1. Walden Three – The Ambassador Program
    December 10, 2012 by Walden3

    Sean Penn and W3 Ambassador Eddie Vedder at the NW Surrealists opening party. Photo credit: Timothy Rysdyke


    Long before Walden Three opened, we talked extensively about the importance of documenting our art, performances and educational programming for people to view outside of Seattle, both now and for generations to come.  Imagine if no one took the time to document The Gettysburg Address, or film the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King. How much different and limited our view of the world would be. I’ve never witnessed a performance by Yoko Ono or Chris Burden or Ann Magnuson – I only know of their performances through the writers, filmmakers and audience members that documented and shared these often fleeting, temporary works. Documentation is an incredibly vital part of our understand of, and sharing of, history, art and culture.

    We also recognized the importance of who your audience is. The audience plays such an important role in the dissemination of an artists work – be that critic, patron, celebrity or other creative leader. The likelihood of your art reaching a broader demographic outside of the gallery/stage/forum setting is greatly increased if the people watching are people with the means (professionally/ financially/socially) to share your ideas with the world. Malcolm Gladwell would call these people “connectors.”

    The Ambassador Program at Walden Three has been criticized by some (Jackie Wullschlager, I will be responding to your recent article about W3 later this week) as being “attempts to validate art through celebrity associations” and in part this is true. Since the times well before Medici, the wealthy (aka collectors) wanted to be in close proximity to artists and celebrity, something that maybe Warhol knew more than anyone. But the Ambassador Program is not just about tabloid headlines (thanks People, Star, InStyle and TMZ) and a chance to rub shoulders with celebrity – it is about cultivating an audience that can connect PNW artists to opportunities outside of our range.

    It should be said that being an “Ambassador” to Walden Three has no perk other that helping make our region more dynamic and giving our creative class a better opportunity to succeed in the global market of art, commerce and ideas. Ambassadors don’t make any money from it, or get a special pass, or even a drink discount in the Dial. They do it because they want their town to thrive. And who are these people? They are musicians and writers and business leaders. They know thousands of people and they have connections to a lot of very important people around the world. What is there job at W3? To bring these people to Walden Three. To steer them to our exhibitions, parties and performances. All we had to do is ask them, and explain to them the value of these simple efforts. And sometimes simple efforts yield enormous rewards.

    Mandy Greer recently designed the sets and costumes for Lady Gaga’s upcoming “I’m your prisoner” video. How did she get the gig? Turns out one of our Ambassadors is friends with Vincent Herbert, her manager, and he was in town meeting with some marketing executives at Starbucks. Is Mandy Greer’s work awesome? Entirely. But it  required the connectivity between Walden Three and our Ambassador Program to bring these opportunities to bear. And how about Paul Rucker creating the soundtrack to Sean Penn’s new film? Is Paul entirely qualified? Above and beyond! But it sure didn’t hurt having Eddie Vedder bring Sean by on a night when Paul was performing in the Mercer Gallery. Even the article that Marisa Kula is writing for Vanity Fair wasn’t just blind luck. Beth Sellars brought Sean Elwood by to see Emilio Caliente’s show and was so impressed by the experience that he rang Graydon Carter when he returned to New York. There was a recent article in The Guardian  with the title “Goodbye New York, Hello Seattle!” (written by critic Adrian Searle) and he rightly points out, “talent isn’t discovered – it’s always been right there – it just requires the rare combination of confidence and skill to know where to dig.”

    So the next time you see a picture of Cameron Crow or Steve Martin or George Clooney wandering through W3, just know that it isn’t all about the cheap celebrity magazines that line your grocery store check out aisles. This was an important, premeditated act, and the fruits of this program will help connect our artists and ideas to an audience we could never anticipate without them.