The Vera Project is celebrating its 20th anniversary with Viva Vera 20, an online event honoring the Seattle nonprofit’s 20 years as a youth-led, community-oriented music and arts space that has come to serve as a blueprint for the national all-ages DIY community.
Starting Wednesday (Jan. 27), on the 20th anniversary of The Vera Project’s first-ever show, programmers will curate a livestream program featuring Ben Gibbard, Perfume Genius, Foo Fighters, TV on the Radio, Tacocat, Mike Park and more. The anniversary show will feature former Vera Project board and member alumni and all-ages DIY activists from different parts of the U.S. and will kick off a series of special events and fundraising efforts throughout the year, culminating in a large-scale blowout slated for Fall 2021.
The Vera Project was founded in Seattle in 2001 by activists Shannon Stewart, James Keblas and Kate Becker as a response to the Teen Dance Ordinance, a controversial piece of Seattle legislation enacted in 1985, serving as a de facto ban on events with attendees under 18 due to prohibitively expensive requirements. One year after the opening of the Vera Project in 2001 — which today houses a screen print shop, recording studio, art gallery, educational institution and safe space for radical self-expression — the Teen Dance Ordinance was repealed.
“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,” says Becker, who now serves as King County creative economy director. “What’s always been inspiring to me is that discriminatory law translated into civic engagement, galvanizing young activists to organize and lobby local government.”
Since its inception, the Vera Project has proven to be an integral part of both the regional and national music communities with educational and training programs that have helped former Vera Project volunteers find work as artist managers, label executives, tour managers, public policy experts, publicity companies executives, and managers for venues, galleries and production companies.
“TV on the Radio, Perfume Genius and Macklemore are only a few of the bands who played some of their first shows at the Vera Project. adds Sup Pop’s chief executive Megan Jasper, noting that manager David Price, Sub Pop’s A&R and sales rep Nick Turner and musician and author Ryann Donnelly had volunteered at the Vera Project.
The Vera Project has donated tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships and contributes nearly $100,000 to emerging Black, indigenous and people of color spaces.
“I remember getting [to VERA] and 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.”
Learn more at veratv.org.