Olympia appoints 11 new members to cultural access, arts, heritage advisory boards


The Olympia City Council has approved appointing nine community members who will sit on the Cultural Access Program Advisory Board.

At the city council meeting on Tuesday, May 16, councilmember Yen Huyhn recommended these persons to be the inaugural members of the advisor board:

  • Mariella Luz
  • Paul Parker
  • Melissa Meade
  • Justin McKaughan
  • Mikaela Shafer
  • Bret Anderson
  • Anne Larsen
  • Diana Fairbanks
  • Kris Tucker

Luz served on the ad hoc committee of the Inspire Olympia Cultural Access. She has worked in the Olympia arts community for over 20 years as an artist and administrator and has served on several boards of arts-related nonprofit organizations. Luz has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Evergreen State College.

Parker is an active participant in the arts. A seasoned actor, he performed in ten plays in the South Sound, including the stages at Olympia Family Theater and Olympia Little Theater.

He is currently a board member of the Olympia Historical Society – Bigelow House Museum. He previously served on the board and as an officer with the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

Parker holds a law degree and a Master's in Public Administration from the University of Washington. He taught at Evergreen State College as an adjunct faculty member and held lectures at conferences on public policy and legal ethics.

Meade, dean of Humanities, Communication, and the Arts at SPSCC. Meade oversees literary, fine arts, and performing arts programs, which mission is to close equity gaps in higher education and serve traditionally underserved populations. Meade said she would bring these values and skills to the advisory board.

Meade has Ph.D. and MA degrees in Communications and Women Studies, and Spanish.

McKaughan is a former board director at the Olympia School District. He stepped down in August last year when his family moved to Tumwater. He was actively involved in the campaign for the Cultural Access program.

In joining the advisory board, McKaughan stated he wanted "poor kids and BIPOC communities to experience educational liberation and tear down walls and barriers with programs like cultural access."

McKaughan graduated from Evergreen State College in 2000 with a focus on Media Production, Gender Studies, Political Science, and Peace/Conflict Resolution. He completed his Professional Teaching Certificate focusing on Music and Social Justice through Evergreen State College in 2007. He has a Master of Science degree in Integrating Classroom Technology from Walden University. In 2017, he completed a Principal Certification Program through Western Governors University.

He is currently the vice principal at Olympic View Elementary School in Lacey.

Shafer stated in her application that she has over 15 years of experience in marketing and community building. She was named one of northern Utah's top 100 most influential women.

She worked with Experience Olympia managing the marketing. She continuously volunteers at Lincoln Options and Avanti High School, where her children attend.

Anderson had been a teacher for 45 years. He is a docent for Kennedy Creek, a volunteer carpenter for Rebuilding Together, a volunteer tutor for Olympia High School, and a Guardian ad Litem for Thurston County Superior Court.

Anderson has a Bachelor of Arts in English; a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction. He has organized conferences for the European League for Middle-Level Education with 300 participants.

Larsen has extensive experience running a successful nonprofit organization – from working on a working board with no paid staff to working for boards as paid staff. Her formal education is in healthcare, and she worked as a registered nurse for many years. She participated in nonprofit management continuing education.

Fairbanks, a doctorate in education (Ed.D) holder, has been an active Olympia Arts Community member since moving to the city in 2008. She has experience in visual and education.

Tucker is a founding board member of two Olympia nonprofit cultural organizations. She currently serves as board secretary for Olympia Artspace Alliance and as board secretary for Olympia Arts + Heritage Alliance. She worked more than 20 years – 15 years as executive director of the Washington State Arts Commission (now known as ArtsWA); five years as executive director of the Boise City Arts Commission.

Huynh, the chair of Community Livability and Public Safety, which facilitated the interview process for the candidates, said they held three special meetings in April and May to interview more than 20 candidates.

The Cultural Access Program was created to increase the community's access to the arts, cultures, heritage, and sciences by reducing barriers and expanding offerings, particularly for underserved youth. 

Huynh said the advisory board ensures that the new program's procedures, processes, and criteria are structured to benefit the public.

Other appointments

Also, on Tuesday's meeting, the city council approved the appointment of Coral Garey for the Arts Commission; and Stacy Hicks for the Heritage Commission.

Garey is a house manager for the Washington Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Olympia. She has experience with grant writing, reporting, and contracting. She has a graduate degree in Public Administration.

Hicks served on Olympia Arts Commission from 2014-2019. Her professional and educational work focused on arts leadership. That includes roles in ArtsWA, Capitol Theater, the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, and Tacoma Art Museum.

In 2022, she received her doctorate in Education and Organizational Learning and Leadership from Seattle University and has a Master’s in Fine Arts and Arts Leadership.

Garey and Hicks applied for the Cultural Access Advisory Board position but were appointed to different commissions instead.


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