Last October, Lorie Hoffman left her job as Executive Director at Shorelake Arts to start a new job at the City of Bellevue. Although her current title says Arts Community Manager, Hoffman considers herself an artist first and foremost.
After earning her master’s degree in printmaking from Montana State University, Hoffman traveled to the Netherlands for her artist residency. The desire to see and experience new places eventually led her to the Greater Seattle area, where Bellevue's diverse community and cultural programs inspired her career change.
Hoffman doesn't just dream about a thriving arts and culture scene, she plans to help build it. We caught up with her to discuss the importance of art in Downtown Bellevue, future projects and her favorite places around town.
Why is art and culture so important for Downtown Bellevue's community?
Art and culture feeds our souls. It’s not just public artwork or sculptures in the ground, it’s the experience of coming together to watch Fourth of July fireworks or gather for a music festival. In this pandemic, we got a glimpse of what life was like without these types of events and we saw how lacking our lives were. We saw what it was like when we couldn’t go to a theatre show or take our kids to an art exhibit. I look forward to coming out the other side of this pandemic and being able to do all those things again.
There are many art pieces around Downtown. Are there any new or current ones the City is working on?
We have our utility box wrap program happening right now. It started in Bel-Red but will eventually make its way to Downtown Bellevue this summer. I'd also like to mention our portable artwork displayed on the second floor of city hall. The public is welcome to come and enjoy those pieces.
What can we expect to see in the future?
We’re ushering through several public art projects right now. We've been working with a few artists for several years now to incorporate large sculptures around Bellevue, including one in the Downtown Park. The future sculpture in Downtown Park will sit at the Northwest corner where there is currently a large circular concrete pad waiting for its arrival. The work evokes organic forms with beautiful colors on the top, which provide fantastic views from both the ground and high up in nearby skyscrapers. We’re excited about this project from artist Marc Fornes/THEVERYMANY and hope to celebrate its installation later this year.
If you had an unlimited amount of time and money, what would you do to grow the art scene in Bellevue?
I would create additional grants and hand them out to our current arts and culture organizations. I'm thinking about the wonderful work coming out of organizations Tasveer Festival in Redmond, KidsQuest Children’s Museum and Bellevue Arts Museum. I think our money is best spent when it’s in the hands of arts and culture nonprofits. They know how to deliver a great return on investment.
What is your favorite part about working in Downtown?
There’s something very gratifying about working in a city like Bellevue and feeling like I have a place here. I grew up in an incredibly rural area and now I get to work in a place with skyscrapers and view art shows on my lunch break. Downtown Bellevue gives me energy, I get to see people all around me engage in this wonderful community.
Do you have a favorite place to dine out?
I love going to Sushi Kudasaion my lunch break, I especially enjoy the crunchy roll. The food there sustains me and the people are so nice.
Which Bellevue restaurant is on your bucket list to visit?
My favorite hidden gem is the Pacific Northwest Art Laboratory. The owners are wonderful and I think the idea of having a place where you can come and just create something is deeply needed.
Where do you see Downtown Bellevue in 5 – 10 years?
I see Downtown Bellevue as a vibrant cultural hub. The current construction on the Grand Connection will have wrapped up and we can see it come alive and be activated with art experiences. Hopefully, we'll see new cultural facilities where you can watch a major concert in Downtown Bellevue, and Bellevue Arts Museum will continue to have world-class exhibits. I see Bellevue as a place where you want to come to the office because of the wonderful things that are happening after work. You want to stick around and enjoy the city we all built together.
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