The Playgoer: Amazon disses Seattle theatres

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Amazon disses Seattle theatres

The alt-weekly Seattle Stranger is getting pissed at hometown company for not giving it up for the arts scene, as is the local custom.

Most Seattle companies contribute a lot of money—a lot of money—to the Seattle arts scene. It's considered being a good neighbor. It's not mandatory, but it is, at the very least, polite, and it's a necessary kindness, because taxpayer funds to the arts are slim and most arts organizations wouldn't be able to operate without these giant windfalls from corporate philanthropy.

Attend virtually any play and before the curtain rises, you'll hear a long list of major contributors that include companies like Microsoft, which has given to the Seattle arts scene for decades now. Boeing, though its corporate headquarters have moved to Chicago, is still one of the biggest contributors to Seattle arts events, and it also has an employee matching donation program, much of which goes to the arts.

Starbucks doesn't do quite as much as Boeing or Microsoft, but the corporation still contributes thousands on thousands of dollars to Seattle Theatre Group and Seattle Parks and Recreation and other nonprofits. The Starbucks Foundation, too, has contributed $22 million in grants to promote literacy and small entrepreneurs worldwide. Alaska Airlines contributes thousands of dollars to organizations in Seattle and Alaska.

Amazon, which posted a $476 million profit last year, has refused to return repeated e-mails and calls from The Stranger about the company's seemingly nonexistent contributions to the Seattle arts scene. Internet searches for any sign of philanthropy on behalf of the company prove fruitless. Lists of donors for organizations like the Paramount Theatre, the Seattle Art Museum, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and the Experience Music Project read like a who's who of local corporations: Every major bank is represented and even national chains with a significant local presence like Macy's are major contributors. isn't on any of these lists.

Well, if they just don't do any philanthropy, then I can't get so worked up about dissing the fine Seattle theatre scene. What I actually take away from this article is how much so many of the other corporations there do support it!

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