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Tacoma Is Hiring An Artist To Fight Homelessness

Will James
A homeless encampment that existed in Tacoma's tideflats until city officials cleared the encampment and relocated residents in June 2017.

Leaders in Tacoma are months into a citywide effort to address homelessness. 

Their next step: Hiring an artist. 

City officials are conducting a nationwide search for Tacoma's first artist-in-residence. Whoever gets the job will work specifically on issues related to homelessness.

"I want the artist to be able to engage with the homeless populations and the housed populations both," said City of Tacoma Arts Administrator Amy McBride.

"We’re all humans and that’s what this is about," she added. "It’s trying to stitch that together in a way that creates empathy."

McBride said the artist-in-residence will work closely with city staff and engage with people experiencing homelessness.

Part of the job will be redesigning pieces of land the city hopes to reclaim for public use, such as former encampments of homeless people.

The artist-in-residence will also be tasked with finding solutions to issues facing homeless people and creating connections between the homeless and housed populations. 

"We’re hoping that the person who’s hired brings with them a wealth of experience and, you know, this is their jam," McBride said.

How the artist goes about that work is up to them. But don't expect paintings and sculptures, McBride said. 

"I imagine the work to probably be more temporary in nature, more experiential," she said. "This type of work, community-engaged art practice, is often about raising visibility about certain issues, helping people to see things in a new way." 

The residency is expected to begin Nov. 1 and last about 14 months, with a stipend of about $4,000 a month. Applications are due by Sept. 6.

Will James is a former KNKX reporter and was part of the special projects team, reporting and producing podcasts such as Outsiders and The Walk Home.