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Seattle designated a City of Literature by UNESCO

That adds Seattle to a network of more than 100 creative cities around the world

The Seattle Central Library.
Andriy Blokhin/Shutterstock

The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added Seattle to its Creative Cities Network on Tuesday, officially naming it a City of Literature.

The network, UNESCO said in a release, is “at the frontline of [their] efforts to foster innovation and creativity as key drivers for a more sustainable and inclusive urban development.”

More simply: The network exists to foster creative relationships between cities, including tourism and partnerships. It includes 116 cities all over the world. Before today’s announcement, 20 of those were designated Cities of Literature, including Dublin, Reykjavik, Baghdad, and Iowa City.

Other Cities of Literature included in Tuesday’s announcement include Milan and Manchester.

The nonprofit Seattle City of Literature had been working to get that designation since 2013, and in 2014, the process gained momentum, earning a city council endorsement. Board members traveled the world to pitch the idea to other Cities of Literature and participate in cultural exchanges.

The group pointed to Seattle’s literary heritage, including our wealth of independent bookstores and cultural organizations.

But hit a few roadblocks on the way—the biggest one being an extremely harsh essay written by then-board president Ryan Boudinot based on his time teaching in a creative writing master's program. The entire board resigned in 2015 and was replaced with a new one, and the whole effort seemed to lose steam.

The new board kept building network and programming, though, including a recently-completed Indigenous Writers Exchange program. Board member Stesha Brandon told The Stranger’s Rich Smith that they hope to continue that kind of work with the new designation and “continue deepening the relationships with our international community.”

Later, in a prepared statement, board president Bob Redmond seemed to echo this: “Seattle has a wonderfully rich literary history beginning with the storytelling tradition of Native Americans in this region... We found widespread support in the community for this successful effort. We look forward to working with partners in the arts community to participate in this global network.”

The United States withdrew from UNESCO earlier this month, but that doesn’t prohibit Seattle from participating in the network.

Those that want to get involved can get in touch on the Seattle City of Literature website.