Tuesday, December 11, 2018

New home | Seattle Opera staff shares our joy

Seattle Opera's new civic home, the Opera Center, kicks off with a Grand Opening on Dec. 15.

At long last, Seattle Opera's dream is being realized: the company will soon move into its new civic home on the Seattle Center campus.  

"Our new building is beautiful, magical, welcoming, larger-than-life, and world-classjust like what Seattle Opera aspires to be," said Dominica Myers, Associate Director of Administration. "Our new workplace will now reflect our company and art form."

Dominica's words echo the feeling in our hearts at Seattle Opera. We, members of the staff, wanted to share why this building matters so much to us. We invite you to come explore it for yourself on Dec. 15 at our Grand Opening

A joyous photo from the Groundbreaking Ceremony for our new building: Head of Coach Accompanists David McDade gets in on the ceremonial shoveling with cheers from members of the Seattle Opera Chorus. June 21, 2017. Jacob Lucas photo
"This new building gives us a ‘physical’ presence. When our offices were located in South Lake Union, much of the public wasn't aware of where our day-to-day operations were happening. So I think this new space will bring stronger ties to the community and to our performance space. Also, I think the physical closeness of the building to McCaw Hall will impact the administrative staff; getting to witness the process of putting on a show will be more accessible and bring a stronger sense of purpose to our daily work, which at times feels removed from the art."
- Erika Norris, Web Producer

"The transparency and inviting nature of our new home will bring the public closer to understanding opera more than ever before. The viewing garden and windows into the operations of our organization will allow the curtain to be lifted from the tremendous work that is done at every stage of our organization. We all have known what it takes to put on productions of this scale, and now everyone can get a glimpse into that daily life."
- Greg Schell, Ticket Operations Manager

Tagney Jones Hall, a glass box performance space for educational and community events that seats 200. Sean Airhart photo

"We’ll have space to invite the public into our home to host everything from lectures on sixteenth-century operas to forums that address where opera fits into the larger landscape of racial equity and social justice in the arts. We’ll have lots of windows to see outside of ourselves, to find contentment in a simple ray of sunshine, a bit of seasonal rain, or a stranger on the street. And more importantly, that stranger on the street will be able to see us. And maybe when they do, they won’t feel quite so much a stranger when they are able to look in and see what it is that we do, and who we are. I’m most excited to shift the narrative about who we are as a company, and about what opera can mean to a city like ours. I think our new building is a true game changer in making that dream possible." - Dominica Myers, Associate Director of Administration

"Long story short: My personal/special tie to the new building is my dad used to play hockey in the old Mercer Arena and was one of my biggest supporters as I studied opera. With his passing coming up on a year and half, it feels like he is passing the baton off to me as a force for good in the community. My dad sought to bring people together through team sports. I hope to help bring people together through opera."
-  Debra McKinney, Group Sales Coordinator

Seattle Opera's new civic home will amplify its visibility in the community, and the work of community programs and partnerships, an example being this collaboration with Gallery Onyx during Porgy and Bess. Pictured: Jermaine Smith (Sportin' Life) and Kevin Short (Porgy) with General Director Aidan Lang. Sunni Martini photo
"I am personally excited for better bike facilities, and more window light in the office spaces. Everything about the new space will do a better job of supporting the well-being of staff, which might reduce some stress ... Finally, I can’t wait for a welcoming, safe, accessible and well-equipped space to do more performances, in addition to the mainstage shows. That will contribute so much to what Lower Queen Anne has to offer, which is already a center of gravity for the arts in Seattle."
Lindsey O'Connor, Accounts Payable/Accounts Receivable Associate  

"I am excited about moving to the Seattle Center campus to have a location that showcases the operatic art form to the public every day, in every phase of an opera’s production, not just the practiced and polished parts seen at McCaw Hall ... Our potential audience members need more entry points, more inspiring and captivating engagement opportunities. In an era where it is ever-easier to access arts and entertainment via your living room, we must give people reasons to join the opera family."
- Jane Repensek, Chief Operating Officer/Chief Financial Officer 

Seattle Opera's new civic home can also serve as a spot for events similar to "API Arts Leaders Respond to Madame Butterfly" which addressed issues of yellowface, cultural appropriation, and whitewashing in art and entertainment or Breaking Glass, which centered Black perspectives on racial justice and opera. Pictured: Dancer Angel Alviar-Langley. Jacob Lucas photo 
"In our South Lake Union offices, my library was split into three musty locations. As the company's librarian, I have been Macgyvering my way through floods, weird binding glues, and busted hard drives for four years ... I had no idea how I was going to turn chewed-up paper boxes and VHS tapes into a working resource center. And yet. I amassed an army of interns and cataloged almost everything, made circulation possible (but not extremely frequent, due to the aforementioned three musty locations), digitized, preserved, described, and grew Seattle Opera's archives from a shelf of VHSs to incorporate images, sound, and documents, as well. I did this all because when we moved into our mythical new building, I wanted the collection to be worthy of it ...

Both passersby and people walking around inside the first floor will have a birds-eye view of Seattle Opera's celebrated costume shop. Sean Airhart photo.  
...In the beautiful new space, I hope to build a more equitable collection—to actively collect more books about race and gender in opera and theater. And by doing so, to make sure that when people come into my library no matter what they think about opera, they leave having read the voices of people who genuinely believe that this art form matters and can be a force for social justice as well as artistic.


- Emily Cabaniss, Music Assistant/Company Librarian

Seattle Opera librarian Emily Cabaniss works among music scores and books — and every six weeks, oils the company’s Wagner tubas. “I feel like opera stories get away with stuff that television could never get away with,” Cabaniss says of her love for the art form. Steve Ringman photo, The Seattle Times
"Some reasons why I'm excited to move into our new Civic Home:
-  Fully joining the Seattle Center Resident Organization Familyright now with our part-time tenancy at McCaw Hall, we feel more like extended family or first cousins. It will be nice to be a part of Seattle Center all the time.

- Being in a neighborhood known for culture, vibrancy, communal gathering, and character.

- Having more than one toilet.

- Having an office floor plan more conducive to walking/activity/fitness.

- Having an easier time telling vendors and customers how to find us.

- Having an ADA box office and front entry.

- An integrated operations center will bring together the entire company (i.e. employees from all departments). Working more closely together as a holistic group will allow everyone at every level to take more ownership/pride in everything we do."

- Ed Hawkins, Marketing Manager/Copywriter

Sean Airhart photo.
"In many ways, the Seattle we have today is not the weird, artistic, grungy Seattle where I grew up. Some changes have taken our community in completely new directions. But I believe this particular new construction will preserve and enrich the city's culture. Here on the Seattle Center campus, where I spent summers as a rebellious teenager at Bumbershoot, winters being filled with wonder at PNB's Nutcracker and where, as a young kid, my creativity was sparked by Seattle Children's Theater and Seattle Children's Museum, (special places I now take my toddler), I can still feel the heart and soul of the same Seattle that made me. For this reason, and reasons my colleagues have eloquently expressed, I am going to enjoy working here so much. But the bottom line is, opera, like these different treasures on the Seattle Center campus, exists for all of us. The new building embodies that spirit of love and welcome."
- Gabrielle Nomura Gainor, Communications & Public Engagement Manager 

In the future, Seattle Opera's new civic home could serve as a theater location for chamber operas, which, in the past have included As One, a transgender story, (above) and O+E, which depicts the classic Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice through an all-women creative team and principal singers. Top: Taylor Raven and Jorell Williams as Hannah before and Hannah after, respectively. Rozarii Lynch photo. Bottom: Magda-Sophia Gartner (O) and Tess Altiveros (E). Philip Newton photo 

"Our new building symbolizes who we are NOW. Much has changed since an ambitious but tight-fisted 'scrappy underdog' arts organization rented an old warehouse in a less-than-glamorous neighborhood. The role opera plays in our community has evolved. Seattle Opera used to be a status symbol for a municipality that had aspirations to be a major world city, but wasn’t quite there yet; the idea was, if people associated Seattle with ‘world-class opera’ (whatever that may be), movers and shakers from other cities would start to take Seattle seriously.

Today, Seattle is one of the world’s most important cities, and we certainly don’t need a fancy opera company to prove that point. What we need is an arts sector dedicated to bringing together people who might otherwise never meet, giving us all opportunities to LISTEN, and to celebrate our shared humanity. The new building will make that a palpable reality."

- Jonathan Dean, Dramaturg

Photo of a Seattle Opera SummerFest event by Philip Newton.