Mayor’s Arts Awards: Three Dollar Bill Cinema


This year marks a big first for the Mayor’s Arts Awards.

The annual award has never been given to an organization solely dedicated to supporting the art created by and for the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens, until now. Next week the Seattle Arts Commission will recognize Three Dollar Bill Cinema for its role as an organization that “provides access to films by, for and about LGBT people and their families, and is a forum for LGBT filmmakers to share and discuss their work.”

Still, interim executive director Jason Plourde says he doesn’t quite feel like a trailblazer.

“It’s certainly an honor to be the first LGBT organization to be recognized, but I also think that Seattle makes a space for our community in many ways,” Plourde says. “Queer people have been involved in many facets of the arts and some might even say create the backbone of the arts community. So, while we’re the first organization that specifically deals with the LGBT community, we’re not the first LGBT people being recognized with this award. I think it has a lot to say about Seattle and the inclusiveness of this city that queer people are just part of the fabric of the arts and our community in general.”

Three Dollar Bill Cinema was started in 1996 as the producing organization for the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, which was first presented on a single screen for a single week. Since then the festival has grown to become the largest queer film festival in the Northwest. This year’s festival will take place October 11-21 and feature 150 films shown at five venues across the city. Three Dollar Bill Cinema has grown beyond the festival, producing a number of programs that support its mission to provide access to films by the LGBT community and their friends and family. These include the transgender film festival Translations, a Spring film series featuring archival and vintage queer films, the monthly Cineoke! musical movie singalong at the Rendezvous, and Outdoor Cinema at Cal Anderson Park, which just wrapped up a season of high camp featuring screenings of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Viva Las Vegas, The Wizard of Oz and The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

This programming has helped to give voice to many queer artists and entertainment to queer audiences alike, but it has also created an access point for the rest of the community to better understand their neighbors. These two aspects of Three Dollar Bill Cinema’s impact are inseparable and are both being recognized with this award, says Plourde.

“I think we do very important work, not only for LGBTQ people, but in bridging gaps within Seattle,” he says. “It’s important that we be recognized as an arts organization, as well as for the community service we provide.”

The Mayor’s Arts Awards will be held at Seattle Center at noon on Aug. 31.

Photo of the Three Dollar Bill Cinema staff at Cal Anderson Park during an Outdoor Cinema event by Jennifer Richard.