought him to the city.

Heim, who currently lives in West Seattle but will soon move to the Eastside, said one of the first questions he asks while on the job is, “Who is (my art) audience?”

Heim said the city used to be mostly made up of a traditional audience: local residents who are native to the region.

Now, Redmond’s demographic makeup is much different. About 40 percent of Redmond residents were born outside of the state and about a quarter were foreign born, Heim said. Additionally, Redmond’s population has shifted from families and seniors whose children have left home, to a younger crowd in the 25 to 45 age range. Finally, Heim said the city has also become more culturally diverse as the population is now about 25 percent Asian or Asian American, according to the 2010 Census.

It is Heim’s job to find art that will appeal to all of these different groups.

“(Redmond and the Eastside are) far more diverse than Seattle is,” he said.

Heim told chat attendees that art reflects all types of change within a community. In addition to the demographic changes, Redmond has also shifted from a rural community to more urban and Heim said some of the local public art reflects this. One example he gave was a frosted glass piece in the City of Redmond’s parking garage. The piece, “Two Rivers” represents the Sammamish River’s course before it was straightened by engineers.

Heim said he is also working on ways to make art more visible and accessible in Redmond. During last week’s coffee chat, attendees made suggestions on how to do this including displaying artwork in empty storefronts, an art walk, a self-guided walking tour of local art pieces, interactive pieces and putting art in high-visibility areas such as along roadways where people get stuck in traffic.

While people made suggestions, Heim took note.

In an effort to encourage more art and raise arts awareness in Redmond, Heim said the city will have its first-ever public arts season — TAKE ROOT, BRANCH OUT — which will launch with the city’s Redmond Lights event in December and run thought May 2012.

With the city’s centennial next year, Heim said the arts season theme was conceived to reflect Redmond’s pioneering spirit and how that has changed throughout the years. The theme is also a prompt to get people thinking about what this pioneering spirit would look like in the future.

Heim said his short-term vision for art in Redmond is to get people to view the whole city as a venue and opportunity to be creative and ask, “What does it mean to use the whole town as a venue?”

Heim’s long-term vision for Redmond is to have people see Redmond as an art town.

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