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Arts and Civic Policy-Not Such Strange Bedfellows

In episode 08, Vivian and Marcie talk with Tracey Wickersham, Director of Cultural Tourism for Visit Seattle, and University of Washington Assistant Professor of Theatre History and Performance Studies, Jasmine Mahmoud about where arts and culture intersect with public policy, and why both public officials and the general public should care. Arts and cultural offerings have been touchstones for millions of people around the world during the long Covid-19 pandemic. As cultural institutions slowly reopen their doors to live audiences, they have a critical role to play in economic recovery efforts. But all too often, political leaders discount or entirely overlook the role the cultural sector plays in creating and maintaining civic vitality.

"We think a politician wants to hear about test scores. But maybe they just want to hear their community has a sense of belonging."-- Jasmine Mahmoud
"One of the ways we keep people from being cynical or disenchanted or divested from caring about this community is we find ways to really ground them in their humanity. And I don't think there's a better way of doing that than the arts." --Tracey Wickersham

Jasmine Mahmoud Tracey Wickersham by Jean-Marcus Strole


Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud is a curator, arts advocate, and historian of art and performance. She is Assistant Professor of Theatre History and Performance Studies at the School of Washington with an affiliate appointment in Art History. Her research and teaching engage performance studies, theater history, Black aesthetics, visual culture, aesthetic experimentation, race, feminist and queer of color critique, cultural policy, urbanism, and geography. She previously was faculty Seattle University, where she taught classes including “Public Policy and Advocacy in the Arts,” and “Black Lives Matter: Art Leadership, Theory, and Practice,” and at Washington University in St. Louis, where her courses included “Urban Ethnography in St. Louis.”

An essayist, scholar, and arts journalist, her writing and interviews appear in Modern Drama, Performance Research, TDR: The Drama Review, Women & Performance, as well as in Art Forum, ASAP/J Online, Canadian Art Review, Common Reader, Howlround, Hyperallergic, LitHub, and the South Seattle Emerald, where she writes regularly writes articles centering BIPOC artists. In 2019, along with graduate students in her “Public Policy and Advocacy in the Arts” class, she founded the Seattle Arts Voter Guide. Committed to arts advocacy, she currently serves as a Governor Inslee appointed Washington State Arts Commissioner and Vice President of the Board of On the Boards.


Tracey Wickersham is the Senior Director of Cultural Tourism for Visit Seattle, the official Destination Marketing Organization Seattle, and King County. Her charge is to promote the region as a premier destination for arts, heritage, and culture. She connects the city’s arts and heritage community and the tourism industry and develops and leads cultural tourism marketing strategies and programs. Her 25 years of arts marketing, arts administration, and tourism marketing experience include serving as the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for The 5th Avenue Theatre, one of the nation’s largest subscription-based theatre companies, where she was the original marketing director for the hit pre-Broadway musical Hairspray. Previously, as the Cultural Programs Manager for the City of Kent, she directed comprehensive municipal cultural programs including festivals, professional performing arts events, the 2% for public art program, community grants, and extensive arts education programs. Tracey graduated cum laude in International Studies/French and Communications/Theatre Arts from the University of Puget Sound, and completed post-graduate work at L’Institut d’Etudes Francaises de Touraine, in Tours, France. In December 2019, she completed six years on the Board of Directors for 4Culture, King County’s cultural service and funding agency. She has served as Co-Chair of the national Cultural & Heritage Tourism Alliance, on numerous local arts and cultural marketing committees, and dedicated eight years of service to the Board of Directors of Plymouth Housing, an award-winning nonprofit developer of housing for homeless adults. In her free time, Tracey has cohosted a weekly music program on KBCS 91.3 FM for more than 25 years.

About Visit Seattle

Visit Seattle has served as the official destination marketing organization (DMO) for Seattle and King County for more than 50 years. A 501(c)(6) organization, Visit Seattle enhances the economic prosperity of the region through global destination branding along with competitive programs and campaigns in leisure travel marketing, convention sales, and overseas tourism development. More than 40 million annual visitors spend $7.9 billion in the city and county each year. The economic power of travel and tourism generates more than 78,000 Seattle area jobs and contributes $806 million in annual state and local tax revenue. Find us online at


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