Get to know ArtsWA: Q&A with Karen Hanan

Get to know ArtsWA: Q&A with Karen Hanan

Washington state has incredible organizations statewide that help bolster the creative economy by helping creatives thrive. The team at Whipsmart reached out to these organizations to better understand their particular programs and perspective on the creative economy.

Karen Hanan answers a few questions about ArtsWA...

What is your organization and what is its mission?

ArtsWA is the Washington State Arts Commission. We are a state agency, formed by the Washington State Legislature in 1961.

The mission: The Arts Commission is a catalyst for the arts, advancing the role of the arts in the lives of individuals and communities throughout the state.

What inspires the work of the organization?  

We are, to a person, inspired by the passion and creativity of the constituents we serve. While our focus areas are as diverse as the arts themselves, we are united in a shared belief about how the arts positively transform individuals, communities, and the economy. We work to make the arts accessible to every Washingtonian.

What programs do you facilitate that support the creative economy? 

All our programs support the creative economy, but there are programs with a “direct” focus: our granting programs inject funding where it is most needed, and our Creative Districts program supports communities who invest in their local creative economy.

What is one of the organization’s recent biggest success stories?

In 2017, ArtsWA launched a program with the NEA Creative Forces Military Healing Arts Network to bring arts-based therapies to military-connected populations. Under the leadership of ArtsWA’s Executive Director, Karen Hanan and key staff, and Art Therapist Brenda Maltz, the program expanded its reach and deepened its impact through an ever-widening cohort or partner organizations. Then, in 2022, the Washington Legislature approved ArtsWA’s request for a $1.5 million, annual program budget to establish the Wellness, Arts, and the Military program (WAM). This program will the first of its kind in the nation. ArtsWA is proud and excited to positively transform the lives of military families and communities across the state.

In one sentence, tell us why you think it’s important to support Washington’s creative economy?

Washington’s creative economy – over 10% of its total GDP – generates world-class ideas, products, and experiences that consistently draw visitors, attract talent, and enrich the lives of all Washingtonians.

What advice would you give to an emerging creative entrepreneur?

Be in touch with ArtsWA as a key resource for advice, services and networking


How do people stay connected to your work?

We keep Washington up to date with our work primarily through our website, monthly newsletters, outreach emails, and social media. Several of our ongoing projects, such as the Circle of Light restoration and the Billy Frank Jr. Statuary Hall project, have dedicated pages that feature regular updates. We also regularly partner with other agencies and nonprofits expand our network.


How to find you:


Social Media Handles

Facebook: @washingtonarts

Twitter: @artswa

Instagram: @artswa

LinkedIn: @artswa


you may also enjoy