Seattle City of Literature manages public and private partnerships, both within our city and abroad, to grow and promote a robust creative economy.
Long before there was a City of Seattle, there was a ten-thousand year history of story-telling among the native peoples who lived on the shores of the Salish Sea. Over the centuries, newcomers to the Pacific Northwest have brought their own stories, as well—from Europe, from Asia, from Africa, from Central and South America and from all fifty states—making Seattle what it is today: a city of stories and storytellers. A city that values the power of words to capture the imagination, present multiple points of view, and change lives. In short, a City of Literature.
In 2004, UNESCO launched its Creative Cities Network with the aim of “fostering international cooperation between cities committed to investing in creativity as a driver for sustainable urban development, social inclusion and enhanced influence of culture in the world.” The network covers seven thematic areas: Craft and Folk Arts, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts, and Music. In 2013, a group of citizens came together to organize the nonprofit Seattle City of Literature, a city-wide effort to gain UNESCO’s designation as a City of Literature.
We sought this designation for many reasons: because we believe that literature and literacy are bedrocks of a well-educated citizenry. Because we believe that a strong and sustainable creative economy is essential to the continued growth, stability and resilience of our city. Because by raising the profile of literature in Seattle, we benefit all of the arts. But above all, because we share UNESCO’s belief that “political and economic agreements are not enough to build a lasting peace between nations—that peace must be established on the basis of humanity’s moral and intellectual solidarity.”
In the spirit of UNESCO’s mission to promulgate peace and understanding among all people, the organization Seattle City of Literature affirms the following values in our practice:
• Education at all levels, abilities and ages is of paramount importance to our every effort;
• Freedom of expression is fundamental to the creation of literature. We especially champion expressions of those who are culturally marginalized or otherwise voiceless;
• The Creative Economy recognizes that writers and all artists be compensated fairly for their work, and that the arts are a vital economic engine for our city;
• Pursuing cooperation and collaboration among individuals, organizations, and other Creative Cities strengthens existing ties and creates opportunities for all;
• Community is the bedrock of everything we do. We value the Seattle literary community especially, including existing programs which we hope to support however possible.
We also value your support for our efforts, and are always available to hear your thoughts at www.seattlecityofliterature.org.
What We Do
Founded in 2013 to manage Seattle's bid to join UNESCO's Creative Cities Network, Seattle City of Literature is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving our city's literary community by connecting it to the world.
Seattle is regularly ranked one of America's most literate cities. Our many literary treasures include thriving independent bookstores, generously funded public libraries, literary arts nonprofits and writing programs that serve diverse communities, publishers and small presses, professional organizations, readers, and writers.
After a successful application in 2017, Seattle was designated a UNESCO City of Literature. This designation will mean even more opportunities for Seattle's literary community—it will enable creative exchanges and collaborations, encourage cultural tourism, and establish our city as a place where a writer working in any language in the world can find passionate readers.