Take a Hike

Why 4Culture's nature walk should have been public.

We're generally fans of public arts funding here at Seattle Weekly. Really we are. But there are times when we understand why the Dori Monsons of the world get their boxers in a bunch over taxpayer money going to such a subjective discipline. This past weekend's publicly funded Long Walk, effectively a $20,000 nature hike for a few dozen urbanites (including PubliCola journalist Erica Barnett) on the taxpayer's dole, is one such time. What did that $20,000, primarily funneled through the King County arts agency 4Culture, buy taxpayers? According to City Arts: "Work in a variety of mediums by eight of [organizer Susan] Robb's peers from around America, which will be encountered at way-stops and overnight locales; Seattle Phonographers Union, a found-sound improv collective; the Bicycle Choir, a women's a cappella group; Sarah Kavage, who's weaving a large-scale grass braid; Todd Shalom, a New York–based poet interested in place and persona; the Seattle Experimental Animation Team, who will project animated film onto kites; several more." Only all this eclecticism (Capitol Hill muralist dk pan is among the "several more") isn't what taxpayers get, it's what only the 50 people on the Long Walk—a four-day, 45-mile schlep from Magnuson Park to Snoqualmie Falls—get. "Along the route, participants will experience a shift in their sense of time, a new understanding of the local geography, and the creation of an interstitial culture," promises the event's website. They also get gourmet food in the woods, courtesy of Corson Building chef Matt Dillon. You get to foot the bill—gratuity included!—for that too. (And spare me the "But it's funded through a visitor tax" bit; public money's public money.) The art created and experienced on this pilgrimage might have been the best art created in the history of mankind. Now that they're done walking, the participants likely feel ultra-enriched and will surely become oral ambassadors for the county trail system. And $20,000 is a drop in the big, badass budget's bucket, relatively speaking. But unless the Long Walk morphs into something that's truly open to the public, rather than 50 in-the-know urban scenesters, no mechanic in Kent should ever again have to shell out even 1/100th of a cent for "shifts in sense of time," especially if that's a shift he'll never experience.

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