New Boss at Seattle Arts and Lectures

Longtime SAL executive Rebecca Hoogs takes over for Ruth Dickey

By Chris S. Nishiwaki


October 21, 2021

Rebecca Hoogs arrived at Seattle Arts and Lectures (SAL) in 2000 as a part-time and temporary writer-in-residence while a Master of Fine Arts Student at the University of Washington. She would return for a full-time, permanent position in 2004 and has served as associate director the past five years.

Hoogs has now been named SAL’s executive director after what search committee chairman Tim Griffith described as a “rigorous national search” that yielded more than 50 candidates before the committee narrowed it to seven finalists.

Hoogs replaces Ruth Dickey, who left SAL in April to become executive director of New York City-based National Book Foundation, presenters of the National Book Award. Hoogs will lead a staff of 12 and manage a budget of $3.4 million. The posted salary range for the job was $145,000 to $165,000.

Hoogs has served as interim executive director since Dickey left after serving eight years as executive director.

“In essence, the transition began on May 1,” says Griffith, adding that Hoogs has served as “the face” of the organization while working under three previous executive directors.

Hoogs helped rehabilitate the organization after it nearly collapsed under the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing recession. The number of employees plummeted to 3.75 full-time equivalents (including Hoogs, who worked part-time), and the budget plunged to less than $1 million.

By 2020, SAL’s budget had increased to $2.8 million. With an active private fundraising campaign and two Paycheck Protection Program loans, the organization retained all of its staff during the fiscal year that ended in June. During the pandemic, SAL lowered its most affordable tickets to $10 with the goal of increasing access to more guests as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and access.

“It is a great opportunity to open up programming to a broader community,” Hoogs says. “It means we are going to rely more on private fundraising, foundation fundraising and public fundraising.”

SAL presents about 30 public events a season, including Women You Need to Know, Literary Art, Poetry Series, SAL Presents and Book Bingo. Its signature gala, “Words Matter,” is scheduled for April 22 at the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle after two years of virtual fundraisers.

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