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Tacoma Creates, Because Tacoma Considers

A city branded by art’s impact

Back last December, we were on the hunt for new work and digging deep into the furthest corners of the web, we struck gold. Being a young studio at that point, requests for proposals weren’t being dropped in our lap, so we scoured blogs, public listings and everywhere in between, looking for opportunities with organizations aligned with our own perspective and values.

We had extensively discussed, as well as written about, the impact we believe the arts have on society and how that theme far too often is dismissed. It’s considered either an after-thought, or at best merely a tool to create aesthetic value for people who don’t share those same thoughts and ideals. This, despite the enormous amount of research and data that speaks to the extraordinarily positive economic impact that the arts have across countless sectors.

We had long felt a responsibility to help raise the message of the arts’ importance, especially for our prospective clients, but had yet to find many opportunities to put that message to the test. Then, we hit pay dirt. We found an RFP from a performing arts organization in Tacoma, Washington named the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts. After reading through the document and doing some research, it quickly became clear that Broadway Center’s passion about the importance and impact that the arts creates for communities aligned with ours.

As a small studio across the country from Tacoma, with no performing arts organizations represented in our portfolio, we knew we were a long shot. Nevertheless, we sent Broadway Center a proposal highlighting our deep understanding of the ideas they were trying to communicate. And we won the job.

Once the work began and our understanding of the organization grew through further research, and conversations with its leaders, employees and stakeholders — including Tacoma community members — it was clear both we and our client were on the right track. For instance, we learned about Tacoma Creates, an initiative and campaign to support the youth, neighborhoods and businesses of Tacoma through arts, culture, science and heritage programs. The effort was developed with the support of a large partnership of organizations and people in Tacoma that included Broadway Center.

The focus of Tacoma Creates was to get a proposition on the recent election ballot that asked Tacomans to increase their sales tax by .01% in order to fund an initiative which would give the city better access to arts, science and heritage programs. The result: Not only did the proposition make the ballot, on Election Day it passed overwhelmingly. Thanks to voters’ 65% support of the proposition, the state of Washington’s first cultural access program was established.

Not surprisingly, we were proud and delighted to learn the news. Through our work with Broadway Center (now Tacoma Arts Live, see case study), we have come to deeply appreciate the city of Tacoma. It clearly understands that the vitality of a city does not happen through the growth of isolated sectors but through the interconnectedness of culture and industry.

The point of view of Tacomans very much shaped our approach to the work we did for Tacoma Arts Live, including the development of the organization’s new name and identity. Better yet, the successful passage of Tacoma Creates happened just six days after Tacoma Arts Live revealed its new brand to the world, underscoring the vitality of Tacoma and establishing the city as a hub of creative access for all.

Executive Director of Tacoma Arts Live and Co-Chair of Tacoma Creates, David Fischer with Mayor of Tacoma, Victoria Woodards

David Fischer, Executive Director of Tacoma Arts Live and Co-Chair of Tacoma Creates, speaks of the role that the city’s arts organizations play as “part of Tacoma’s success structure, part of the city’s brand.” The passage of Tacoma Creates and Tacoma Arts Live’s new brand reflect the latter’s revitalized mission of energizing community through live performance. This can only further amplify and tighten that success structure and brand for Tacoma. A city’s identity is truly only a reflection of the people, organizations and practices that shape it.

And when it comes to Tacoma, the brand is strong.

This post was written by ThoughtMatter Strategist Dylan Stiga. ThoughtMatter is a creative branding, design and strategy studio in New York City’s Flatiron District. Find us on Twitter.



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