Arts Foundation can make a cultural difference in Federal Way | Livingston

Every community has its own culture, but not all communities are cultured. The Arts Foundation Federal Way, formerly known as the Federal Way Performing Arts Foundation, is positioning itself as a purveyor of improving culture within Federal Way.

Federal Way has struggled for years with its identity and how it wants to be perceived and known by its residents as well as the region. Our mayor and council have lots of notions, and have made some investments, but have never coalesced on a clear-eyed approach to creating a city that has destination value and common purpose.

Why not the arts?

City leadership often gets trapped in misunderstanding the best utilization of resources. Politicians grease the squeaky wheels, but often don’t realize that those who are squeaking are not motivated by community building. Locally, the common focus is fear, based on crime, the current plight of homelessness, or the problems created by about five percent of our community’s population.

The five percent echelon of problem creators generally consumes the majority of a community’s efforts, often preventing any community from properly investing in programs to build a city with a recognizable purpose and desired destination address for business, pleasure and life. The question we need to be hearing at city council and school board meetings as well as throughout the community: “How can we make better use of arts and humanities in building a valued community?”

The pace of change in our society is never-ending. However, while living in a world that is more connected than ever, we are not connecting well with one another due to isolating social media algorithms. Getting people off social media screens, or out of their home television theaters, requires embracing arts and humanities — and making human contact fun.

The energy of live performance, being visually engaged with a multifaceted art show, and hearing a young talent read their poetry or perform their music only gets better with community participation and support. Homegrown talent rewards a community. Iam Tongi, from Federal Way, won “American Idol” and has been embraced as a local hero. The arts have star power, but first, talent has to be nurtured, seen and supported.

That is where the efforts of the Arts Foundation Federal Way come into focus. Their mission is to enhance people’s lives by improving access to the arts — music, dance, literature, poetry, visual expression and theater — through education in schools, adult education opportunities, live performances, community events, and advocacy, by supporting artistic endeavors that maximize public awareness and participation in the arts.

While their name has changed, they have been a part of making a difference in the community for many years, as promoters of getting the Performing Arts and Events Center (PAEC) built, and since it opened underwriting multiple ARTS 4 Youth events, which so far has brought about 8,000 students to the PAEC for live performances.

They have also promoted several holiday movie events, and this year they were one of several sponsors for the Arts Commission’s “Arts Explosion,” which was a three-day celebration of visual arts and local artists.

Their efforts at making a cultural difference in Federal Way are continuing to grow. Currently, they are preparing to host their annual fundraising gala at the PAEC. This year’s gala is designed to be more accessible, genuinely exciting, and a people-friendly evening.

If you can, plan to attend “Enchante’: Celebration of the Arts” on Saturday, Oct. 14, at the PAEC. The evening will entail a festive reception at the PAEC, featuring a variety of hors d’oeuvres, hosted soft drinks, and a wine, beer and Prosecco bar as well as plenty of opportunities to donate to the Foundation.

The social part of the gala will be followed by a performance of “Forbidden Broadway: The Second Generation.” The $100 admission to the event includes the pre-show reception and a ticket to the show. As attendees, you are investing in arts education and strengthening Federal Way’s art community.

Some people question why we should invest in supporting the arts and arts education. Simple — the arts improve academic performance, spark creativity and innovation, unify communities, enhance the local economy, and when embraced improve community value as well as individual well-being.

Participating in the arts as a student or an adult allows us to enter a world of creativity and continue learning life skills. Painting and color theory have more in common with science and physics than most people appreciate. The creation of a sculpture requires learning construction techniques as well as solving a few engineering problems along the way.

Music and mathematics combine the challenges of learning counting, rhythm, scales, patterns, symbols and signatures, and those skills align with learning coding in the information technology world as well as other languages. Theater is storytelling at its finest and translates to communication, marketing and confidence in public speaking. Those who excel at poetry and literature generally do well in multiple fields that require communication, creativity, empathy and language skills.

The arts entertain, and artistic skills gained at any age touch upon all aspects of being human. They teach us to see and think for ourselves. The arts provide a process for learning how to deal with the abstract as well as a path forward for gaining interchangeable skills. Not everyone will have the talent to be in a Broadway show, play their instrument at Carnegie Hall, or have their art in a museum. But it is not always about talent. It is about community and deepening human connections with a focus on learning to communicate and build relationships.

Communication and understanding are the heart and soul of the human experience, and the arts and humanities teach us to see, listen, experience, feel, have empathy, appreciate one another’s skills, and find personal integrity as we navigate the world. We become better questioners, students of life, able to think independently and solve problems by seeing alternative possibilities.

The Arts Foundation Federal Way is striving to build a brighter and more cultured future for Federal Way as it invests in education, facilitates art development, supports arts organizations, and advocates for greater investment in the arts and humanities.

Keith Livingston is a retired municipal management professional, lifelong artist and Federal Way resident. He can be reached at