STG staff spotlight: Joe Maxwell
Meet Joe Maxwell, Seattle Theatre Group's grants manager! Joe has worked in the performing arts industry in various capacities—and has even had eight different titles during his time at STG thus far. In the interview below, learn more about Joe's journey to STG and his efforts toward making the arts accessible for diverse communities.
Tell us about your role as STG's grants manager. Why is it important to obtain funding for our Education and Community Engagement (ECE) work?
This work is crucial because funding for the arts is being cut from our public schools and government programs. And yet, arts programs are essential for maintaining a healthy and connected society. I feel so lucky that my role as STG's grants manager connects foundations and government agencies looking to invest in our communities through the arts with inspiring programs and performances. I continuously research new funding opportunities, compose applications, manage award contracts, and maintain relationships with our supporters to ensure our ECE programs and historic theatres remain vibrant, accessible, and inclusive for all.
Can you share about the journey that led you to this role? How has your background prepared you for what you do now?
It has been a whirlwind few years since I joined STG (2017). In college, I was fortunate to manage the box office at the University of Hawaii Hilo Performing Arts Center, which started my love for working in the performing arts. When I moved to Seattle, I knew I wanted to continue on this journey and was thrilled to be hired on to STG as a part-time window attendant at the Paramount box office. From there, I continuously challenged myself to understand STG's programs and held various roles within patron services that allowed me to connect with our audiences (I think I have had eight titles in my five years?!).
During my time in patron services, I was honored to contribute to STG's commitment to providing accessible experiences in the arts for all. In 2020, I completed the Accessibility Coordinator Certification Program through the University of Missouri and have since helped guide new policies to improve the experiences of our patrons living with a disability, facilitated conversations through our Community Advisory Group, and collaborated with accessibility consultant, Elizabeth Ralston, to lay the groundwork of a new STG accessibility plan. When the grants manager role opened, I was thrilled at the prospect of learning a new side of our organization. I had the chance to help ensure that our vital ECE programs continued to receive support through the COVID-19 shutdowns. I quickly jumped into the role and have loved every minute of the last two years. It has been so rewarding to help secure support and see the impact of STG's ability to lift our communities through the arts.
In your opinion, why is STG an organization worth supporting?
There are many incredible arts and culture organizations in our area that deserve our patronage and support (Sound Theatre Company always deserves a shoutout). STG has a unique ability to connect our communities to the arts at a level many other organizations are unable to achieve. We leverage partnerships and venues to bring acclaimed Broadway tours and world-renowned artists to Seattle. And our ECE programs provide a variety of high-caliber learning and engagement opportunities from dance, spoken-word, music, and more. If you haven't before, I strongly recommend attending one of our incredible ECE program's final shares. It's not hard to see the impact of programs such as ELEVATE (spoken-word poetry centering Black and Brown youth), More Music @ the Moore (for young musicians), and AileyCamp (a free, personal development program for middle-schoolers). It's inspiring and highlights the need to provide these programs at a low cost or for free to ensure all can benefit from these life-changing experiences.
What is one highlight or memorable achievement from your time working here so far?
One of my most memorable achievements here at STG was receiving funding from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust to focus on diversifying our audience base. This funding allowed us to partner with the marketing research firm Slover-Linett to administer a community survey with the intent of collecting data on who is attending our programs, preconceived ideas of our services and facilities, and barriers faced when trying to participate in our programs.
With STG's founding vision to serve as the people's theatre, I feel it is vital to have ways to measure our success and make informed decisions on what work is needed to better connect with our communities. Too often, organizations and corporations make DEIA statements and goals without providing a resource to hold them accountable for their commitment. This survey is an excellent tool for STG to serve as our baseline and measure our growth as we implement new strategies and programs to create a more inclusive and welcoming experience where all feel represented and have a sense of belonging in our theatres.
Thinking about your work at STG, what do you look forward to in the future?
Over the five years I have been with STG, I have seen STG's staff, board, and leadership team reflect inward and invest in breaking down systemic injustices that have held power in our society for far too long. I am excited to see this commitment to equity in the arts and beyond come to fruition as we focus on building authentic relationships with our communities. I look forward to finding new funding opportunities that further our mission of providing equitable arts experience. These focus areas for funding include investing in new technologies that enhance our programs for individuals living with a disability, presenting new artists on our stages from the myriad of voices within our community that deserve a platform, and continuing our commitment to diversify our audiences.
Seattle Theatre Group stewards three historic venues: the Paramount, Moore, and Neptune. Do you have a favorite STG show you've been to?
Too many to name! A few that come to mind are Jenny Lewis, Lucius, and Brandi Carlile, all at the Moore (Sadly not together). Kacey Musgraves at the Paramount was another incredible experience as she had just won the Grammy for best new artist, and we all knew she was on her way to stardom! (Clearly a big fan of female singer/songwriters).