About 16 years ago I was planning a baby shower for my dear friend Erica, and we thought it would be fun to have a tarot card reader at the party. This was years before tarot card readers were at all the parties, so pickings were slim. My Google search led me to a group that I believe was called the Boeing Astrological Society, and it had a tarot card reader listed on its site. I wish I could still find that website, but I remember being blown away by the notion of an employee pool, like Boeing’s, that is so big, it can spawn microniche groups and clubs. On the other hand, I shouldn’t have been that surprised, because some of the city’s best winemakers and food purveyors (hello, Salumi) were once Boeing employees who had a passion project on the side. So why not tarot card readers?
Amazon, of course, is our most recent big employer on the block. To say the company has been a bit of a lightning rod (reports of people crying at their desks, the head tax and HQ2 drama, and that whole crushing-small-businesses-with-its-worldwide-domination thing) is perhaps the understatement of the year. Gwendolyn Elliott and Gavin Borchert’s story on the growing community of Amazon employees who are given space to pursue their artistic passions, however, shines a whole different light on what’s going on in all those buildings around the Spheres.
Finding community and creating community are increasingly important buzz phrases in our fractionalized times. Businesses build buzz about their product or service that fosters a like-minded group of consumers with shared experiences. Locals crave activities and places where they can “find their tribe” and feel a connection with other people. Even huge high schools like the one my son attends encourage kids to join or start a club or be a part of something to make a big environment feel more intimate.
I am fascinated by how local big businesses cultivate these interesting subcultures. I also love that this story not only showcases the soft side of big business, but it also proves that big business can provide a pathway for people, especially young adults just starting in the workforce, to continue to pursue their artistic endeavors. That the Amazon Symphony Orchestra (who knew?!) got a gig at the Special Olympics last summer is sort of a perfect Seattle moment: a bunch of innovative thinkers flexing their other creative muscles.
I was a serious flute player throughout my school years, including college, and then joined a community orchestra (the Edgewood College Chamber Orchestra) in Madison, Wisconsin, in the mid–’90s, before I moved to Seattle. I never pursued playing with a group in Seattle, due to work, kids, etc., and these days I live vicariously as a band mom (and have developed a bit of an obsession with marching bands). I still pick up my flute from time to time, but after reading this story, I just might need to get a band back together, so to speak. Seattle magazine chamber orchestra, anyone?