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Grants in Action: The Performing Arts in Washington State

Art is a vital component of a healthy society. The performing arts in particular have the power to create a shared sense of community. The benefits of performing arts programs are many, with ripple effects that start from the individual and cascade outward into all facets of our society. We are privileged to have a robust collection of performing arts venues in Washington State, which the Murdock Trust is proud to support.

Arts play an important role in building up the individuals involved, psychologically, physiologically and creatively. The Magenta Theater in downtown Vancouver, Washington, is a great example of community theater that gives people a variety of opportunities to participate in the performing arts. People from all backgrounds and levels of experience volunteer with Magenta as actors, stagehands and technicians, creating opportunities for self-expression and self-discovery while increasing self-esteem.

Magenta Theater

The performing arts help boost social skills, while facilitating the creation of social bonds. The Brookings Institution recently found that “a substantial increase in arts educational experiences has remarkable impacts on students’ academic, social and emotional outcomes.” Students also demonstrate a higher emotional intelligence and compassion for others.[1] The 7th Street Theatre is a historic landmark, performance venue and community center. In addition to its hallmark classic film series, 7th Street has many opportunities for kids and youth to become involved in theater, including hosting high school plays and its 7th Street Kids musical production.

7th Street Theatre

The arts challenge us to see the world through different lenses and experience differing points of view. Taking on the role of a character with a different life experience increases our empathy, giving us important tools in helping create a healthy civil society. The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle is the largest Pacific Northwest arts employer, enriching the community through musical theater. As 5th Avenue develops original musicals, it intentionally engages diverse voices in the process. Its new First Draft: Raise Your Voice program nurtures writers who have historically been underrepresented in musical theater, focusing specifically on women writers in its first year. Taproot Theatre Company, also in Seattle, incorporates post-play discussion and special conversation events to further the understanding of each play’s themes. After its play Best of Enemies, Taproot hosted discussions about justice and racial reconciliation to further enrich audience members’ experience of the theater.

5th Avenue Theatre, photo by Jeff Carpenter
Taproot Theatre Company, photo by Erik Stuhaug

Finally, strong arts programs help build a community’s economy. A robust performing arts venue brings in tourism, helping build up other businesses while visitors are in town. More visitors eventually lead to more residents, in turn attracting new businesses and new employment opportunities. Broadway Center for the Performing Arts is the largest complex of theaters between Seattle and San Francisco. In Washington, Broadway Center is the region’s biggest event producer and presents performances across multiple genres representing diverse groups. Broadway Center has a significant economic impact on Washington communities, in addition to providing valuable cultural experiences.

Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, photo by Lisa Monet

The Murdock Trust recognizes the value of strong performing arts centers, which is why we invest in them. We know that, when performing arts venues are supported and built up, the individuals, families, leaders, faith groups, schools and businesses in those communities are stronger and healthier.


[1] https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2019/02/12/new-evidence-of-the-benefits-of-arts-education/