Influencing Seattle Arts, Human Rights & City Government

Three Evergreen-educated innovators are finding unique ways to shape the political and cultural climate of Puget Sound’s biggest city. Randy Engstrom ‘99, Jeff Reading ’98, and Alex Becker ’11 have each been recently appointed to significant Seattle city government positions, and are using their Evergreen experience to influence the city’s course in direct and indirect ways.

By David O. Skattebo

Randy Engstrom ‘99

Randy Engstrom. Photo courtesy of the City of Seattle.

Randy Engstrom, appointed last year as director of Seattle’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, spent more than a decade organizing in Seattle’s arts community. He founded Static Factory Media, an artist development company, and was the founding director of Youngstown Cultural Arts Center. He also served as chair of the Seattle Arts Commission.

Engstrom’s appointment has been seen by some as a signal of a new, more activist attitude in Seattle arts management. He sees art as a vehicle for fostering social change, building community, and luring youth away from crime.

“Evergreen is where I went to learn arts administration and organizational leadership in a hands-on way. This is the foundation for everything I’ve done,” he said.

Alex Becker ‘11

Alex Becker.

Alex Becker was appointed in February of this year to the Seattle Human Rights Commission, which advises the city on human rights issues and collaborates with public and private organizations to prevent and eliminate discrimination.

Since 2005, Becker has worked with nonprofit and public service organizations that address housing and homelessness policy, criminal justice reform, environmental health, and labor rights. He currently manages the advocacy and organizing program at Real Change, a nonprofit street newspaper and economic justice organization.

“My Evergreen education taught me to think globally and act locally,” said Becker. “It gave me the tools to critically analyze social problems while working towards solutions that advance equity and justice.”

When Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s progressive campaign brought him to office in January, Jeff Reading ’98 arrived with him as communications director. Reading’s experience as deputy chief of staff and communications director for the Senate Democratic Caucus during Ed Murray’s time as caucus leader helped him build a strong professional relationship with the future mayor.

“I find myself relying upon the interpersonal experience built up through seminar, such as engaging with others by actively listening well,” said Reading. “I strongly believe that Evergreen’s social approach to education has helped shape my deep value for public service.”

From their positions of influence and their commitment to public service, Engstrom, Becker, and Reading are helping shape the cultural and political landscape of Seattle and Puget Sound.