Washington State Arts Commission 2022-2027 Strategic Plan

ArtsWA’s 2022-2027 Strategic Plan

This five-year plan reflects the needs and ambitions of ArtsWA and its constituents.

It builds on the spirit of the last strategic plan while recognizing changes in both the agency and Washington State. In short, it is ArtsWA’s roadmap, guiding the course of action the agency will take for the next half decade.

Scroll down to read the plan, or click the link below to view the plan as a downloadable PDF.

Barbara Earl Thomas at the 2016 Governor’s Arts & Heritage Awards. Thomas was an Individual Artist Award honoree. Photo courtesy of Eva Blanchard Photography.

Aspirational framework & goals


ArtsWA sees the challenges and growing complexity of the modern world. The agency is determined to be responsive to structural inequities and the pandemic’s ongoing impact.

ArtsWA staff formed an aspirational framework to guide their work for the next five years. The goals and strategies include input from the Board of Commissioners and constituent surveys. The framework guides the agency toward increased funding, improved constituent services, and effective organizational systems.

The four identified aspirational areas are:

  • Equity
  • Impact
  • Practice
  • Programs
Washington’s new PEAR (Pro-Equity Anti-Racist) Initiative is built directly into this plan. Governor Inslee’s Executive Order states that the “PEAR Plan & Playbook is designed to bridge opportunity gaps and reduces disparities so everyone in Washington flourishes and achieves their full potential.” These values and ambitions are at the core of ArtsWA’s work. Goals and strategies that directly align with PEAR are noted throughout the plan with a 🟢 symbol.

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Embody a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion that serves all Washingtonians.

Equity is a primary value of the agency. In ArtsWA’s previous strategic plan, equity was the crosscutting objective. It underpinned the plan’s goals and objectives. It was the lens the agency used to make decisions about program activities.

For this plan, ArtsWA sought to deepen its focus on equity. The agency has kept equity as a lens to inform agency decision making. It will now shift those efforts on equity into clearly actionable goals and achievable outcomes.

As a state agency, ArtsWA can increase fairness and justice for Washingtonians in meaningful ways. The goals listed under “Equity” are concrete steps ArtsWA will take to support and reflect the diversity of Washington State while providing equitable access to the arts for as many people as possible.

Goal:  Represent all Washingtonians in our Staff & Programming.

  • 🟢 Hire and retain diverse staff to form a workforce that reflects the state’s demographics.
  • 🟢 Include people from diverse backgrounds on all panels and committees.
  • 🟢 Reflect Washington’s diverse communities in the State Art Collection.

Goal: Deepen Relationships with Tribes.

  • 🟢 Hire a tribal / indigenous communities liaison.
  • 🟢 Grow opportunities for tribal engagement in Heritage Arts and other agency programs.
  • 🟢 Expand tribal engagement through programs.
  • 🟢 Develop a framework to work with tribal governments on State Art Collection re-siting, loans, and acquisitions.
  • 🟢 Support Native military Veterans and Native military-connected populations that engage in arts and creative programs.

Goal: Engage Diverse Communities in the Creative Economy.

  • 🟢 Support diversity among ArtsWA vendors, contractors, and artists.
  • 🟢 Build and refine cross-program methods to track and grow vendor diversity.
  • 🟢 Make outreach and engagement plans.
  • 🟢 Work with Department of Enterprise Services to make sure that ArtsWA’s purchasing follows procedures designed to include diverse providers.
  • 🟢 Develop systems to track compliance with vendor diversity policies.
  • 🟢 Find additional funding for the Center for Washington Cultural Traditions to expand its capacity and impact.
  • 🟢 Create a Language Access Plan that aligns with best practices for state agencies.
  • 🟢 Strengthen and grow participation in the Creative Economy.

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Dancers from the Asia Pacific Cultural Center perform at the 2016 Governor’s Arts & Heritage Awards. Asia Pacific Cultural Center was a Heritage Organization Award honoree. Photo courtesy of Eva Blanchard Photography.
Revelers march in Langley, Washington’s first Pride Parade in 2014. Langley became a Certified Creative District in 2020. Photo courtesy of David Welton.
Ballet Folklórico de Tacoma performs at Arts & Heritage Day, 2019.
Students from Blue Heron School worked with teaching artist Margie McDonald in the “Tales, Texts, and Theatre Workshop.” Photo courtesy of David Conklin.


Amplify the power of arts and culture through communications and funding strategies.

ArtsWA’s mission is to advance the role of arts in the lives of all Washingtonians. To do this well, ArtsWA must tell the story of the economic and social value of the arts, culture, and creativity. The agency must also make sure that it has adequate funds to support and grow the state’s creative sector. Goals in this aspirational area focus on actions the agency will take to increase its reach to stakeholders, funders, and the public.

Goal: Communicate Effectively with Organizations and Communities.

  • Develop an annual communications plan that reflects ArtsWA strategic priorities and program activities.
  • Develop compelling narratives about ArtsWA programs, the arts, and creativity.
  • Refine Community Relations activities such as the Governor’s Arts & Heritage Awards (GAHA) and Arts, Heritage & Science Day to reflect ArtsWA strategic priorities.
  • Ensure content on the agency website and social media accounts is timely and accessible.

Goal: Communicate Effectively with Authorizing Funders and Partners.
Diversify advocacy efforts.

  • Anticipate and advocate for operational funding needs that arise from legislative and agency changes.
  • Highlight efforts specific to the cultural and inclusive value of arts funding.
  • Increase commissioner knowledge about advocacy through the onboarding process.
  • Increase commissioner-level interactions with state legislators and authorizing funders.
  • Advocate for the needs of the growing and aging State Art Collection.

Goal: Identify Funding Needs for Ongoing & New Work.

  • Ensure programs and operational processes are in place to support staff needs.
  • 🟢 Fund new positions specific to meeting DEI and impact goals.
  • Fund existing and new positions for sustainability.
  • Increase granting capacity through greater funding.

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Strengthen policies and practices to effectively support and grow constituent services.

A government agency, like any organization, performs best when it has strong policies and practices. Policies are the rules that define what ArtsWA can and cannot do. Practices are the ways that ArtsWA interacts with outside groups, such as nonprofits and other agencies. Practice also refers to the way ArtsWA staff operate as a team. The goals in this area show how ArtsWA plans to use policies and practices to be efficient and sustainable.

Goal: Support Learning & Growth for Agency, Artists, and Creative Organizations.

Formally allocate time and resources for regular professional development and best practices.
Create opportunities for professional and leadership development for artists, creative workers, youth, teaching artists, educators, and organizations.
Build succession planning into key roles.

Goal: Provide Comprehensive Foundational Support for Budget and Operations Systems.

  • Establish and maintain robust operations policies and procedures.
  • Leverage technology for proactive solutions to operating systems and processes.
  • Work with an IT coordinator to train agency staff on the use of available technologies.
  • Plan for growth strategically.
  • Lead planning and evaluations on agency-wide growth support.

Goal: Foster an effective and innovative agency culture.

  • Integrate the strategic plan into agency work.
  • Be accountable at all levels of the organization.
  • Make decisions that support organizational health.

Goal: Develop and share metrics of success that align with agency values, vision, and mission.

  • Use data to measure success and pathways to success.
  • Align impact analysis measures.
  • Create metrics to assess diversity of engagement.
  • Encourage better data collection and impact analysis from organizations and community groups.

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Avanti High School Arts teacher Cecily Schmidt holds the 2022 Arts Education Month proclamation.
Youth dance at a dress rehearsal for the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Discover Dance program. Pacific Northwest Ballet was an Arts in Education grant recipient. Photo courtesy of Jazzy Photo.
ArtsWA Conservation Manager Adam Fah cleans "Rainbow Bridge" (1980) by Donald Barrie in preparation for display. The artwork was installed in its new home at Amistad Elementary in Richland in 2021.
Street musicians perform in Chewelah, Washington. Chewelah is one of Washington’s Certified Creative District communities.
Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest speaks at “Poetry and Civic Life” at Hugo House in Seattle, Washington. Priest is Washington’s first indigenous Poet Laureate.


Evolve agency programs and grant-making to increase constituent opportunity and access to the arts.

ArtsWA’s programs are its most important tools for supporting Washington’s creative sector. From theatres and galleries to schools and shops, each program targets a specific part of the creative sector for support. Each program has specific goals and strategies to deepen their impact and broaden their reach.

Goal: Acquire and care for a State Art Collection that is impactful, accessible, and valued. 

  • 🟢 Advance and support art and artists across Washington.
  • Strengthen partner engagement and appreciation of the State Art Collection.
  • Nurture a lasting State Art Collection.
  • Advocate for the needs of the growing and aging Collection.
  • Celebrate and share the State Art Collection.

Goal: Increase the Capacity for Impact of the Center for Washington Cultural Traditions.

  • 🟢 Increase capacity for outreach to rural and underserved communities with additional staff.
  • Create and launch a folk and traditional arts grant program.
  • Build partnerships to increase or create performance and demonstration opportunities for folk and traditional artists throughout the state.
  • Develop a statewide roster of folk and traditional artists throughout the state.
  • Formalize and expand our outreach and communications plans in coordination with Humanities Washington staff.
  • Leverage and develop partnerships to build a statewide folk and traditional arts archive with wide public access.

Goal: Build Leadership and Resources for the Wellness, Arts, and the Military Program. 

  • Identify state, public, and other funding sources.
  • Integrate WAM into the Community of Care initiative.
  • Build partnerships with Federal, State, and local Veterans Services Organizations (VSO).
  • Invest in Community Arts programs that support arts and creative experiences for military-connected populations.
  • Develop best practices and standards for engagement with military-connected populations.

Goal:  Support Statewide Access to Arts Education for all PreK-12 Students.

  • Foster collaboration within the arts education landscape.
  • Expand learning opportunities for educators working to close the opportunity gap.
  • Strengthen youth, educator, and family civic engagement with the arts and cultural sector.
  • 🟢 Ensure arts learning is accessible to all PreK-12 students in Washington State.
  • Elevate the role of arts education in Washington State through Data, Research, and Accountability

Goal: Increase the Capacity and Impact of the Community Development Program.

  • Coordinate the Community Development program’s work and communications with the Community Relations team.
  • Support the development of an external 501(c)(3) foundation.
    Increase funding and resources for Creative Districts and their local initiatives.
  • Increase capacity and reach of the ArtsWA-led Change Leader Institute professional development program.
  • Expand the reach and impact of Building for the Arts.

Goal: Expand the reach of grant programs to strengthen rural, diverse, and historically excluded populations.

  • 🟢 Ensure ArtsWA grants serve diverse populations.
  • 🟢 Strengthen local and statewide creative economies through strategic grant programming.

Goal: Strengthen the creative sector across the state, with a focus on cultural equity and community diversity.

  • 🟢 Expand arts participation in Washington communities and ensure that all have access to the arts.
  • 🟢 Continue to develop relationships with historically underfunded constituents through improved data use and comprehensive record-keeping.
  • 🟢 Place constituents at the center of agency work and nurture Washington’s creative communities.

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Looking ahead


This strategic framework will guide ArtsWA’s activities for the next five years. It combines the aspirations of agency staff, commissioners, and stakeholders into a collective vision. The purpose of the plan is to provide the agency with a roadmap for the future.

This plan is a living document. Each year, the agency will revisit and update the plan to reflect new goals and changing conditions. The result will be a vibrant and healthy Washington State, where arts are thriving, celebrated, and essential to the lives of everyone.

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"Cause and Effect" (2012) by Do Ho Suh. Photo courtesy of Western Washington University, by David Scherrer.