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The Vera Project Announces VIVA VERA 20, Celebrating Two Decades of All-Ages Music, Art and Activism

Viva Vera 20 will be presented on Wednesday, January 27, 7PM PST.

The Vera Project Announces VIVA VERA 20, Celebrating Two Decades of All-Ages Music, Art and Activism

The Vera Project announced today Viva Vera 20, a celebration of the Seattle nonprofit's 20 years as a youth-led, community-oriented music and arts space, staple of Seattle's music economy, and blueprint for the national all-ages DIY community. Marking the anniversary of VERA's first show, the festivities will commence January 27 with a livestream program featuring appearances or performances from artists including Ben Gibbard, Perfume Genius, Foo Fighters, TV on the Radio, Tacocat, Mike Park and others, alongside former VERA board and member alumni and all-ages DIY activists across the country. Special events and major fundraising efforts are planned throughout the year, culminating in a large-scale blowout slated for Fall 2021. Livestream details and more information on VivaVera20 can be found here.

The Vera Project fosters personal and community transformation through collaborative, youth-driven engagement in music and art. A music venue hosting local and touring artists, screen print shop, recording studio, art gallery, educational institution, and safe space for radical self-expression, VERA was founded in Seattle in 2001 by activists Shannon Stewart, James Keblas and Kate Becker. Its creation was largely in response to the Teen Dance Ordinance (TDO), a controversial piece of Seattle legislation enacted in 1985 that essentially banned all-ages and youth-driven concerts by making events with attendees under 18 prohibitively expensive and logistically difficult to produce. In 2002, under the civic pressure from the same community leaders who helped open the doors to VERA a year earlier, the City Council repealed the TDO.

"It's ironic that as Seattle was becoming an international mecca for music, the city's young people were living a Footloose existence, prohibited from coming together to dance or see live shows," said Vera Project co-founder and current King County Creative Economy Director Kate Becker. "What's always been inspiring to me is that discriminatory law translated into civic engagement, galvanizing young activists to organize and lobby local government. To this day, that energy is still at the heart of VERA."

Since its inception, VERA has proven to be an integral part of both the regional and national music communities. VERA's educational and training programs have produced a workforce whose contributions impact lives and music scenes worldwide. Previous VERA volunteers, members and board members have become artist managers, label executives, tour managers, public policy experts, and founders of independent publicity companies, venues, galleries and production companies. VERA has also placed youth audio engineers and production staff at major Seattle venues like The Showbox, The Moore, The Neptune, Neumos, and The Crocodile as well as festivals including Bumbershoot, Capitol Hill Block Party, Sasquatch!, Timber!, Northwest Folklife, SIFF, Seattle Art Fair, and PRIDE, among others.

"Vera has helped to develop and nurture twenty years of young people who are today working directly to shape communities and culture. David Price, a former musician and current Seattle-based artist manager, Nick Turner, who serves as an A&R and sales representative at Sub Pop, and Ryann Donnelly, a musician and published author living in NYC are among the many people who came from Vera and are actively contributing in meaningful ways to our extensive music community," adds Sup Pop's CEO Megan Jasper.

VERA serves as a model and inspiration for all-ages organizations in cities like Reno, NV and Olympia, WA. Reno's Holland Project, which recently celebrated its 12th anniversary, was particularly influenced by VERA's volunteer-fueled, participatory approach.

"VERA's success paved the way for organizations like Holland to exist," said The Holland Project co-founder and Executive Director Britt Curtis. "All of us young punks and dreamers now had a perfect example of how important these kinds of spaces are. We had a vision to share and a map to show us how to get the job done."

Every year, VERA disburses tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships, contributes nearly $100,000 to emerging BIPOC-led spaces, trains the next generation of community leaders, and features more young, BIPOC artists on its stages than anywhere else in Seattle. The venue has nurtured Northwest artists such as Fleet Foxes, The Gossip, Macklemore and Car Seat Headrest at the start of their careers and has hosted major acts like TV on the Radio, Sleater Kinney, The Shins, PUP, Rico Nasty, Pussy Riot, and The Evens when they first began to tour.

"The sense of community, and love for the space and the people who were in it, was immediate and palpable," said TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe. "It makes me so happy that it's still around to provide that inspiration and that community to anyone who shows up, because that's a life-changing quality."

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, VERA's business model has continued to allow it to contribute to the community when need is most acute. VERA's virtual fundraising events have provided financial relief to its members, staff and performers throughout the year, while its DIY Community Relief Fund has already raised nearly $100,000 for DIY community spaces and Black-led arts organizations across the Seattle area. Programming like Safe in Sound, created in partnership with King County Public Health, rolled out youth-centered PSAs, live-streamed concerts, and educational segments on public health, reaching nearly 1 million people in King County. Programs such as Equip the Kids and Live from our Living Rooms have helped generate funds and kept its community afloat throughout the pandemic.

"As America's music industry and arts scene start to rebuild, we have an incredible opportunity to make something better. Something centered on empathy, equity and community." said Ricky Graboski, Executive Director of The Vera Project. "It is our collective responsibility to build an infrastructure that's resilient and responsive enough to meet the needs of the moment. And VERA is leading the charge."


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